2021 was a decisive year for African music: everyone could see the extent to which this musical genre has become part of the music world.
After global containment and a pandemic-affected 2020, we have seen the rise of musical talent across the continent, with a renewed dynamism to set the tone for an active 2021. Afrobeats, Congolese Zouk and South African Amapiano, to name but a few, have been the pinnacle of entertainment attention and musical success in Africa, and the world is taking note.
Here’s a look at some of our favourite songs of the year.
– Chiké X Simi –
Chiké featuring Simi, ‘Running (to You)’ (Nigeria)
One of the breakthrough artists of the Covid-19 pandemic year, Chike repositioned his classic debut album for mainstream realization with strategic remixes and this duet with acclaimed songwriter Simi brings excellent songwriting to emote a song that is sure to melt even the coldest of hearts
– Focalistic X Davido –
Focalistic & Davido featuring Vigro Deep, ‘Ke Star (Remix)’ (South Africa)
An early 2021 Amapiano favourite by renowned South African artist Focalistic – featuring a Nigerian verse courtesy of Davido – was destined for greatness.
– Gyakie X Omah Lay –
Gyakie featuring Omah Lay, ‘Forever (Remix)’ (Ghana)
Ghanaian-born Gyakie offers the groundbreaking song from her first project EP “A New Breath of Life” with blacksmith Omah Lay, resulting in a duet reaffirming the tenacity of a romantic proposition. Trust Omah Lay (another revolutionary act taking over the Nigerian Afrobeat scene in 2021) to lay it on thick with his word-bending ability. It is the rare case that a remix is better by leaps and bounds.
– Wizkid X Tems –
Wizkid featuring Tems, ‘Essence’ (Nigeria)
Wizkid, a superstar in his own right, has once again made waves on the international stage, this time with fellow Nigerian Tems, princess of the Alté sound, to deliver what could easily be the biggest Afrobeats song to date if the recent Soul Train nominations and this summer’s parties are anything to go by.
– Nviiri the Storyteller –
Nviiri the Storyteller featuring Bien, ‘Niko Sawa’ (Kenya)
Kenyan-born multi-talented artist and songwriter Nviiri the Storyteller agonises over grief, insecurity and infidelity on his jazzy song “Niko Sawa” (translated as “I am fine” from Swahili).
However, the song is not about lost love, but about the delicate confluence of romantic expectations and responsibilities.
– Zuchu –
Zuchu, ‘Sukari’ (Tanzania)
Tanzanian artist Zuchu launched 2021 with Bongo’s hit “Sukari”. Translated into sugar from Swahili, the word “Sukari” is applied in the song as a metaphor for love and romance. Zuchu is adept at layering her suggestive lyrics with elements of sensual pop. This song has travelled across Africa with its catchy lyrics and chorus.
– Kidi –
KiDi, ‘Touch It’ (Ghana)
In preparation for the summer, Ghanaian singer KiDi has released the first single from his second album. ‘Touch It’ was undeniably a hit in the club and guaranteed to get everyone on their feet. The song is quickly becoming an international hit with American rapper Tyga reportedly featuring on the upcoming remix
– ui Orlando –
ui Orlando featuring Bruna Tatiana, ‘Já Te Conheço (Remix)’ (Angola)
This ballad from Angola is a beautiful duet performed entirely in Portuguese without exempting music and romance lovers who can’t speak the language thanks to easy listening as well as memorable turns of phrase and the clear message of longing and despair that the song so eloquently brings together.
– Locko –
Locko- MAGNET (Cameroon)
Locko is one of the Cameroonian artists who was at the top in 2021. He is among the African artists featured on the soundtrack of Rhythms of Zamunda – a collection of songs inspired by the hit comedy Coming 2 America. He cemented his presence with the release of a new album ERA, available on all major streaming platforms.
– Fireboy DML –
Fireboy- PERU ft ED SHEERAN (remix)
Arguably one of the biggest songs to come out of Nigeria in 2021, Peru, became a monster hit almost immediately after its release, and is set to break records after receiving a feature from British superstar Ed Sheeran.
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