Sir Elvis in "Loving Man" (Youtube)

6 African Country Musicians You Should Check Out

Featuring Sir Elvis, Jess Sah Bi & Peter One, Emma Ogosi and more.

With Lil Nas X's EP going straight to number on the American charts, it seems like country music revival is taking over 2019 and beyond, thanks to its unlikely fusion with trap music. It only makes sense that black people are reclaiming the genre, as country was actually partly created by black American artists and heavily influenced by gospel music.

On top of that, plenty of lesser known black artists and bands are making country, or country-infused, music. This is especially the case in Africa, where the genre has been around for a few decades and an increasing number of musicians are gaining momentum. By gaining popularity in Africa, country is coming back to its roots, as country guitar and the way of playing it was originally inspired by the banjo— an instrument that African slaves brought with them to America.

Country music has a strong appeal across the African continent for several reasons: the similarity with many African instruments and the recurring lyrics and themes about love, heartbreak and "the land." At the heart of it, country music has an appeal to working class people all over the world who feel let down by the people that were supposed to help them.

Country music is played regularly on the radio in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi but yet, the artists featured are overwhelmingly white and American. African country singers do not get the respect they deserve or are seen as anomalies. With the growing number of them making country music, here is a list of the ones you need to listen to right now.

Sir Elvis

Elvis Othieno, also known as Sir Elvis, is a popular Kenyan musician who grew up with country-loving parents. Elvis is his real name (no, really) and he was born three months after the legendary singer died. Inspired by Gary Brooks and Hank Williams, he started making music while attending college. He wanted a unique name, while paying his dues, and picked his moniker to stir away from the obvious Elvis Presley reference. Sir Elvis has contributed largely to the popularity of country music in Kenya. Since Agriculture dominates the Kenyan economy, it's no surprise that country music is especially popular in the nation's farming areas.

Ogak Jay Oke

Nigerian country singer Ogak Jay Oke, like most people on this list, was introduced early to country music through his religious upbringing and church ties. He's pushing to make the genre more popular across Nigeria and is the president of the Country Music Club in his hometown of Port Harcourt. Inspired by Jim Reeves, Skeeter Davies and Don Williams, he released his first album, Another Day, in 2016. He recently released a new single "Here Comes the Bride," an homage to his wife.

Jess Sah Bi & Peter One

The Ivory Coast duo Jess Sah Bi & Peter One gained fame and recognition in Western Africa after the release of Our Garden Needs Its Flowers in 1985, an album that was influenced by country, disco and folk music. Their lyrics—sung in English, French and Gouro (a Mande language from Ivory Coast)—were pretty political, calling out inequality and social issues across African countries. One of the reasons behind their pan-African appeal was that they encouraged African people to stand together in unity and called for an end to apartheid. Their album was re-released in 2018 by Awesome Tapes From Africa, helping a new generation of music lovers to discover them.

​Esther Konkara

Christian country singer Esther Konkara hails from Kenya and is heavily inspired by Dolly Parton. Themes such as love, financial hardships, heartbreaks and the striking descriptions of small towns are what drew her to country music. It makes sense, since she grew up in a small rural village herself. Her album Turi Ahotani was released in 2015 and she recently shared her new single, "Rimwe Ria Kuigana." She took part in Kenya's first ever country music festival, The Boots And Hats Festival, in 2015 and is now performing across the country.

Emma Ogosi

One of the pioneers of country music in Nigeria, the singer Emma Ogosi released a country-disco album entitled Nobody Knows in 1981. Inspired by the thriving disco scene at the time as well as multiple country influences, he came up with a record that's both groundbreaking and intimate. Ogosi was once married to popular Nigerian reggae artist Evi-Edna Ogholi. He was also a band member of The Expensive and a former air officer. When Evi-Edna fled Nigeria to Paris, he stayed. Despite the fact that he hasn't released an album in years, the mysterious man still sings and is the head of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria.

Poor Charley Akka

Nigerian act Poor Charley Okaa released his album Don't Cry in 1983—a funk, soul and country infused EP. Very little is known about the musician and his music is notoriously hard to find. However, his song "Be in Your Arms" is one of the most famous Nigerian country music tracks and was featured on the album Like Nashville In Naija, a compilation featuring many country or country-inspired musicians from the West African nation.


Listen to Solo’s New Single ‘Promises’ Featuring Kwesta

Solo and Kwesta connect on 'Promises.'

Solo and Kwesta share a bouncy kwaito beat on "Promises." Kwesta's at home over an instrumental of this kind. It's, however, a shift on Solo's side, who hasn't been known for new age kwaito. The rapper adapts his delivery accordingly, using fewer words than you'd normally expect in his verse.

Keep reading... Show less
"85 to Africa" album art.

Listen to Jidenna's New Album, '85 to Africa'

Plus watch the music video for his latest single "Worth the Weight" featuring Seun Kuti.

It's been two years since Jidenna dropped his debut album, The Chief, today, the artist shares his latest studio album 85 to Africa.

In the lead-up to the album's release, the artist dropped the singles "Tribe," "Sufi Woman" "Sou Sou," and "Zodi" featuring fellow Nigerian artist Mr Eazi. He also held several listening parties across the US ahead of its release, and from what we can tell from videos that have been circulating on social media—they've been a really great time for both Jidenna and his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Mr Eazi & Simi Drop the New Single and Video For 'Doyin'

A head-nodding Afro-R&B track produced by Killertunes.

Mr Eazi seems to be in unstoppable work mode right now as he's been popping up in big singles and collaborations all over the place this summer, as well as continuing his emPawa Africa initiative.

For his latest single, "Doyin," Eazi connects with Nigerian singer Simi for a head-nodding Afro-RnB track. The new song, which is built on woozy synthesizers and mid-tempo beat work, was produced by Killertunes. Eazi and Simi trade verses in the addictive single, which comes paired with a new music video directed by Manuel Concha.

Read: The Music Business of Mr Eazi

"Doyin" is the first song released through emPawa Distribution, a digital music aggregator focused solely on distributing African music, which Eazi announced after the success of emPawa Africa. Speaking of the initiative, emPawa Africa is now reopened to submissions that will help fund the music videos of 30 up-and-coming artists and offer mentorship from big name artists.

Keep reading... Show less

Listen to Rick Jade (Bontle Modiselle and Priddy Ugly)’s Album ‘D.N.A (Da New Africa)’

Rick Jade release their debut album.

Bontle Modiselle and Priddy Ugly, collectively known as Rick Jade, aren't half-stepping. Today, the couple released their debut album D.N.A (Da New Africa).

D.N.A consists of 10 songs that dabble in pop, trap and even kwaito. Guest features on D.N.A include Forcalistic, KLY and some members of the collective Frsh Citizen, which Bontle and Priddy are part of.

In his previous projects, Priddy Ugly had some moments of showing emotion and sharing intimate details of his life. But on D.N.A, he explores that side of himself further.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox