This new class of young African musicians are poised to take the music industry by storm.
In the world of African music, there have been a select group of female acts who made it to the top—from seasoned veterans like Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Angélique Kidjo to contemporary pop stars like Yemi Alade and Tiwa Savage. However, they have at times been few and far between, especially when compared in numbers to their male counterparts.
Fortunately, something exciting is taking place on the continent, and that dynamic is slowly but steadily beginning to change. The driving force of that shift is the emergence of a new class of young female artists who are taking the music industry by storm in each of their respective countries across the African continent. They are making music on their own terms, they are finding and growing their own audiences, and of course, they are extremely talented.
From Nigeria to South Africa to Ghana to Kenya, these young women who are all still very early in their careers are already making major moves - from dropping nationwide hits, to signing deals with global record labels, to landing songwriting credits on Taylor Swift songs. They all show amazing promise, and they are all on the verge of serious stardom. Here, we bring you our list of the female African artists you definitely need to watch in 2022. Check them out below.
Ayra Starr has been on the radar of the Nigerian music secene ever since her self-titled debut EP dropped at the top of last year, but the Mavin Records signee made one hell of an impression when she returned in August 2021 with the release of her debut album 19 and Dangerous. The 11-track offering enabled us witness the dynamite songstress in all her youthful, insanely talented glory.
From her self-assured mission statement “Cast (Gen Z Anthem)” to the boastful swagger of suave afropop cut “Fashion Killer” to the boisterous, spine-tingling energy of surefire pop hit “Bridgertn,” Ayra’s brand of afropop is music is highly exuberant, unapologetic, and oozes superstar charisma, and she consistently clocks views in the several millions on her music releases despite her being so early in her career. Ayra Starr and her music is a glimpse of where the trajectory of Nigerian music is headed. She may be Nigerian, but she is undoubtedly a global pop star in the making and we can’t wait to see it happen.
If the term fast-rising were a person, it would be South African singer and songwriter Nomfundo Ngcobo. Popularly known as Nomfundo Moh, the 21-year-old is quickly becoming one of South Africa’s new sensations. Nomfundo Moh signed to Universal Music Group following the success of her self-released debut single “Lilizela” in 2021. Her musical style is diverse, with her dabbling in blends of afropop, soul, trapsoul, house, and more, but the singer boldly declares herself an afropop artist, saying “my music is afropop because I am inspired by the African sound.”
Nomfundo blew up more and more with every new song she dropped.The music video for her recent single “Phakade Lami” featuring two of South Africa’s biggest female vocalists Sha Sha and Ami Faku is already sitting on 8 million views on YouTube, less than 6 months after it’s release. Her debut studio album Amagama dropped at the tail end of January, and the entire 13-track album was written by the singer herself. With her already quick at work on her second album, it’s obvious that Nomfundo Moh is here to stay.
FAVE is a gem. A fast-rising singer and songwriter from the southeastern part of Nigeria, FAVE’s breakthrough moment came in 2021 when her single “Baby Riddim” hit the public eye as one of the best Nigerian songs from an emerging artist that year. “Baby Riddim” is an easygoing, affectionate pop single which preceded her debut EP Riddim 5, and the song has already made her a favorite in the eyes of Nigerian music lovers.
Earlier in 2021, Fave had appeared on Olamide’s ninth solo album UY Scuti, and for an artist who was not well known at the time, that was a big catalyst in her outdooring. After all, only the most talented of Nigerian artists have succeeded in getting an early cosign from the seasoned rap star, and having now joined cohorts with the likes of Adekunle Gold, Fireboy DML, and Omah Lay, FAVE is indeed in very good company.
Gloria Asene Enebi, popularly known as Ria Sean is a Nigerian singer and songwriter who was buzzing underground for a while, up until last year. In 2021, Ria Sean signed to Island Def Jam Recordings by way of a joint deal with accomplished Nigerian imprint Aristokrat Records. She’s best seen serving up sensual sounds in her hypnotic vocals, intricately toeing the line between afropop and R&B. Last September she dropped her debut EP Fluid, and a lead single from the project “Satisfy My Soul” is currently making the rounds as a fresh new sound from a fresh new face
Nikita Kering is an R&B singer-songwriter from Nairobi, Kenya. She was spotted by Nigerian singer Mr Eazi’s talent mentorship program emPawa100, which led to the release of her single “Tragedy” under emPawa Africa in 2019. The emPawa sponsored project hit the airwaves, and “Tragedy” blew up and pushed the 20-year old singer straight into the limelight.
Nikita went on to release a number of singles independently before signing a deal with Universal Music in 2021. The 20-year old singer has already won a number of awards, including bagging four AFRIMA awards, two in 2019 for Best Female Artiste in Eastern Africa and Revelation of the African Continent, and two in 2021 for Best R&B and Soul Artist and Best Female Artiste East Africa. Her latest body of work is her 2021 debut EP A Side of Me, a 7-track EP of Nikita’s special brand of R&B.
