Interview

This Compilation Shines a Light On East African Underground Music

We talk to a few of the artists featured on the Music For the Eagles compilation from Uganda's Nyege Nyege.

Nyege Nyege, a label in Kampala, Uganda is channelling the confidence brimming over a whole continent. Africa is no longer the future. For dance music, its time is right now.

Music For the Eagles is a compilation released in conjunction with Soundcloud to showcase the best new acts that East Africa has to offer outside the mainstream. A new wave of artists firmly blasting non-conformist energy for you to spasm to. Music that takes you places. Otim Alpha's high BPM wedding frenzy of incessant rasping vocals accompanied by feverous violin will have you clawing the walls to oblivion. Anti Vairas' dancehall from a battleship with super galactic intentions doesn't even break a sweat as it ruins you. FLO's beautiful sirens call, is a skittish and detuned nursery rhyme that hints at a yearning for love but reveals something far more unnerving. Ecko Bazz's tough spiralling vocal over sub-bass and devil trap energy is an anthem that can only be bewailed. And Kidane Fighter's tune is more trance-like prayer. These are only some of the highlights for you to shake it out to.

We got to chat with a few of the artists featured on the Music For the Eagles compilation as they took a break from the studio below.


Ratigan Era

Photo provided by Nyege Nyege/Soundcloud.

A rising star of the African Dancehall scene, Ratigan Era's futuristic acid dancehall threatens the walls of Babylon itself. "Gan Dem" underlines his enormous presence as a firebrand vocalist by the hand of Lithium's violently buoyant production.

Your connection to Jamaica through your music is intense.

Since I was a yout', dancehall has been an inspiration. I have a very very deep spiritual connection with Jamaica. I see everything that happens in my life and the life of those in Jamaica as the same. They are my brothers and sisters, my bloodline, they are Africans. There are many talented dancehall artists in Uganda, I am working so hard to help myself reach out to the world, like them, through every hardship.

What do you think of the compilation?

I love it. This is heavy water — it's a black wave and I love the way that people are responding to it. It's a matter of time for East Africa, time is moving us and we have to accept the future as everyone does. Time to embrace it because the changes will be across Africa at large.

When you were a kid, what were you listening to with your family?

Dancehall, hip-hop, Enya...

Enya? That's mad, was she big?

(Laughs) Yeah man. It would take me to sleep, to meditation, to rest

Aunty Rayzor

Photo provided by Nyege Nyege/Soundcloud.

Nigeria's Bisola Olugbenga aka Aunty Razor has been making music for years; known back home for her underground hits. "Tornado" grabs you by the neck. A mesmerisingly confident flex through afrobeat's dynamic future. Whether singing or rapping, Rayzor displays a devastating combination of sex and magic.

How did you end up making music on the other side of Africa?

People know me in Nigeria but I'm not the most famous celebrated. Working in Kampala has been an opportunity to see things in a different way. I discovered new things about myself through electronic music; I got to experiment. But it was more than just the music. I'm a city girl and the nature out there inspired me.

How do you represent yourself on the track and what did people make of you?

Well, rappers like to praise themselves, I'm no different. I said a lot of nasty things too. I can't translate that for you now (laughs) I was really really nasty in the song but yes, I experiment more on the beat than in real life... maybe. East Africans are very polite compared to Nigerians that's for sure. I was told that Nigerians don't have filters. It's true, we are really straight. My attitude surprises people.

MC Yallah

Photo provided by Nyege Nyege/Soundcloud.

Yallah has been on the hip-hop scene for nearly 20 years. Her lyrics powerfully address women's issues across Africa. "No One Seems to Bother" featuring Lord Spikeheart of Kenya's bastard noise merchants Duma is easily the most disturbing of the whole compilation. Where the blood of black metal and hip-hop get mixed at a Juju ceremony.

How did you end up in Uganda?

I was born in Kampala. My grandmother left Kenya with my mother in the '70s to look for a job. My mother was also escaping domestic violence. I am one of the first lady rappers but wasn't recognised until now because I'm not commercial. I used to rap on old-school American beats but with the Nyege Nyege guys, I am challenged.

Your track sounds demonic. It is clear that Duma have left their mark.

Most of my music is conscious and gospel. It sounds demonic because it's about the system not caring for those within it. We give politicians power but they don't fulfill the promises they make. Moving away from the system makes us kill one another. Lord Spikeheart captures that. And as for me, my flow is insane. I'm dope.

Afrorack

Photo provided by Nyege Nyege/Soundcloud.

Brian Bamanya aka Afrorack builds DIY modular synths in Kampala, creating his own unique instruments. His track 'Trance' has the slow bent sine wave patterns and oscillating frequencies that reflect the heady warmth of an artist safe in his own world.

When did your love for analog synths begin?

I was a kid that loved fixing things. I would open up stuff just to work out how it worked. This fascination with electronics got me reading books on transistors and resistors so that I could form a basic understanding of how they all worked together. It existed alongside my love for music, so I combined the two, naturally moving towards synthesizers.

Why is East Africa's music scene exploding right now?

Experimentation is making young people more confident than ever. Punk and electronic music have had their scenes here but now there's enough of a platform to boldly support them. We didn't have the pioneers, like the West Africans in the '70s and '80s, until now. What pushed me to really go for my thing is that there were not many people making electronic circuit sounds — everyone around me was using Ableton and Fruity Loops.

You're living in a time where serious foundations are being built for the future, no?

The compilation gives a picture of what's going on here. We deserve the attention and It gives perspective on our future. Young East Africans are getting to play all over the world for the first time. As for the DIY modular bedroom scene, you can get a functional model set-up that doesn't cost thousands and that can be cheaply built from scratch. This is what makes it punk and far more interesting than buying an old expensive synth. The undiscovered and the new are right here. Africa is so diverse. If you take into account the number of tribes and clans with their own history of music and combine it with electronic experimentation, well...that's exciting isn't it?


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Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.



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