Best African Tracks of 2016

Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra
“Bade Zile”

Nigeria/Haiti. Born from an intense five-day composing session, the unprobable Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra is both an evidence of ever vivid cultural roots of the Caribbean island, and a celebration of globalization.

Led by Tony Allen, who used to drum by the side of Fela Kuti himself, the project combines old synths, 60s guitars and 70s avant-garde with primeval rhythms that have traveled from Africa to the Caribbean and there found their own special shape.

Afro​-​Haitian Experimental Orchestra on Facebook.

Alsarah & The Nubatones
“Ya Watan”

Sudan. A singer-songwriter and ethnomusicologist, Alsarah, drew attention of those who had a chance to see her live even before the release of her group’s debut album, “Silt”, which appeared in our Best of 2014.

Adding new members to her band, she continues to entrance on her sophomore release. With a powerful voice and eclectic mix of North and East African tunes as well as Arabic sounds and traditions Alsarah’s sound is a fascinating journey of discovery into old Nubian and Sudanese music.

Alsarah & The Nubatones on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, www.

Amy Ayanda

South Africa: Four minutes of beautiful electronic folk pop from Amy Ayanda, a talented singer-songwriter and an all-embracing multimedia artist from Cape Town.

The song is dedicated to the Marvel character Jessica Jones. Abused by her partner, she eventually “manages to get away from her abuser with her child, who she feels shouldn’t be exposed to the abuse any longer,” Amy said about the track.

Amy Ayanda on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, www.

“Akhar Zaman”

Niger. Renowned Tuareg guitarist Bombino returned in 2016 with his third and possibly best album, “Azel.”

In the lauded single off the album, “Akhar Zaman” (This Moment), Bombino warns that “the morality, dignity, generosity of ours parents have been replaced by materialism”. But the music itself seems to carry cautious optimism Bombino has been known for since he first appeared on stage.

Bombino on Facebook, Twitter, www.

Cece Sagini

Kenya. Cece Sagini is a contemporary artist who’s not afraid to combine traditional inspirations with urban sounds. Just like in her latest single, “Ensobosobo”, one of the most immediate hits of the summer.

This refreshing song combines three languages – Kisii, Swahili and English – and features a very special guest, Nyangau, who’s a virtuoso of a local instrument called obokano.

Cece Sagini on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Cina Soul

Ghana/Nigeria. Stemming from Ghana’s capital Accra, Cina Soul has been known for multiple experiments with her own material as well as creative remakes and covers.

“Julor,” a story of he she “became a prisoner of love”, proves that she has found her very own voice. The song has been produced by Nigerian producer Odunsi, and features an acclaimed rapper and Cina Soul’s fellow Ghanaian, M.anifest.

Cina Soul on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.


Ghana. It’s been just a few years since charismatic singer-songwriter ELi took up a solo career – after training for a while in school choirs. With each new song from him, we can see that his decision was a right one.

His latest song, “W.I.L.D,” demonstrates ELi’s search for elegant simplicity and authenticity. While it lasts just over two minutes, ELi’s appealing vocals and elegant bluesy arrangment will hypnotize you before you even get to the middle of the song.

ELi on Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud.

Elida Almeida

Cape Verde. Elida had her first singing lessons in a church choir. When she started singing on her own, the challenges life had thrown at her found their way into emotional, honest approach.

Last year, Elida came back with “Txika”, a new video as captivating as anything she’d given us before. This fresh single depicts a young person not quite happy about living on a small island, and dreaming about a magazine-cover fame.

Elida Almeida on Facebook, Twitter.

Konono N°1 meets Batida
“Nlele Kalusimbiko”

Democratic Republic of the Congo/Angola. The Congolese trance-machine, Konono N°1, collaborated with Angolan producer Batida to record their latest full-length album, released in April last year.

“Nlele Kalusimbiko,” the first single off the album, additionally features AF Diaphra on vocals and Papa Juju on guitar. As usually, the ensemble weaves complex polyrhythmic patterns with their signature gritty production, creating an overwhelming yet joyous swirl of traditional and contemporary sounds.

Konono N°1 on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, www.

“Reke Ngwende”

Kenya/Sierra Leone. “Reke Ngwende” is another soulful song from the Kenyan “urban folk” artist, Kwame. This time, however, he is joined by a young producer from Sierra Leone, Festus.

The title “Reke Ngwende” means “Let Me Love You,” and the song tells the story of Kwame’s first love, “simple and silly”, when “everything was beautiful.”

So yes, the whole thing is as sentimental and naive as the description suggests and you should watch it only in the right mood.

Kwame on Twitter, Facebook.

Lady Moon & The Eclipse

Republic of the Congo/International. Led by vocalist Ngonda Badila, Lady Moon & The Eclipse is a multicultural ensemble featuring members from Africa, Asia and Europe, and currently based in New York.

The band has released their debut EP in 2016, containing six fantastic tunes infused with afrobeat, funk, and soul. Badila’s powerful voice takes the leading role in “Running,” an energetic and compelling opening track.

Lady Moon & The Eclipse on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloudwww.

