It’s no secret the the PAM team has a special love for the exciting and experimental sounds of Africa’s electronic music. Seduced under the night sky at festivals and underground parties, or at lamplit desks blaring Bandcamp label pages, we are often under the spell of the mega-creative electronic scenes that are blossoming everywhere. This year we got a full dose of Nigerian cruise beats, danced for hours to singeli music, started to give a closer embrace to amapiano’s darker and deadlier cousin, gqom, all while leaving space for the afro-tech and Afrohouse vibes that have been powering our PAM parties and festivals for years. Special shoutouts go to Molotof, subject of our Off the Map series, making mahraganat in Cairo, Hagan tapping into his Ghanaian roots, the wild gqom of Phelimuncasi, the ultra-futuristic sounds of Slikback and the collective work of RS Produções for neo-kuduro dancefloor killers. There’s something for the hardcore club heads with Gav & Jord and Authentically Plastic and more mellow vibes coming from Angola’s Galio DJ or South Africa’s Teno Afrika. Enjoy our alphabetically ordered selection of the 30 albums that defined the pan-African electronic music of 2022.
In 2021, “Afrique Victime” was the album of consecration for Mdou Moctar, a Nigerien musician with an incredible career path, teleported from his small village of Arlit to the big international stages in a few years. As a true messenger, Mdou has since traveled the world to denounce the modern slavery that is rampant in his country, with a background of blues and air rock. If electronic music has always existed in the background in the career of this musician adept of autotune, no one could have imagined an album of remixes of the stature of Africa Refait, which brings together many of artists from the Nyege Nyege stable. This is a very important release since it is probably the first time that Tuareg rock meets singeli (Jay Mitta), crazy balani (DJ Diaki), Kenyan electro-pop (Kabeaushé) or experimental rap (MC Yallah and Debmaster)…
The music of the Phelimuncasi trio unites and enlivens the people who experience it. In the background, the group’s gqom is inspired by toyi-toyi, a mixture of dance and war marching that was used in anti-apartheid protests and more recently to express anger at a passive government. Always peaceful, Phelimuncasi has always taken part in the struggle, carrying their message of celebration through the powerful, non-violent weapon of gqom. After a retrospective album released in 2020, Nana, Khera and Malation have gathered a handful of solid producers to produce Ama Gogela, a must-have album that makes you want to follow them everywhere they go!
After two acclaimed EPs on Peter Gabriel’s label, it was only a matter of weeks before Montparnasse Musique, a duo made up of South African Aero Manyelo and French-Algerian Nadjib Ben Bella, had an album. On Archeology, the tandem’s imagination flies over the African continent from North to South, to land in Kinshasa, the cradle of the Congotronics movement initiated by the Belgian label Crammed Discs. Played and sung by members of Konono n°1, Kasai Allstars and Mbongwana Stars, the sound vibrations of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo are then juxtaposed with the contemporary house of Johannesburg in a futuristic Afro jumble. A small masterpiece made all the more exciting by the powerful visual identity that wraps it: DIY masks signed Cuban Cabeya, clips by Renaud Barret or photographs by Richard Mosse.
Between The Bullet And The Front Sight, Casting Lots
Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy
The Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy project – an unlikely alliance between a German electro trio and a fiery Egyptian rapper and poet – have crossed swords once more. On the one hand, a German electro trio steeped in industrial rock, ambient, and breakbeat; on the other, an Egyptian rapper whose pen drips with the ink of revolution. Carl Gari – made up of Jonas Yamer, Till Funke, and Jonas Friedlich – and the author Abdullah Miniawy have once again made magic in the studio. After the acclaimed EPs Darraje and The Act of Falling from the 8th Floor, the quartet released Between The Bullet And The Front Sight, Casting Lots. It’s eight tracks of pulsating spoken word supported by thick layers of digital sound, at times anxiety-inducing, always powerful.
Amapiano vocalist and producer Pabi Cooper took us on a trip to Cooperville. After her exponential rise to fame with her breakthrough song “Isphithiphithi”, the 21-year-old singer finally delivered on this highly anticipated project. In good Piano fashion, she was joined by many South African acts, including Focalistic, Lady Du and Blxckie. Khanyisa, Yumbs and Liebah are featured on the song “Mama”, a beautiful ode to mothers. Cooperville is a display of Pabi’s vocal abilities and production skills, making for fresh, diverse and catchy tracks. It also includes her 2-times platinum hit “Banyana Ke Bafana”.