No genre is off limits to the women on this list, and down in South Africa artists are taking trap music to new levels. Rapper, singer, and fashionista Money Badoo has been making music with her close friend and fellow rapper Sauwcy as a duo named Money Badoo & Sauwcy since 2016. They have several songs, features, a 2020 trap-heavy EP MK-Ultra to their name, and have been representing as part of the “new wave” of hip-hop artists in the country. Music is still being made by the eclectic rap duo, but Money Badoo’s solo efforts as well as a string of guest features she’s done over the past year has established her as a force of her own. Her most recent single “47K$” dropped in December 2021 featuring Def Jam Africa signee, rising singer Ricky Tyler and the song is a perfect depiction of the rapper's unbridled charisma.
Titose is a 24-year old singer and songwriter from Botswana who began putting music out in 2020. She’s a lush-voiced singer who is pushing the boundaries of R&B and trapsoul in Botswana. While R&B is not a hugely popular genre in her country, the singer found room for her sound in a global audience. She’s the first artist based in her country to partner with Apple’s artist services company Platoon, and with the platform’s help she released her debut project. She sings about romance, friendship from a perspective of sincere introspection, and her lyrics carry a refreshing vulnerability that explores what it means to be a young, impressionable woman learning to navigate the ups and downs of life and love. Her debut EP Was It Something I Said was released in November 2021, and with her incredible voice and her cloudy, intimate tunes the R&B trailblazer has captured the hearts of many.
Xenia Manasseh is a 24-year old R&B singer and songwriter from Kenya. Her successful debut EP Falling Apart which dropped in October 2019 opened major doors for her in the music business, and since then Xenia’s music career has taken off very quickly. Since then she’s opened a concert for Nigerian singer Rema in Nairobi, collaborated with Sauti Sol, appeared on a Teyana Taylor single, co-wrote a Taylor Swift song, and been a backing vocalist on Beyoncé’s (yes, Beyoncé’s) all-female band. She studied Music Business and Management at the Berklee College of Music, and she is currently signed as a songwriter to Atlanta based label UCMG. She’s released a string of singles since her debut EP, and her latest offering is her 2022 single “Waiting,” a collaboration with Kenyan producer Ukweli.
Titi Owusu is an emerging afropop singer, songwriter, and performer from Ghana who possesses an amazing voice. The extremely talented vocalist started out making rounds in the live music circuit in Accra, doing live sets of R&B and jazz favorites at hot spots and events across the city before finally releasing her own music. Titi has two singles and a handful of features out on digital streaming platforms so far, but her performance that takes the cake is her guest appearance on Ghanaian rapper BRYAN THE MENSAH’s buzzing single “Until I See You.”. On the buzzing pop single, Titi delivered a stellar vocal performance on the song that has even led to comparisons to Beyoncé.The song has since become a TikTok favorite with over 694,000+ views on videos using the song as its soundtrack, and you can bet the magic in her voice has something to do with it.
Maame Esi Essilfie, better known as Essilfie is a singer, songwriter, performer, voice-over artist, and all-around creative from Ghana. She got her start in 2018 doing song covers and posting them online, before dropping her debut single “Gye Wani” in 2019. Since then, she’s dropped a string of singles before following with her first project, her debut EP Tori’s Lounge. Tori’s Lounge is a 5-track project from the sultry-voiced emerging star filled with impassioned R&B, soul, and afrobeats songs that yank at the heartstrings.
Nadia Mukami is a 25-year old singer and songwriter from Nairobi, Kenya. Nadia began recording music in 2015 while she was still a student in university, but her major breakthrough moment came as a result of her 2019 single “Radio Love,” which garnered massive media attention and also led to her winning two Pulse Music Video Awards. She was also selected to represent Kenya at Coke Studio Africa in the same year. She released her debut EP African Popstar in October 2020, but her latest release is her 2022 single “Fall In Love,” an afropop collaboration with Tanzanian singer Rayvanny.
Closing out this list with another crazily talented emerging act from South Africa, we come to Mandlin Beams. Mandy Mdlongwa is a 20-year old R&B and soul singer based in Johannesburg who launched her career last year. She dropped her first single “The Sky = My Friend” in June 2021, presenting herself to the world with a dreamy and soulful debut. She followed that up with her debut EP Hears My Heart in November, seven tracks of acutely honest, intricately designed R&B and soul. With her being relatively new to the game major achievements are still down the road to come, but just off the strength of the music on Hears My Heart, we can confidently present Mandlin Beams to you as an artist that will do big things in 2022 and beyond.
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