Beyond Afrobeats: Meet the Regional Artists Shaping Africa's Ever-Evolving Musical Landscape
This feature is in the March/April Next Wave Issue. Click here to subscribe.
Over the past decade, there has been an undeniable infiltration of soundscapes across various African countries into the global music space. From the chart-topping success of virtuosos like Afrobeats star Wizkid to the enthusiastic dabbling of stateside superstars like Drake and Beyoncé, what initially seemed like a one-hit crossover has over time morphed into a universal movement.
However, while Afrobeats enjoys a certain level of hegemony over other emerging sounds, it is imperative to note that just like its people, African music is not a monolith. As we continue to witness the birth, adoption, and evolution of the continent’s emerging sounds, several other artists are altering the Western perception of the ever-changing landscape of the continent’s contemporary music. From Johannesburg, South Africa, to Kumasi, Ghana, these are some of the artists you should know.
Musical duo dumama kechou PHOTO BY LIV TOERKELL
Dumama + kechou, South Africa
South African-raised singer-songwriter Gugulethu Duma and Algerian-German producer Kerim Melik Becker are the eclectic duo behind Xhosa singing group dumama + kechou (@dumama_kechou_). Outliers in a soundscape that relies heavily on the hegemonic amapiano sound, their debut album, buffering juju, is an eight-track exploration of South African folklore and vivid magical realism, carried by chants and choral harmonies. Their music—described as “future folk”—broaches themes of colonialism, patriarchy and freedom, providing a contemporary conduit between the ever-evolving sounds of modern-day Johannesburg and its rich ancestry.
Rapper Yaw Tog YAW TOG PHOTO COURTESY OF TOGLIFEMUSIC/EMPIRE
Yaw Tog, Ghana
At just 18 years old, Kumasi-born rapper Yaw Tog (@yawtog_yt) is already pioneering one of the most exciting sounds out of Africa. Fueled by honesty and braggadocio well beyond his age, Tog’s music, delivered in English, Pidgin and Twi, tells a distinct coming-of-age story that has helped introduce the world to asakaa—Ghana’s ingenious iteration of the Chicago-born drill subgenre of rap.
Singer Falana FALANA PHOTO BY ELIX EZEMA
Despite the proliferation of Afrobeats music championed by her Nigerian peers, Falana’s (@falanamusic) sound spares no effort to ingratiate itself into the idea of what a typical Lagosian should sound like. Since dropping her critically acclaimed debut EP, Things Fall Together, the Nigerian-Canadian singer-songwriter has remained intentional, carving a niche for herself with jazzy, soulful musings on love and life. It is safe to say that her music offers the possibility of transformation, allowing listeners to experience true spiritual alchemy.
Kondi Band. KONDI BAND PHOTO BY ALEXIS MARYON
Kondi Band, Sierra Leone
Named after the kondi, a 15-pin thumb piano found in Sierra Leone, this band (@kondiband) creates a sparkling mix of dizzying electronic textures and African tradition, inadvertently forging a link that transcends geographical, generational and linguistic barriers. The band is led by the rich baritone vocals of Sierra Leone-based Sorie Kondi and supported with production from Chief Boima and Will LV, based in Los Angeles and London, respectively.
Inspired by her family’s migration to Lisbon in the ’90s as a result of civil unrest, Pongo’s (@pongo_official) music is a hybrid of her Angolan heritage and Portuguese experiences. She finds harmony in her roots, capturing past struggles over a mixture of her native genre of Kuduro and blaring techno-laden beats.
Musician Petite Noir PHOTO BY RICARDO SIMAL
Petite Noir, Democratic Republic of Congo/South Africa
Cape Town’s Petite Noir (@petitenoirkvlt) is seizing the reins and leading a social movement he likes to describe as “noir wave.” Built from elements of postpunk, kwaito, electronic and pop music, this self-given genre allows the artist to interrogate ideas surrounding diaspora and identity while riding on a wave of melancholy that is sure to haunt listeners long after his voice goes quiet.
Duma perform during their fall 2021 European tour. PHOTO BY PETER ROSVIK
Making a case for Kenya’s nascent underground metal scene is the duo of Martin Khanja and Sam Karugu, the intriguing artists behind the experimental grindcore band Duma (@duma_ke). Unflinchingly dark, chaotic, and pensive, the band creates an eclectic mix of industrial techno and growl-heavy metal, offering a rebellious contrast to Nairobi’s seemingly tranquil atmosphere.
Born in Casablanca and raised on SoundCloud, rapper ISSAM (@issamharrris) is one of the most exciting artists from the continent. Despite political difficulties and a lack of support from traditional media, the self-described “child of the internet” seems to have found an audience for his creative blend of Atlanta-heavy autotuned rap and traditional Moroccan sounds. His music offers an unfiltered look into Morocco’s bubbling urban culture.