Music

Hailu Mergia Is Releasing His First New Album In 15 Years

Hear the lead single from the Ethiopian keyboard and accordion virtuoso's forthcoming album Lala Belu.

Hailu Mergia is back with new music.

The Ethiopian composer, keyboardist and accordion player has announced that he will be releasing a new album titled Lala Belu. The project, which will arrive in late February, is Mergia's first new body of work in 15 years.

In the interim, the legendary musician has dropped the single "Gum Gum," a sweltering, organ-driven groove. The funky cut sways effortlessly, with the rhythms and sounds of Ethiopia's jazzy past and future gloriously on display. The track features Tony Buck on drums and Mike Majkowski on bass.

Lala Belu, which will be released on Awesome Tapes From Africa, will run a lean six tracks long. Mergia has previously collaborated with the record label and blog, the first of those collaborations was the reissue of Hailu Mergia and His Classical Instrument in 2013, which was then followed by Tche Belew and Wede Harer Guzo. The reissues, as well as a re-release of his former group Walias Band's song "Musicawi Silt" by Buda Records on the popular Ethiopiques series, helped build a resurgence of interest in Mergia's music.

The musician relocated to the United States in 1981 while on tour with his band and singer Mahmoud Ahmed. Three other members of the Walias Band also decided to stay behind to escape the political and social turmoil occurring in Ethiopia. While not touring and performing, Mergia, who is now 71, works as an airport taxi driver.

The Walias Band, which formed in Addis Ababa back in the early 1970s while playing as the house band for the Hilton Hotel, has made music with the greats of Ethiopian music, including Tilahun Gessesse and Mulatu Astatke. Because of a civilian curfew instituted by the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, the band would sometimes play into the night and following morning so that patrons could avoid being out and about after hours and still enjoy themselves as they waited for day break.

In a press release provided by ATFA, Mergia remarked that his upcoming release is "a very historical album for me. And I am extremely excited. All of it feels like a big comeback. A different kind of audience, playing with a different kind of band and working with a different kind of record company. The album is very different from all the albums I did after I left Ethiopia."

The basic tracks for Lala Belu were recorded at London's EMS4 in 2016 and completed by Mergia and engineer Javon Gant at Cue Studios in the Washington D.C. area. Lala Belu, as well as Mergia's previous ATFA reissues, were remastered by Jessica Thompson.

Listen to Hailu Mergia's "Gum Gum" on Spotify, Apple Music, or up top via YouTube. You can head to Bandcamp to pre-order the album on vinyl and/or CD. A purchase of either format also comes with a digital copy of the project.

Lala Belu will arrive on February 23.



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Stop What You're Doing Right Now and Watch Falz's New Video 'This Is Nigeria'

The Nigerian rapper tackles his country's social ills in his very own answer to Childish Gambino's "This Is America."

Nigerian rapper, Falz has been known to use his sharp brand of humor to address social ills in his country. Today he's taken it a step further with the release of a new song and video entitled "This is Nigeria" and the outcome is an audacious, decidedly necessary critique of Nigerian society inspired by Childish Gambino's viral video "This is America."

Falz opens the song with a voice over of his father the lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana, discussing the consequences of rampant corruption and exploitation, before adding his own cutting criticism: "This is Nigeria, look how I'm living now, look how I'm living now. Everybody be criminal," he rhymes as chaos ensues all around him.

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Photo courtesy of Nike

The Secret Behind Nike's New Naija Football Kits are Nigerians Themselves

The story behind the bold new uniforms the Super Eagles will be wearing at this year's World Cup.

Partner content from Nike

The new Nigeria football kits are not even out yet, but they're already causing pandemonium with Nigerian press reporting that there have been already 3 million worldwide orders. And it's easy to see why—the designs are daring with a bold nod to Nigerian culture that is very in vogue right now. In addition, UK Grime MCs with Nigerian roots, Skepta and Tinie Tempah have already been photographed in the new jerseys causing a surge of social media chatter about the new look.

