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Amarachi Agwu

Forget Ghana and Nigeria, these musicians are setting the continent on fire

It is easy to forget that hip-hop and contemporary pop do not start and end in West Africa, or to be more specific, Ghana and Nigeria. Both countries have so thoroughly dominated the global conversation about music in Africa that we scarcely remember there are other artists who are doing great things in their countries and challenging the status quo. We have chosen these Lusophone and Francophone artists are singing in Portuguese, French and their local languages, challenging everything we think we know about music on the continent and telling their own stories without any hint of apology for the sensibilities of the West or their more famous siblings. These are the rappers and singers you need to get acquainted with.


Bai Babu, otherwise known as Baboucarr Sambou began dabbling in hip-hop in his late teens. Melding Rap, a traditional interpretation of Senegalese pop called ‘Mbalax’ and Afrobeats, Bai Babu has become a household name in the Senegambia and one of the country’s most important rap exports. He has been rapping for most of his career with his partner Killer Papi in the group called De Gees, even though he also has a well versed solo career. The video for his single Fahass featuring Barhama hit an elusive 1 million plays on Twitter, making him the first artist from his country to attain this kind of virality, a vox populi approval of his song of the year award in the same year.


Sound check for show tonight in Budapest, Hungary!

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With the kind of pedigree that Sona  Jobarteh was born into, it would have been a crime if she didn’t go into music and totally crush it. She is descended from one of Gambia’s renowned five griot tribes and was indoctrinated into the sacred art of griot singing as a child. A lineage that is usually patrilineal, Jobarteh transcended the odds to become the first female griot to attain world renown for her skill with the Kora and her impassioned singing. Jobarteh is a alumnus of the Royal College of Music where she studied the cello, piano, and harpsichord. She has collaborated on stage with Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabate, Kasse Made Diabaté and the BBC Symphony Orchestra


Who can forget the mid 90’s when the Makossa and Soukouss movements spread across West Africa and was exported to the world. Magic System’s Premier Gaou became an international pop sensation, spawning dozens of remixes and charting worldwide, and artists like Awilo Logomba became international sex symbols. Our obsession with the soukous sound might have waned but that doesn’t mean the sound doesn’t continue to thrive in Francophone countries. Guy Serge Beynaud is one of the new generation of Coupe Decale singers, songwriters, and music producers bringing the sound back into the limelight. Born in Yopogon, Côte d’lvoire and widely regarded as as an Ivorian sensation, Serge broke barriers by being the first Coupé-Décalé singer to perform a concert at the Palais de la Culture in Abidjan, with millions of views on Youtube. 


Remember🙏🙏🙏 Suivez skelly sur insta W/@#onabeat

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One of the younger rappers to make this list, Issam Satou is blazing a trail for younger rappers out of Cote D’Ivoire with his sleek verses and his unconventional beats. Protege of Ivorian artist DJ Kedjevara  and with ties to Mohammedia, Morocco, Mc One combines elements of the Arab North with Francophone into a unique, multicultural blend. Do not sleep on him and his badass single Antiche.



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You might know of Shatta Wale from his controversial twitter spats with Nigerian artists and singers, but if that is all you know of him, you are sorely missing out on a great thing. Charles Nii Armah Mensah Jr., or Shatta Wale to his fans, is easily one of the biggest and most enduring acts of out Ghana right now.  Distinguished in his songwriting and known for his ability to cook up some seriously banging dancehall beats, Wale feeds into Ghana’s long legacy of breeding authentic Reggae artists. Shatta Wale has won numerous awards in his home country, including Artiste of the Year at the 2014 Ghana Music Awards for Dance Hall King. 



God’s Plan. ⚡

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Joseph Auwa Darko, otherwise known as Okuntakinte, might be known right now more for his philanthropic work across Ghana, especially the Agboloshie Initiative, where he recycles technological waste from the Agboloshie Dump, one of the biggest technology waste dumps into high art. But he was first known for his disruptive music and his tumblresque music videos. His first single  Melanin Girls  drew interest in mainstream music circles and became the start of a cultural zeitgeist in Ghanaian music video making, with its minimalist colours, its self deprecation and its unending wit. We cannot wait for Okuntakinte to get back into the studio and bless us with more music. 


I Could tell you .. But I will show u instead..❤ Shots by @diquekuexpressions 🦍

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When Efya release Jaynesis in late 2017, it was the culmination of a cycle that had begun nearly a decade ago on the Stars of the Future stage, a music talent reality show out of Ghana. A second generation entertainer, Jane Awindor aka Efya was always destined for the spotlight, but she would have to earn her way there with stints in film and two albums, Unveiled and T.I.N.T that piqued interest but didn’t quite give Efya the fame and acclaim she so rightly deserved. She is finally taking her throne and we couldn’t be more happier.