Cruise Beat Album
DJ Tobzy Imole Giwa
“All they want is danceable songs here in Nigeria,” DJ Tobzy told PAM while researching the emerging cruise beats scene. The new hyper-fast sound popping off in Lagos outskirts, going viral on TikTok with cheeky voice samples and providing the soundtrack to apartment parties and legwork dancers hunting for more bpms grabbed PAM’s attention, and Tobzy, who has pioneered a more experimental sound is at the forefront of the cruise genre. After plugging the young producer in with the Nyege Nyege crew, Tobzy signed for an album that brings together his own brand of offbeat, hardcore and high tempo cruise. The eponymous “CRUISE BEAT” track with the rooster sample is the go-to for an idea of what the cruiseverse has to offer.
Studio Bros is a duo of Santomean origin composed of Famifox and Nunex, two childhood friends who have definitely become essential in the Afro-house and Afro-tech scenes, especially with this album. Different is the memory of two kids passionate about music who grew up together in the same neighborhood, and followed the same path, starting their career in 2007 under the name of Alto Lever Produções. Since then, the accomplices have come a long way and have earned the respect of the greatest with singles characterized by an undeniable sense of rhythm and inspired acoustic melodies. On this first long format, Studio Bros surrounded themselves with female voices (Natalia Paris, Táyra) and major actors of the African electronic music (Lilocox, Freddy Da Stupid or Pierre Kwenders), centralizing the essence of different countries, cultures and ethnicities in a tasty exercise of house music.
From Thultwane to the World
The young duo just dropped their debut EP entitled From Thultwane to the World, which was announced with the release of the single “Zaka Zaka” back in February. The two producers, Mokwele and Thaban Makhafola, aged respectively 17 and 19 years old, are from Mamelodi, a township in Pretoria. Their rough amapiano, a term which they themselves helped coin, combines the soulful ambience and warm layers of what usually constitute the genre with harder beats and darker bass lines. The title-track “Zaka Zaka” – ‘money, money’ in Tsotsitaal, is a blend of several South African languages, perfectly showcasing this new raw sub-genre and successfully fulfils its purpose: to get people dancing. A very promising group to follow closely.
Pretoria-born lyricist and Amapiano preacher Focalistic gave a new sermon. Ghetto Gospel is the rapper’s fourth solo project, and the congregation was crowded. As always, the album is full of A-list guests such as DNB Gogo, Pabi Cooper, and even French rapper MHD. It also welcomes newer attendees, like the rising R&B gem Elaine. Ghetto Gospel gets a slower, solemn start with “Dipuo” (featuring Sjava and Herc Cut The Lights) but quickly goes off. By the time you get to the fifth track and single “Tabela Hape”, Kabza De Small, Mellow & Sleazy, Myztro and M.J put you in a trance. The pressure comes down on the spiritual “Bothloko”, but don’t go sit down now. Focalistic doesn’t disappoint in the second half of the album, with diverse productions and a wavy finale.
Standard-bearer of South African deep-house, Kid Fonque and his label Stay True Sounds flood the planet at the rate of three releases per month. EPs, but also albums, like those of the solid AndileAndy, China Charmeleon, Beatsbyhand or of course El Payo, who definitely stands out. Coming from Polokwane in the Limpopo province, the young South African transcends the codes of the label’s own deep-house with a jazzy twist of a rare elegance, inspired by Boddhi Satva, Atjazz or Floating Points. After the success of his first EP Enchanted Meditation, praised by the greatest international DJs and selectors, El Payo didn’t waste any time to work on In Motion, a soulful house debut album with broken beat accents sublimated by an innate sense of detail.
K E K K A N
Coming in late in 2022, the mega-productive Slikback saved some of his best and most mind-blowing brand of electronic music for last. K E K K A N arrived unannounced, like most of the innovative Kenyan producer’s futuristic sounds. The only description of the project given on Bandcamp is a series of 0’s and 1’s translated from Binary to English meaning “freedomwithin”. Appropriate as Slikback’s latest opus feels totally free and without limits. “AERIAL BLISS” defies genre, blending a new form of techno-trance and spiritual-gabber with ecstatic highs. “MIENAI” has the dark and thunderous breakdown that we’ve come to love in the dancefloor producer, while “BREATHE” is an apocalyptic din, and “SKY GARDEN” is a flight to paradise. A wonderful selection and some of Slikback’s most surprising work yet.
