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10 African Artists To Watch In 2017

A crisp sound, unique voice, and fresh perspective – some of the things that endear new artists to listeners. While it’s not easy to predict a breakout star, sometimes the universe gifts us with musicians that seem to possess all the ingredients of a future star.

Here’s a list of ten such artists whose music are making waves right now.

Their music is transcendent and likely to get all Africans bobbing their heads, tweeting the lyrics, or losing themselves on the dance floor.

Lorine Chia – Cameroon

Lorine Chia is a unique talent. The vocally gifted singer possesses a powerful voice that is soulful and silky, bound to hold you under its sweet spell and transport you to a whole new world.

At 23, the Cameroon-born, US-based singer has four projects, a mixture of albums and EPs. Picking up a guitar at the age of 15, Lorine taught herself how to play the musical instrument, unlocking a new realm of abilities and possibilities she never knew existed. “That right there started everything. When I started playing guitar, I found a way to piece together my music. That’s when I started writing actual songs because I found some type of sound to go along with those words I had been writing all along,” she reveals.

Lorine’s extraordinary talent has bagged her collaborations with prominent artists such as The Game and Chance the Rapper. She kicked off the year with a new EP, ‘When Morning Comes’, a buoyant six-track project that finds the Cameroonian singer crooning about matters of the heart.

Tekno – Nigeria

Every artist has that defining year in their career when things start to fall into place. 2016 was such a year for Augustine Miles Kelechi, popularly known as Tekno. His hit single ‘Pana’ shot straight to the top of the charts and has accumulated almost 20 million YouTube views. The song, along with a chain of other successful singles, subsequently placed the 24-year-old singer on the radar of many people and a lot of corporations. One of those corporations is Columbia Records.

Tekno started 2017 on a high note with a deal with the American record company, home to some of the world’s most prominent stars, including John Legend, Pharrell Williams, and Solange. Further cementing Tekno’s reputation, Billboard magazine recently named the Nigerian singer as one of its “10 Hip-Hop and R&B Artists to Watch in 2017”.

Sampa the Great – Zambia

Sampa Tembo, popularly known as “Sampa the Great”, creates music that is both refreshing and honest. Born in Zambia, raised in Botswana, and based in Australia, the rapper and poet’s vast subject matter is inevitably shaped by her experiences in the countries she has lived in.

Growing up in a household of performers, where music was a constant presence (her father was a DJ and her mother was a dancer), creativity was instilled in Sampa at a young age. She started writing poetry at the age of nine and started rapping after hearing Lauryn Hill’s music.

Drawing inspiration from African legends like Angelique Kidjo and Thandiswa Mazwai, Sampa writes thought-provoking lyrics, mainly exploring political and social issues. Her move to Sydney in 2014 has opened many doors for the Zambian rapper, who released her debut mixtape in 2015. Not only does her lyrically powerful music resonate with audiences overseas, but it also touches hearts back home in Africa.

Frank Casino – South Africa

When it comes to African Hip-Hop, there’s no denying that South Africa is sprinting ahead of the rest. The South African Hip-Hop industry has grown remarkably over the years, and every year there’s an emergence of new talent. Frank Casino is one of the new crop of South African rappers who deserve recognition.

After dropping his first official single in 2015, Frank Casino followed up with two more songs in 2016 before finally releasing his debut mixtape in the same year. Titled ‘Something from Me,’ the 16-track project positions the South African rapper as one of the African artists to watch this year.

Phy – Kenya

Born and raised in Nairobi, Phy got her big break in 2015 when she was crowned the winner of the first season of Maisha Superstar, an East African music talent show that aims to uncover the next musical star in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and other East African countries. Since her blow-up, the sultry-voiced singer has been putting in some serious work. Her 2015 debut album ‘Phylosophy’ announced her as a promising musical talent, with the offering’s first single ‘Ruka’ garnering oodles of attention in her native Kenya. Last year, she launched a seven-track EP, a collection of covers of some of Kenya’s classic songs.

Developing a passion for singing at a young age, Phy went on and molded her musical skills at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music, where she learnt to how to play different musical instruments.

Worlasi – Ghana

Fast-rising star Worlasi made a lot of waves in his native Ghana last year with a string of songs that elevated the rapper and singer to new heights. The world was introduced to the lyrically sharp artist in 2015 when he dropped his debut project, a mixtape titled ‘Nus?’. The mixtape proved to be a success, gaining a few award nominations and spawning a collection of hit singles which showcased Worlasi’s versatility, depth, and uniqueness.

His music, delivered in a mix of English and vernacular, usually narrates a story or dissects serious social issues. Despite being a newcomer, Worlasi has already scored collaborations with established Ghanaian musicians like Sarkodie, Sena Dagadu, and M.anifest.

Vanessa Mdee – Tanzania

Vanessa Mdee’s latest banger ‘Cash Madame’ is not some exaggerated, self-aggrandising rhetoric meant to mislead. The 28-year-old singer had a successful 2016 and has long been enjoying pop star status in her home country of Tanzania. What’s more remarkable than the fact that she has conquered the Tanzanian market is that her music has started reaching beyond the East African borders, receiving airplay in other parts of the continent, especially in West Africa. This makes Vanessa one of the artists the continent should watch in 2017.

Apart from her music, Vanessa is popularly known for being the first-ever Tanzanian MTV VJ. She later ventured into radio as a presenter, before focusing on her music career. Born in the Tanzanian city of Arusha, Vanessa grew up in Nairobi, New York, and Paris.

Sjava – South Africa

For proof that you’re never too old to follow your dreams, look no further than South African sensation Sjava, who started pursuing his music career at the age of 33. Last year, the South African singer and rapper released his debut album ‘Isinamuva’ to much acclaim. The album finds the singer crooning, rapping, and chanting narrations of his life story and the journey he has travelled to get to where he is today. With some of his songs garnering more than half-a-million YouTube views and receiving some enviable airplay, the project propelled the Johannesburg-raised artist to stardom.

Before embarking on his musical journey, Sjava tried his hand at acting, appearing on some of South Africa’s popular soapies, including Generations and 7de laan. After realising that acting wasn’t meant for him, Sjava decided to pursue his true passion at an age when many wouldn’t dare try. We’re looking forward to seeing what he has in store for the world this year.

Roden Y – Uganda

If you’re a dancehall fan, then give Roden Y’s music a chance and your ears will thank you. Last year, the fast-rising Ugandan sensation shot straight to the top with a selection of hit songs that dominated the airwaves. His popular banger ‘Number Emu (Kabbako)’ topped charts and solidified Roden Y’s status as one of the most noteworthy Ugandan talents. Following a successful and busy year marked by shows throughout the country, the dancehall singer will be looking to repeat his success this year.

Roden Y is also known for his energetic performances and dominant stage presence. After conquering the Ugandan music scene in 2016, 2017 appears to be ripe for the singer to set his sights on a bigger piece of the pie: Africa.

Medikal – Ghana

If you’re looking for something energetic to spice up your playlist, you won’t go wrong with Medikal’s music. The 21-year-old rapper burst onto the scene last year with ‘Confirm’, a catchy, bass-laden song that won the hearts of many Ghanaians. Since releasing his first official single, Medikal has been consistently churning out hits.

In the space of one year, he has already worked with top Ghanaian artists such as Joey B, Kdei, Mr Eazi, and Sarkodie. Medikal’s hard-hitting, aggressive rap style earned the rapper a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2017 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards, and is lauded as one of the favourites to bag the coveted prize.

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