Music

The Black Indie Artist You Need to Listen to This Month: Tobi Sunmola

You need to know Nigerian-British artist Tobi Sunmola.

This new series will feature the most exciting independent and alternative artists from Africa and its diaspora. Black artists are complex and multidisciplinary. Twice a month, we'll introduce the hottest, boldest musicians out there that you need to listen to.

"The more you venture into your dreams, the more it becomes your reality."

Nigerian-British musician and spoken word artist Tobi Sunmola rarely has the time to reflect on how far he has come, because he's so busy thinking about the next steps. And it makes sense: he has had one hell of a ride. He went from performing at Youth Clubs to headlining the Iluvlive tour in the UK, as well as the MOBO Unsung tour in Manchester. And he's ending the year by releasing his new EP, City of Dreams, today.

In this new release, Tobi reflects on his frustration after graduating from university, failing to make it as a musician and having to get a job as a web developer. Back then, as he explains, "a lot of things happened, I lost my grandma and it made me realize how short life is, and how much I had to deal with as a black man in this country. And how people working in this industry say they want something different but all you hear in the radio is the same type of music. This is me and I'm different."

His previous EP, Childhood Culture, allowed listeners to step into his world and watch a young man grow up, discover himself and reflect on his upbringing.

Tobi started at the age of 14 in Nigeria, making rap infused with afrobeats at first, but didn't take it seriously until he moved to the UK. Back then, he used to skip his after school lessons to make tracks. One of his cousins was a producer, and he used to watch him eagerly while he started writing his own bars.

The move to the UK when he was 16 was intense, but a necessary one for his art. The culture in Manchester is bigger, wider and more diverse, contrary to the one in Nigeria, where non-mainstream (i.e non-afrobeats or hip-hop artists) have difficulties getting their own scene. There, he frequently collaborates with artists such as LiTek, Two4Kay and Henry Jacob.

His song "Wild Wild East" is a love letter to his new home of Openshaw, an area in the east side of Manchester whose architecture, atmosphere and culture have inspired Tobi and kept him open minded. In the song, his longing to go back home and be with his loved ones is palpable "You leave your house everyday to go to the wild, scary world-this industry. And the goal is to do what you love, come back home to be with your family. To do it for them."

But it wasn't always easy to combine both cultures: Nigerian and British. "When I first moved there, I was doing grime and a side of me was lost because I wasn't trying to bring that African side of me. But after a couple of releases I decided to put myself into my work, show my audience who I really was. I had to go back to who I truly was and take confidence in the fact that I'm Nigerian, born there, and also British. But first and foremost Nigerian," he adds.

However, it is often a fact that migrant parents, having sacrificed a lot to move to Western countries, would rather see their children have stable, well-payed job rather that being artists struggling to make ends meet. This is true for Tobi's family. Having studied computer games development, his family would rather see him continuing in that field. However, they supported him and gave him the encouragement and blessings needed for him to create his path as a musician.

A lot of Tobi's music is inspired by the music he listened as a kid: Marvin Gaye, Ja Rule, Kanye West, Tracy Chapman, and church music. He decided further down the line to go back to his roots with Nigerian prodigies such as Fela and Femi Kuti to understand how they revolutionized music.

This new EP is about his love for his city, Manchester, and also by the movie Inception. Tobi will go far, and he's ready for it. Everything he's doing now is what he would have been dying to do a few years ago.

Interview
Stella Mwangi. Image courtesy of the artist.

Stella Mwangi: Hip-Hop Saved My Life as an African Growing Up in Norway

The Kenyan-Norwegian rapper speaks about the Hollywood hustle, the potential of East African music and what she's dropping next.

If it seems like Stella Mwangi is everywhere these days, that's understandable. It's nearly impossible to see all the rings she's throwing her hat into: her songs are getting featured in Hollywood and across commercials, films and movie trailers.

There's a reason why it's possible to stay on such a grind, to make it work after more than a decade in the rap game, and that's an underlying theme with much of what the Kenyan-Norwegian artist, who also goes by STL, does. She's charged with an incomprehensible current that would have burned out other artists. Even as I caught up with her, she was hours away from taking a flight to the filming of a reality cooking competitions in Norway.

So what is on deck for Stella Mwangi? As it turns out, seemingly everything.

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This South African DJ Is Creating a List of Toxic Men in the Industry She Won't Work With

DJ ANG is taking a stand against sexual harassment in the music industry by calling out toxic artists.

August is Women's Month in South Africa, and women around the country are using the opportunity to stand up against femicide, gender violence and sexual harassment on a national level.

There are many ways to protest, and South African DJ and head of SheSaidSo South Africa, Angela Weickl, also known as ANG is carrying out her own demonstration against sexual harassment in the music industry by calling toxic artists out by name and refusing to work alongside them.

"I will be including a list in every booking agreement from now onwards," the artist wrote on Facebook. "This list will be of artists who I refuse to be on a line up with due to their toxic and harmful behaviour. I will not share the spaces where we work to promote diversity, inclusion and safety, with people who harm and disrespect us. If a venue or promoter cannot understand my choice, then I choose not to associate with them."

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popular

Watch the Trailer for 'La Negrada'—Mexico's First Feature Film with an All-Black Cast

The beautifully-shot film snagged the cinematography award at the 2018 Guadalajara International Film Festival.

This August, OkayAfrica shines a light on the connections between Africa and the Latin-American world. Whether it's the music, politics or intellectual traditions, Africans have long been at the forefront of Latino culture, but they haven't always gotten the recognition. We explore the history of Afro-Latino identity and its connection to the motherland.

This new film that recently premiered in Mexico City has made history in the Latin American film world.

La Negrada, directed by Jorge Pérez Solano, is Mexico's first fiction film portraying the Afro-Mexican population, REMEZCLA reports.

Contributing to the slow, but long overdue recognition of Afro-Latino communities on the big screen, La Negrada tells the story of two women, Juana and Magdalena, who are both romantically involved with the same man, Neri. The film was shot throughout Costa Chica—a region that spans along the coast of Guerrero and Oaxaca that's home to the highest concentration of Afro-descendants in Mexico—as Solano enlisted locals and non-professional actors to star in the film.

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