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Sauti Sol and Tiwa Savage: Photo: Facebook / Sauti Sol.

The 9 Best East African Songs of the Month

Here's the best tracks to come out of East African this month.

After an impressive year of music in 2017, artists from the East side of the continent kept up the momentum with a string of great releases in January.

From our biggest stars to some of our favorite rising acts in the region, here are the best songs of the month.


Safi Madiba "Fine" feat. Rayvanny

After ceremoniously leaving Rwanda's biggest music group, Urban Boyz, Safi Madiba is now proving himself as a solo artist with hits like "Got it" and more recently, "Kimye Kimye." His latest single "Fine" is quite easy on the ears. The smooth afro-pop track features Tanzanian sensation Rayvanny who is currently on a roll of success with songs like "Makulusa" and "Siri." Despite all the speculation regarding his solo career, Safi Madiba is letting all the doubters know that he's here to stay.

Sauti Sol "Girl Next Door" feat. Tiwa Savage

Kenya's most popular band Sauti Sol followed up the massive success of "Melanin" with the more laid-back, Maleek Berry-produced single "Girl Next Door." The song features Nigerian afro-pop queen Tiwa Savage and has a cool reggae style beat. Fans are already anticipating the band's next release from their forthcoming Afrikan Sauce album which will feature collaborations with artists from different parts of the continent. So far so good, Sauti Sol!

Mr Blue "Mbwa Koko"

As you can see from our article on 14 Bongo Flava Classics You Need In Your LIfe, Mr. Blue has been around for a long time. We knew he could rap but his new banger "Mbwa Koko" is a testament to his lyrical mastery. The song has definitely gotten his long- time fans buzzing but with its contemporary beat and his legendary status it easily cuts through to a younger generation.

Otile Brown "Tamu Sana" feat. Shetta

Kenyan rising star Otile Brown started the year on a good note with a sizzling single "Tamu Sana," which features Tanzanian rapper Shetta. The song's infectious beat and catchy lyrics will get you nodding your head regardless of whether you understand the words or not. A wonderful fusion of bongo flava and afro-pop, this song is set to be a regular in the club circuit for the next few months.

Fik Fameica "Mafia"

Fik Fameica is the popular Ugandan urban rap star who's been riding the wave of success from his hit single "Kutama" which was released in 2017. He kicked off the new year with "Mafia," a full-toned trap single that is quickly rising to the top of the Ugandan charts. The young rapper has previously been criticized for sounding too similar to many Western rap artists. Nevertheless, he's already gained a large fan base in the country who seem to really enjoy his Ugandan twist on trap music.

Aar Maanta "Halaalee Dhaanto"

Veteran British-Somali musician Aar Maanta continues to keep Somali music alive with his latest release "Halaalee Dhanto," a captivating and modern take on the traditional Somali folk style music called Dhaanto.

Lava Lava "Kiilio"

WCB Wasafi's catalogue includes artists like Harmonize, Rich Mavoko, Diamond Platnumz and Rayvanny who, in recent times, have dominated the East African music scene. Their new signee Lava Lava has already experienced his fair share of success but it seems he wants to take it up a notch in 2018. His song "Kiilio" is about a poor man who has lost his girlfriend to a richer man who can shower her with material things. In a time when many Tanzanian artists are choosing to make afro-pop, "Kiilio" is a classic bongo flava tune.

Awate "Brutalism"

Camden-based Eritrean rapper Awate dropped the visuals for his song "Brutalism," a tasty appetizer for what's to come in his forthcoming album Happiness, which is due February 16. The song is a powerful piece of storytelling as the rapper paints a picture of his experiences growing up in London. The video is collaboration between award-winning filmmaker Penny Woolcock and designers Block9, filmed at the Utopia installation at The Roundhouse.

Aslay x Nandy "Subalkheri Mpenzi"

After the split of Tanzania's beloved Yamoto Band, Aslay won the hearts of fans as a solo artist with "Hauna" in 2017. He continues to win our favor in the new year with his brand new song "Subalkheri Mpenzi," featuring Tanzania's fastest rising female artist, Nandy. With the duo's beautiful Taarab-influenced vocals and the traditional bongo instrumentals, this is the perfect love song to get you warmed up for Valentines Day.

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The Ethiopian Government Has Asked Olympic Runner In Exile, Feyisa Lilesa, to Return Home

After two years in exile, the Olympic athlete will return home and receive a "hero's welcome."

Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian runner who went into exile in 2016 after bravely protesting the Ethiopian government's brutal treatment of its Oromo population at the Rio Olympics, has been invited to return to home.

After living in self-imposed exile United States for two years the marathoner, who demonstrated by crossing his fists as he reached the finish line and claimed the silver medal, has been extended an offer to return to his homeland and compete for his country once again by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation and the country's Olympic committee. According to VOA News, the runner will return home in the coming weeks with his wife and children.

"Athlete Feyisa Lilesa has scored great results at the Rio Olympics and other athletics competitions enabling Ethiopia's flag to be hoisted to great heights," read a joint letter from the two athletics organizations.

"We want Lilesa to return to his home country to resume his athletics competition and upon his return we are prepared to give him a hero's welcome."

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Politics
Image via GovernmentZA's Flickr.

Could Justice Finally Be on the Horizon for Marikana Massacre Families?

New evidence suggests that the police intended to kill all along.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, when 34 mine-workers were gunned down by police after several days of wage disputes at Lonmin Mine in Rustenburg, North West province. New information was recently uncovered that undermines the police's longstanding claim that they acted in self-defence. If anything, it is a glimmer of hope for the families of the victims that remain left behind in the aftermath of that tragedy.

It was the worst mass civilian killing since the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where South African protesters were killed for opposing the Apartheid regime. The Marikana Massacre, in contrast, was the tragic consequence of week-long wage disputes and clashes between miners and the South African police.

While media footage appears to show the miners as the victims, police have always argued that they were acting in self defence. Consequently no officers involved have been charged. Instead, the surviving mineworkers face murder charges under the doctrine of common purpose. But unnerving facts have come to light that seem to make the police argument even less likely. This includes the ordering of 4000 rounds of live ammunition and several vans from the mortuary the day before the massacre.

I cannot even begin to unpack my anger and frustration at this terrible irony.

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Remembering Aretha Franklin and Her Heartfelt Connection With Nelson Mandela

In honor of the Queen of Soul's immeasurable impact, we revisit her passionate support of Nelson Mandela, and the anti-apartheid movement, through her musical tributes.

Iconic singer, Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" passed away on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Franklin was considered by many to be the greatest singer of all time. Her influence on popular music cannot be overstated. The legendary artist sold 75 million records and earned 18 Grammys in a career spanning six decades and she was influential in many global social movements as well.

Having been a widely-embraced public figure for so long, Franklin was present for some of the biggest events of the 20th century, including the funeral of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.

Upon Mandela's release, the singer played a unique role in welcoming him to the States by performing at a freedom rally in his honor in Detroit. Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and Stevie Wonder were also in attendance for the historic night. During the celebration, Franklin called the anti-apartheid leader on stage, where he spoke about listening to and appreciating "the Detroit, Motown Sound" while he was in prison.

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