Coco Em who’s torn up dancefloors from Nyege Nyege in Uganda, France’s Transmusicales, Terra Negra in Tunisia, and Boiler Room in Nairobi, dropped her first EP Kilumi that pulls together amapiano, house and trap, and the many styles the Kenyan DJ explores during her popular DJ sets. Produced in the Santuri East Africa studios, an organization that supports young artists in East Africa, Kilumi, samples some archived Kenyan folk songs and mixes them with the deep and dark sounds of the late night global club scenes for a mix that has a modern punch and a traditional foundation. Expect heavy percussion, some politically charged lyrics and a sweet mix of afro-tech and tribal house that can either be fast or stumbling, but always a head bopping treat. From the smooth intro in “Pace” the bouncy licks on “Yi Ingi” and the underground peak of the eponymous “Kilumi” Coco Em’s debut is an admirable exploration into the newly defined space of African club music.
La Roche’s project has the objective of painting “a vivid, pineal tickling four dimensional picture of Congolese culture in 2022”. To do so, the producer immersed himself in traditional sounds and electronic music, while also using street noises from the bustling Kinshasa megalopolis (“digital watch alarms, car horns, gunshots, screams”), refashioning this mix into completely out of time tracks. The title track is built around “an emotional chant of ‘liye, liye’ that drifts around a glacial electronic beat that sounds like DJ Screw making day zero grime, all 909 percussion and shattering glass”. Eight other tracks follow, all deeply rooted in the Fulu Miziki’s philosophy: grabbing ideas from the DRC’s opulent musical history and from Kinshasa’s energizing hustle to produce hypnotic and hybrid electronic bangers.
Congolese producer Chrisman, who’s a resident in the Nyege Nyege crew in Kampala, Uganda, unveiled his album Makila, named after his late grandfather, via Hakuna Kulala which follows his EP Ku Mwezi released last year. In this project, the MC merges together different musical genres with tarraxinha inspired electronic sounds, taking a detour from his previous work where he mostly explored gqom and trap influenced afro house mutations. The title-track sees him experiment with Angolan kuduro, kizomba dance and gqom. It produces an eerie atmosphere and a music seemingly slowed-down with the addition of the bells and rattling percussive sounds. The same sinister, otherworldly feeling stays throughout the album, like in “Angels of Kivu” with its likembé melodies.
Meeting with the King
Since his 2016 breakout, DJ Lag has steadily risen to prominence as one of the key figures in South Africa’s buzzing electronic scene. The gqom boss finally offered his first studio album, Meeting with the King. On these 15 new tracks and 1h20 of music, DJ Lag widens the spectrum of his musical universe to deliver the sound of gqom 2.0 that establishes him as a world-class sonic innovator. Lwazi Asanda Gwala, his real name, wields the amapiano phenomenon as well as Afrotech and Afrohouse flavors to establish his self-proclaimed king status. Scattered throughout the project, we find other stars of the South African scene such as Babes Wodumo, Mampintsha, or Lady Du.
Dar Es Salaam’s DJ Travella represents a new wave of singeli producers who are driving Tanzania’s breakneck dance sound into fresh, innovative spaces. Hamadi Hassani’s music points singeli’s fusion of taarab and techno towards the stars, locating a cyber-singeli style that’s dense, kinetic and unashamedly sexy. Tracks like “London Jomon Beat” will leave no doubt that the East African young producer is capable of bending singeli completely to his will.
Flexfab & Ziller Bas
After two EPs and three videos that shook the Afro-club scene, the Swiss-Kenyan duo has this year pushed the nail in with the intense Mugogo!. Even if the quantity seems indigestible on paper, these 22 bangers have firmly marked the rap and electronic scenes by their explosive character, born from the collision between the “Sweng flow” of Kenyan Baraka Anthony Shujaa aka Ziller Bas and the incendiary productions of Swiss Pablo Fernandez aka Flexfab. Conceived in two weeks during a musical pilgrimage of the latter in East Africa, Mugogo! is the fruit of a collaboration based on “transmission and sharing” and which skilfully mixes modern African music, bass music and rap, the whole perfumed with a sometimes Latin fragrance.
N’Djila Wa Mudujimu
Lady Aicha & Pisco Cranes (Fulu Miziki)
HHY & The Macumbas’ producer Jonathan Saldanha, who recorded N’Djila Wa Mudujimu, managed to capture their revolutionary sounds inspired by Congolese soukous, and an almost undefinable mix of punk, electronic music, industrial sonics and spiritual jazz. N’Djila Wa Mudujimu is a deeply enjoyable album throughout which encapsulates Fulu Miziki’s Lady Aicha and Pisco Cranes’ style, even with the band’s recent split. While N’Djila Wa Mudujimu might be one of the groups final albums since the recent split of its members, we can still count on the artists to keep the spirit of Fulu Miziki alive in all their endeavours.
Buraka Som Sistema co-founder and Enchufada label-head Branko presented OBG, his third album. The artist’s most personal and reflective work to date, it’s a letter of love and thanks to the community around him, to Portugal’s breathtaking landscapes, and to the syncopated, window-rattling rhythms that emanate from the clubs and car stereos of Portuguese cities. João Barbosa dedicated his career to elevating the unique club music hybrids–mutations of kuduro, kizomba, zouk, baile funk and more that were spreading in the communities around him. The album’s title is borrowed from Portuguese SMS language, and means “Obrigado” – thank you. OBG sees Barbosa travel back in time to give thanks to the formative years of his creative journey; a period when there were no tours and no audience, just the motivation to hear, interpret and disseminate the sounds of the city around him.
Baby Sy, Senegalese DJ, singer and member of the Barcelonian band Jokkoo, teamed up with German producer AIIOM, already familiar with the underground African scene and who worked with MC Yallah and Menzi. Together, they founded DÉERR, a word which means “skin” in Wolof, aka our most important sensory (and biggest) organ which serves as a thin barrier between our body and the outside world. In Punkal, DÉERR draws on gqom, singeli and other experimental African musical trends. The duo uses music as a medium to express one’s identity and to encourage Senegalese youth to take action and to express themselves freely (and with complete confidence) in their own vocabulary and their own language.
“Quibuala” is a word derived from “Buala”, which in the Quicongo language means “Village”, which comes from the bush, from the interior. When he left his hometown of Cabinda for the capital city of Luanda, the young Angolan initially felt excluded and mocked. Because he came from the “buala”, Gálio had to accept his situation and find his way to reveal his talents and break through as a producer. Now based in Lisbon, this discreet artist decided to tell his personal story in a first album of rich Afro-house released on DJ Satelite’s label, where you can hear several languages: ibinda, umbundu, kikongo, kimbundu, swahili or Criolo spoken in Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. By adding sounds of congas, maracas, djembes or acoustic guitar, Gálio makes this album not only a dancefloor-killer but also a splendid electro-organic work.
Raw Space is a reflection of the artist’s militant character: free, wild and convoluted music that uses chaos as its main pillar. Using randomness in the creative process, they uses the genius inherent in machines to mutate the rhythms and structures of their tracks, drawing inspiration from East African polyrhythms to deliver a record that borrows as much from surrealism as from avant-gardism. Between industrial techno, acid textures and rough experimentations, Authentically Plastic plunges Afro-futurism into a broth of rave culture that does not leave indifferent.
Riddles of Tong Kicol
From northern Uganda to southern Sudan, the Luo people dance and play Acholi music, intense, joyful and unifying songs for weddings, baptisms and graduations. Since the early 2000s, Leo PaLayeng has lent his studio to young artists who are eager to reinterpret the music of the Acholi people using modern techniques. Called Acholitronix by its creator, this music 2.0 was originally intended to replace the Larakaraka orchestras in weddings, offering a lighter and less expensive setup. Close to Otim Alpha, this pioneer of the genre continues to revisit the old tales of his ancestors and share their secrets on his label Makabila Umoja, which he co-founded with Emiliano Motta. The year 2022 started with the warm Riddles of Tong Kicol, an authentic acholitronix album, as rare as it is unique!
