Style

Celebrating Alek Wek

We round up some of South Sudanese/British supermodel Alek Wek's best editorials & magazine covers in celebration of her 37th birthday.

In celebration of South Sudanese/British supermodel Alek Wek's 37th birthday today, we've rounded up some of her best photographs and work from the countless editorials and magazine covers she's graced.  Wek's modeling career came up at a time when dark-skinned models were basically unheard of. She's largely credited as being the first black model that didn't conform to Western stereotypes of beauty and her influence is still felt today. Most recently, Lupita N'yongo mentioned Wek as a source of inspiration in her Essence speech about black beauty and self-perception. Scroll through our Alek Wek gallery above and if you want to talk about it, tweet @okayafrica with #alekwek.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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