Morena Leraba

Lesotho. Morena Leraba’s music is inspired by local traditions of his home region, and especially Famo music, giving a unique blend of thoughtful Sotho poetry with electro, afro-house and hiphop.

He has collaborated with several international musicians, for example with Brooklyn-based producer, Kashaka, with whom he made “Lithebera.”

The title of the song refers to a concoction of traditional healing herbs, and the positive energy of the music should have similar effect.

Morena Leraba on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.

Noura Mint Seymali
“Na Sane”

Mauritania. After her first international release, the fantastic album called “Tzenni”, Noura Mint Seymali once again gives us a peek into the noble cultural tradition of Sahel.

Two years of touring made her sound more mature, and Noura’s attitude became even more vigorous. Spiritual and even religious, her music often brings its universal message to make our and other people’s live better.

Noura Mint Seymali on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, www.

“Space Diaspora”

Ghana/Switzerland. OY is a duo consisting of Ghanaian-Swiss singer Joy Frempong and producer/multi-instrumentalist Lleluja-Ha. Last year they released their new full-length, called “Space Diaspora”.

True to the Afrofuturistic spirit, the albums adds a cosmic vibe to their already rich sonic and visual pallete. It was heralded by an amazing video for “A New Planet Is Born”.

OY on Facebook, Soundcloud, www.

“La Sauce”

Cameroon. One of Cameroon’s biggest young talents was back in October with a new album, “Tandon“, earlier preceded by one of the most spectacular singles African music brought us last year.

It’s remarkable how “La Sauce” gets you on your feet with its direct energy while constantly evolving, never stopping in the obvious grooves. And how Reniss makes you play it again as soon as this powerful, yet airy piece fades out.

With this song, as with the new album, the Cameroonian singer-songwriter shows us how afropop can remain sincere and seducing without becoming crude and predictable.

Reniss on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Sampa the Great
“HERoes (The Response)”

Zambia/Botswana. Sampa Tembo is a young poet and singer-songwriter who expresses herself through music, poetry and the visual arts, drawing on her upbringing as an African woman.

“HERoes (The Response)” is the middle track on her last year’s EP. A spectacular hip-hop banger built on odd rhythmic pattern and dazzling production.

With her thoroughly original vision and astute approach to music making, Sampa the Great is sure to create more waves in the future.

Sampa the Great on on Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Sauti Sol and Alikiba
“Unconditionally Bae”

Kenya/Tanzania. The first ever collaboration between Kenyan afro-pop strongmen Sauti Sol and Tanzanian star Alikiba is what it was expected to be: a hit par excellence.

Combining words global and local, the supergroup created “Unconditionally Bae”, a joyful hymn to what “we all need” – love.

Sauti Sol on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, www.


Sudan. A long-time dentist from Sudanese capital, Khartoum, the producer Sufyan Ali a.k.a. Sufyvn combines vintage African mixtapes with futuristic electronica.

“Fragment,” a track from his latest EP, recycles traditional Sudanese and East African melodies in a hip-hop fashion and the result is just as ambiguous and hard to categorize as you could expect from such mixture.

Sufyvn on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.

Tetu Shani & Mayonde Maysa

Kenya. With their recent piece called “Chemistry”, Kenyan artists Tetu Shani and Mayonde Maysa have earned their own place in the rich tradition of male-female duos singing touching ballads about love.

“Chemistry” was produced by (mostly) electronic producer Jinku, also based in Nairobi, so the song’s crystalline acoustic sound is quite a surprise. However, his arrangements can be spare, because Tetu and Mayonde completely fill the sound space with their soulful voices. Fitting each other perfectly, they often seem as one.

Tetu Shani on Soundcloud, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, www.

Vaudou Game

Togo/France. Two years after their debut album, “Apiafo“, the exceptional Togolese-French group Vaudou Game came back late last year with their second full-length effort, “Kidayú”.

Led by Peter Solo, the band further augments the influence & sound mix of their music while keeping rhythms and melodies as clear as possible, and the voodoo-ness of their music alive and well. and created using vintage instruments.

While “La Vie C’est Bon” was picked as the first single off Vaudou Game’s new LP, we loved “Revolution” even more.

Vaudou Game on Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube.

Wambura Mitaru

Kenya. Born in Nairobi, the singer-songwriter Wambura Mitaru moved to Boston five years ago to continue her musical education at the Berklee College of Music – and to meet musicians from around the world.

Therefore, it seems only natural that while Wambura’s music does have this unmistakable atmosphere of East African R&B, it’s actually a very global mix of influences and sounds.

Her latest single, “Wewe”, is a joyful hymn to what matters most in life, and is accompanied by an equally delighful clip, directed by Christopher Lewis Dawkins. Hopefully, it will bring Wambura a breakthrough she deserves.

Wambura Mitaru on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, Soundcloud.

“One Life”

Ghana. Rapper Worlasi’s 7-minute hymn “One Life” is probably the most extraordinary and multifaceted video to have emerged out of Ghanian music scene last year.

The Accra-based artist introduced this new single half a year after his debut mixtape. The song stands out due to the contrast between Worlasi’s melancholic, auto-tuned, and multi-layered verses and the heartening, soulful part of Sena Dagadu.

Worlasi on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.