Saúde Em 1º Lugar
DJ Narciso, Farucox, and Nuno Beats came together on the highly productive RS Produções imprint for some moody dance beats with the essential neo-kuduro rhythms that define the collective. Always on the experimental edge of urban street sounds and forward-thinking club music, tracks like “TABA” are hard cuts that keep us coming back to see what RS Produções has to offer. As one of the youngest members of Principe, DJ Narciso comes to the fray with something to prove. His tracks are more lighthearted and smooth compared to the rough breaks of a Marfox or Vanyfox. However these beats fit perfectly into the new Kuduro scene as either serene come-ups or a welcome parenthesis to the hardcore sounds. DJ Farucox ensures there are percussive slaps throughout like on “Sem Cabeça” and Nuno Beats’ “Tribal” is a pure banger. Another poignant selection from the Lisbon group.
Selected Works assembles some of enigmatic pop outsider Tony Gallardo’s most crucial material from a run of EPs released between 2008 and 2013. These ten tracks show the broad range of his output, running through neon electro (“Bruja’, ‘Mi Presa”), tropical dance music (“Kibosé”, “La Conquista”), and eerie Mexican trap (“Plata O Plomo”, “Ultra”). It’s introspective, haunted music from one of Mexico’s most original artists that paints a picture of a hard to resist psychedelic musical landscape.
South-London DJ and producer Hagan grew up on the voices of highlife legends Pat Thomas and Edo Taylor, and Ghanaian gospel resonating in church. He documented the electronic music movement on the local scene. So it only makes sense that he drew inspiration from his memories in Ghana to create the many layers of his album Textures. This 11-track gqom and house fuse tells many stories. Hagan told PAM the origins of the third song “Royal Jama” : “if you watch the Ghanaian football team you will see that before they play they come together and they play rhythms to kind of hype themselves up. […]So I used a sample of this on that track”.
Raz & Afla
The result of the spark that ignited between Raz Olsher and Afla Sackey, The Cycle is an album that smells of joy and spontaneity. Originally from Tel Aviv and based in London, Israeli Raz brings his deep knowledge of electronic music to Afla, a multidisciplinary artist with Ghanaian roots. With his expertise as a session musician for the likes of Ginger Baker, Sun Ra, Osibisa, Ibibio Sound Machine or Tony Allen, the musician shares his heritage through percussion or his unifying voice, the main energy vector of the album. Conceived during lockdown, The Cycle is the result of a ping-pong of ideas between two artists stuck miles apart, but who managed to find the right recipe. Catalyzed by afro-funk, modern highlife and a hint of politics, the two find a bluffing balance between traditional and electronic music in this record with an infectious energy.
The Gqom Trilogy LP
DJ Skothan x DJ Scriby x DJ MaRiiO
Born in the early 2010’s in Durban, gqom is still pretty young but its future seems bright. On The Gqom Trilogy LP, DJ Skothan, DJ Scriby and DJ MaRiiO showcase an impressive range. The project is built in three chapters. In the first one, DJ Scriby bends South Africa’s borders with US trap and UK grime influences. In the second chapter, the trio’s youngest recruit DJ MaRiiO explores unique placements and sounds. And to end, veteran DJ Skothan goes for a more scattered and even more aggressive gqom finale.
Where You Are
22-year-old producer Teno Afrika was back at it again with a new set of songs titled Where You Are, bringing more vocalists and expanding his rhythmic subtlety, layered with warm bass, and adorned by amapiano’s telltale shakers, hi-hats and mid-tempo shuffle. Released via Awesome Tapes From Africa, the project features different artist friends from Teno’s entourage, such as Diego Don on the two driving, pad-propelled tracks “SK Love” and “AK Love”, singer KayCee on “Fall In Love”, Stylo MusiQ on the icy closer “Duma ICU” and Leyla’s smooth voice on the airy and joyful title track.
Writings ov Tomato
Gav & Jord
Gavin Blair and Jordan Chung, both members of the Kingston-based label Equiknoxx teamed up under the moniker Gav & Jord to produce Writings ov Tomato via Mal Recordings, lead by Equiknoxx supporter Jon K., for their second ever release. Wanting to take a detour from the rigid dancehall sound Gav & Jord have become accustomed to, they decided to experiment with new sounds. The result of which is this purely instrumental eight-track album, an oddly satisfying mix of industrial techno and experimental island noise.