But while rock star endorsements and an edgy new design will certainly bring attention, there's no doubt that the real bulk of the demand is due to what is ramping up to be a significant moment in the history of Nigerian football—the 2018 World Cup.



If you don't already know, Nigeria is entering this year's World Cup in Russia with some of the most exciting young players we've seen in years. With youthful talent like Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho—all 21—and veteran Olympic captain Jon Obi Mikel ready to take the field in Moscow all eyes are on Nigeria to advance out of Group D and challenge the world for a chance at the cup.

The plan here is to outdo the teams previous international achievement, the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal in men's football which is commemorated on the home kit with a badge recolored in the colors of the '96 gold medal-winning "Dream Team."

The home kit also pays subtle homage to Nigeria's '94 shirt— the first Nigerian team to qualify for the tournament—with its eagle wing-inspired black-and-white sleeve and green torso. But if the allusion to the pasty is subtle, the new supercharged patterns are anything but.

The look of the kit feels particularly in touch with what's going on in youth fashion both in Nigeria and the world and that's no accident. Much of the collection comes in bold print, both floral and Ankara-inspired chevrons, ideas that we've seen entering street wear collections and on the runway in recent years. That's because African and Nigerian style has become a big deal internationally of late. And not just in style, the country's huge cultural industries from Nollywood to Afrobeats have announced themselves on the world stage. This cultural ascendance is reflected in the design.


Courtesy of Nike

"With Nigeria, we wanted to tap into the attitude of the nation," notes Dan Farron, Nike Football Design Director. "We built this kit and collection based on the players' full identities." Along with other members of the Nike Football design group, Farron dug into learning more about Nigeria's players, "We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. They are part of a resoundingly cool culture."

In fact OkayAfrica has covered the team's love for music before—even dedicating an edition of the African in Your Earbuds mixtape to John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi & Kelechi Iheanacho's favorite songs to get hyped up before a game. When we asked the charismatic trio, they gave us list that included many of the huge Nigerian artists that we love, like Tekno, Wizkid, Yemi Alade and Nigerian-American rapper Wale and also, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, Celine Dion.

Nigerian culture has gone global partly through its infectious energy but also because of its vibrant diaspora populations that bring it with them wherever they land. Lagos-born Alex Iwobi whose goal in the 73rd minute to qualified Nigeria for this summer's tournament spent most of his life in London but still reps Naija to the fullest.

"I grew up in England, but Nigeria is my homeland," he says. "When I scored that goal, the players were dancing, the fans were playing trumpets and bringing drums…there was just so much passion and energy. It is always an honor to wear the white and green. To compete this summer is not just our dream, it is also the dream of our fans. Together, we all represent Naija."

This similar energy can be felt in Nigerian communities from Brooklyn to Peckham and even in China. Naija culture is truly global and no doubt the fans will embody the Naija spirit wherever they will be watching the games this summer.

If you're wondering, Nike isn't simply hopping on the Nigeria bandwagon. The apparel company has been sponsoring the Nigerian football since 2015, supplying kits to all nine of the Nigeria Football Federation teams at every level, including the men's and women's senior teams, men's and women's under-20 teams, men's and women's under-17 teams, men's and women's Olympic teams, and the men's beach football team.

So while the kit is available for purchase worldwide June 1, just know that you'll be competing with millions to get your own official shirts for the World Cup. If you are in New York, find the kit for sale exclusively at Nike's 21 Mercer store.

And please join OkayAfrica and Nike on June 2nd for Naija Worldwide as we celebrate Team Nigeria's journey to Russia in style.

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Listen to Adekunle Gold's New Album 'About 30'

Adekunle Gold's highly-anticipated sophomore album is here.

Adekunle Gold's much-anticipated sophomore album, About 30, has arrived.

The 14-track album boasts features from Seun Kuti, Flavor and British-Nigerian soul singer Jacob Banks, who appears on a remix to the popular lead single "Ire." The album sees the artist flexing immense versatility and range as he delivers emotional ballads, folk-Inspired cuts sung in Yoruba, and a few highlife-tinged summer jams.

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