The Best Songs of 2016

The songs we had on repeat this year, from Cameroonian bangers to hits from Solange, Wizkid, and Drake.

Do people still listen to albums? The jury's still out on that one. The strength of the single, however, isn't up for debate, particularly in the days of streaming services, Youtube hits and diminishing attention spans.

This year didn't see any lack of incredible tracks. Below we list the many songs that we had on repeat throughout the year, from lesser-known Cameroonian bangers and Sudanese-sampling beats to hits from Solange, Wizkid, and Drake.

Read on for our Best Songs of 2016, with commentary from our staff and contributors.

Ayo Jay “Your Number”

Earlier this year we called Nigerian singer Ayo Jay’s "Your Number" the official song of the New York summer.

Yeah, there’s a lot of issues with that statement—it wasn’t played nearly as widely as "Controlla" or shoved down throats like that Justin Timberlake mess—and it has the unfortunate baggage of being released last year through a Fetty Wap collabo. Not to mention its original release was back in 2013, three years before America was ready for the melange of Caribbean and African sounds that crowd the charts today.

But it was everywhere this year and it does something every song of summer is supposed to do—it distills “right now” into a sweet afrobeats/dancehall essence that is both catchy and confusing all at the same time. Thank god they took Fetty Wap off of it. —Aaron Leaf

Download on iTunes

Reniss "La Sauce"

Before the phrase “I’ve got the sauce” started showing up in every other rap song and Instagram caption, Reniss made a knocking record that showed how much of it she already possessed. Throughout her song, the singer plays with the double entendre and innuendos of the phrase ‘la sauce’ in Cameroonian culture.

“La Sauce” sees Reniss departing from the bubbly, afro-pop of her previous singles to deliver an infectious dance floor banger, replete with booming percussion, energetic guitar melodies and pounding bass. —Damola Durosomo

Download on iTunes

Maleek Berry "Kontrol"

London-based Nigerian producer Maleek Berry found the perfect formula with "Kontrol," the lead single from his debut EP Last Daze of Summer, and easily its most successful song.

This is where Berry’s more dominant sensibilities—simple and catchy hooks, thumping instrumentals, and efficient lyrics—having honed many hits for the likes of Wizkid, Wande Coal and others, are on full display. It’s about booty shaking and not to be deconstructed any further. —Sabo Kpade

Download on iTunes

Drake "One Dance" feat. Wizkid & Kyla

It'd be impossible to not include this one. Despite the haters and a mediocre album in ViewsDrake still came through with the earworm of the year with "One Dance," which reportedly became the first song to reach 1 billion plays on Spotify last week.

Produced by Nineteen85, Noah “40” Shebib, and Wizkid, the track samples Filipino R&B singer Kyla‘s “Do You Mind”(from this UK funky remix) and (kind of) features Wizkid on the chorus—a lack of shine that many Nigerians were quick to blast on Twitter.

Despite the drama, “One Dance” stands up as catchy excursion into the ‘afrobeats' sounds Drake explored back when he remixed Wizkid’s “Ojuelegba” and the Caribbean textures of “Work.” —Kam Tambini

Sufyvn "Fragment"

2016 was the year in which we found out that vintage Sudanese tapes can make some of the best hip-hop beats we've heard.

Khartoum-based producer Sufyvn caught our attention with his hypnotic productions in Pseudarhythm, Vol. 2. His tracks play like a hazy, mind-bending exploration of classic Sudanese soundscapes through a hip-hop lens. Thoughout the release, and in standout track "Fragment," Sufyvn chops up several traditional Sudanese folk melodies, masterfully laying them over kicks and snares to create some buttery beat work. —KT

Download on Bandcamp

Santi “Gangsta Fear” feat. Odunsi

Santi gave us a refreshing spin on contemporary Nigerian music with his insanely chill single “Gangsta Fear.” The song’s unique fabric, which blends dancehall, afrobeats, and mellow ’90s-tinged hip-hop, offers a departure from ordinary afrobeats production.

Artists like Santi and Odunsi are creating a new wave of genre-bending Nigerian music that we can’t wait to hear more of. Santi calls this emerging group of musicians “New Africa,” and though it’s quite an ambitious title, from what we’ve heard so far, they seem to be living up to it. —DD

Solange "Mad" feat. Lil Wayne

Black people collect microaggressions every day and it’s hard to turn a cheek at the minor things that can grow, fester and turn into bigger problems later on. For some of us, this can weigh heavy for years as we carry the effects of this trauma and pass it onto the next generation.

For others, there comes a time where the heaviness becomes unbearable, and we are motivated to gather around with our misery and unload. That’s what Solange's A Seat at the Table is about—making room in a special space for those who belong to talk about what really matters and begin to heal.  —Gina Cherelus (from A Seat at the Table is Balm for Black Suffering)

Download on iTunes

Sauti Sol and Alikiba "Unconditionally Bae"

Two East African power forces, Kenyan group Sauti Sol and Tanzanian star Alikibalink up for "Uncoditionally Bae," a dance floor track about how hard it is to find love in the modern world.

The East African connection makes for pop gold in this one and its music video—shot across Kenya’s North Coast of Mombasa at the English Point Marina—has racked-up millions of views, and still counting. —KT

Download on iTunes

Tekno "Pana"

Tekno had quite the year with the massive success of "Pana" and his win at the MTV Africa Music Awards for Best Breakthrough Act. The single sees the Nigerian artist condensing and refining the dance style he introduced with past hits like "Duro" and "Wash" into an ever-smooth afrobeats progression. "Pana" was, very likely, the main reason Tekno locked in a deal with Sony before the end of the year. —KT

Download on iTunes

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Rema, image courtesy of the artist.

Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Rema, Teni & More Win Big at 2020 Soundcity MVP Awards

Check out the complete list of 2020 winners.

The Soundcity MVP Awards, the annual award show that recognizes the best and biggest in African music, took place over the weekend at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. Some of the biggest names in African entertainment took home awards.

The show was hosted by South African star Bonang Matheba and featured performances from Diamond Platnumz, Tekno, Tiwa Savage, Stonebwoy and more.

The big winner of the night was none other than Burna Boy, who took home the award for African Artiste of the Year for the second time, the first time being in 2018 in which his mother, Bose Ogulu gave us that memorable acceptance speech warning us "to expect more madness." He also won Song of the Year for "Killin Dem," as well as Best Male MVP.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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Photo: Ben Depp.

Watch Yilian Canizares & Paul Beaubrun's Beautiful Video For 'Noyé'

"Cuba and Haiti come together to share the love and heritage of our deep rooted culture and spirituality."

Yilian Canizares and Paul Beaubrun connect for the serene "Noyé," one of the highlights from Canizares' latest album, Erzulie.

The Cuban singer and Haitian artist are now sharing the new Arnaud Robert-directed music video for the single, which we're premiering here today.

"Noyé is a song that comes from our roots," Yilian Canizares tells OkayAfrica. "Inspired by the energy of love. The same love that kept Africa's legacy alive in the hearts of Haiti and Cuba. We wanted to do a stripped down version of only the essential pieces from a musical point of view. Something raw and beautiful where our souls would be naked."

The striking music video follows Canizares and Beaubrun to the waters of New Orleans, the universal Creole capital, where they sing and float until meeting on the Mississippi River.

"Noyé is a cry of love from children of African descent," says Paul Beaubrun. "Cuba and Haiti come together to share the love and heritage of our deep rooted culture and spirituality."

Watch the new music video for "Noyé" below.

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