uNder: Best New Artists (November 2023)

Featuring GADA, Mila Smith & More

It’s finally November, the penultimate month of the music year in review–and what a time in history it currently is. All around the world, Afropop is being welcomed and celebrated with its frontrunners selling out 20,000 capacity stadiums and bagging revered nods at the 65th Grammy Awards, there’s no dearth of accolades or celebration to witness. Now, it’s easier and more common than ever for new stars to arise fully formed with contagious buzz and instant popularity.

With 2024 already poised to herald a new era in the current Afropop vanguard, it’s important to identify and champion the stars of tomorrow: today. As such, this month’s list is a collection of unmissable acts who are making waves in their own corridors of the Internet, and forging impressive careers and formidable music catalogues. Whether you’re into stellar penmanship or appreciate an artist’s overall aesthetic, these selection of artists come formed and ready to gain the attention of loyal fans and share their music with the world. From South Africa’s Mila Smith is delivering a fusion of pop, rock and punk hits at only 19 years old to Ghana’s Anabel Rose taking alternative pop to new heights, these are the Best New Artists of November. enjoy!

Read more below and listen to our uNder playlist here.

Mila Smith

For listeners of Msaki, Tyla, Ayra Starr & more

Mila Smith is the vocalist and songwriter from South Africa who is taking the slow and steady approach to releasing music. Barely two years into her career, the singer has been building a steady fanbase with powerful and honest releases that sound like a late night phone call with your best girlfriends. Her amorous music veers between Pop, R&B, Rock, Punk, Afropop and more, as she elucidates tales about underserving lovers and finding self-confidence.

Pairing a wistful, familiar production acumen with her silky timeless vocals, her music is littered with efficient needle drops of aural healing. Her debut EP ‘You Need Therapy’ is a concise snapshot of the dissolution of a relationship and the scars gained from giving your heart out to an undeserving lover. While her inspirations range anywhere from Madonna to Msaki, Black Coffee and more, Mila’s music never strays too far away from her singular vision. Tracks such as “Nice Guy” and “Toxic” reinforce her profound sense of emotional depth and clarity. “I spend a lot of time on lyrics. I define myself as a singer but also as a songwriter and so, I hope that my lyrics are something that people can relate to. A lot of what I write about are universal experiences and in that sense, I hope that that would contribute to the broader South African music scene,” she tells the NATIVE.


For listeners of Titose, Olayinka Ehi, Mysie & more

The music that rising newcomer AZÜMI has released in the space of a year is impactful enough to earn her a spot on our Best New Artists list this month. Although her discography contains only three songs currently, all of AZÜMI’s work is anchored by her airy and light vocals which is the centrepiece of her craft. Her voice contains the strength of a traditional R&B singer, and elements of powerful Soul and laidback Pop which are constantly at play despite her freewheeling style of writing. An affecting writer in every sense of the word, her music is tailor-made for reflection and pensive late night thoughts.

On recent single “2120,” she delivers a captivating showcase as she addresses an ungrateful lover who clearly underestimates her power. With laidback delivery, she sings to her muse while unafraid to present all her emotions and rough edges, infusing a subtle but human touch that makes “2120” a magical and gratifying listen. The “new” part of Best New Artists is always somewhat subjective, but there’s no denying when an artist has enough of the essential elements to break out of the mold.


For listeners of Ami Faku, Nkosazana Daughter, Sha Sha

Since her debut in 2015, South African singer Sbahle has led a strong run with standout singles such as “Emlanjeni” which have catapulted her into further stardom. Her music pays stunning tribute to her culture and family background of KwaZulu-Natal where she hails from. When her breakout moment came along in 2020 with Ndisumo Mdletshe-produced single, “Emlanjeni,” Sbahle was more than ready to hit the limelight, armed with poignant and intimate stories at her disposal, alongside transcendental melodies and soundscapes that allowed her to connect with audiences despite the language barriers. With the attention gained from this release, Sbahle expanded the scope of her artistry with a captivating Hip-Hop tinged single, “Ipiki,” where her writing skills shone even brighter.

Despite a difficult start to her career, going into 2024, Sbahle is making some of her best and powerful music so far. Her latest single “Bhala Mabhalane” which featured fellow South African vocalist, Amahle is a heart-wrenching rendition that puts her musical abilities on full display. Each word carries a profound sense of emotional depth and reveals an artist subtly widening the scope of her discography.

Anabel Rose

For listeners of Amaarae, 99 Phaces, Cruel Santino

Anabel Rose is certainly a name to get familiar with. Hailing from Ghana’s alternative scene, Anabel Rose’s charming vocals has won the hearts of many listeners with genre-defying music that encapsulates everything this modern moment has to offer. Despite only having a sparse catalogue of music to her name, her unique abilities deserve to be celebrated for its bright spot on the West African sonic canvas.

Her debut single, “Love Me Or Die,” arrived mid-way through 2023 during the summer, and provided a lush soundscape rich with dreamy pop synths assisted by subtle punk-rock sensibilities. “Love me love me say that you want me/I’ll come clean if you say you complete me,” she sings over the song’s hook, declaring her commitment to a deserving lover. Her sophomore single, “Do Not Disturb” was released four months later in October to incredible reception, laced with propuslive and groovy rhythms, the track finds the singer speaking her mind. “I don’t want to do this life/I just wanna enjoy/If you hate me tell my mama,” she chants over futursitic production with laser-precision flow.

Despite these being Anabel’s only solo performances, her abilities continue to shine on collaborations such as DJ Yamz’ 2020 EP ‘kilonshe’ and Aviti’s self-titled EP in 2023. As she continues to build herself into her own kind of star, it’s clear that Anabel Rose’s journey to the top is an exciting must-watch.


For listeners of Elaine, Brazy, Bellah & more.

The pressure to operate out of your comfort zone might be a heavy decision for new artists in this age. The willingness to experiment with a range of genres and colour outside of the lines has proven successful for artists looking to find their feet. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Canada, rising singer ZADA knows the pressures of experimentation all too well but her music never suffers from any jagged edges.

The singer has concocted a sound that bridges a myriad of genres from Afropop to Folk, neo-soul, R&B and more, offering an undeniably raw and expressive musical landscape in her music. Her music is boundless and sounds atmospheric in delivery with recent single “Deep End” serving as a perfect introduction for any new listeners. On “Deep End,” she paints a portrait of her true self with reflective one-liners and a pensive hook that demands listeners to hold a mirror up to their own life experiences. With clever songwriting and a charismatic voice, GADA is earmarking herself as one of the most exciting acts of today.

Featured image credits/Instagram

Words by Nwanneamaka Igwe & Tami Makinde