The Best East African Songs of 2018

Here are the 23 best East African Songs of the year featuring Diamond Platnumz, Harmonize, Sauti Sol, Blinky Bill, Sheebah, Navy Kenzo and more.

For East African music, 2018 has been all about pushing boundaries in sound, and boosting the number of Pan-African collaborations.

The year kicked off with major album releases like Diamond Platnumz's A Boy From Tandale and Vanessa Mdee's Money Mondays. With a number of high-profile features from the likes of Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and Nyashinski, Kenya's top band Sauti Sol continued the roll-out of their long-awaited Afrikan Sauce album. This peaked with the release of "Short & Sweet," which infected the region like a plague.

Diamond Platnumz' WCB Wasafi imprint reigned supreme over the scene this year. The company boasts a roster of the most popular artists in the region like Harmonize, Rich Mavoko, Queen Darlene, Lava Lava, Mbosso and Rayvanny. Their dominance in this part of the continent is undeniable, and with every new chart-topping single released, this impressive ensemble continues to revolutionize the face of East African music.

2018 also saw some exciting offerings from the new wave with club starters from rising artists like Brian Simba, Fik Fameica and Vinka. The year rounded off with noteworthy releases like Wanja Wohoro's afro-feminist Matriarch album and Blinky Bill's Everyone's Just Winging it & Other Fly Tales.

Overall it's been a year full of versatile and forward-looking releases and we can only expect it to get better in 2019.

Below are our picks for the Best EastAfrican Songs of the year. Listed in no particular order.


Harmonize x Diamond Platnumz "Kwa Ngwaru"

It's not at all shocking that this collaboration by East Africa's biggest stars happens to be the most viewed and streamed song in the region this year. By joining forces to assert their dominance, Harmonize and his WCB Wasafi boss, Diamond Platnumz, made a colossal hit with "Kwa Ngwaru," a bongo flava banger that is as endlessly playable as it is danceable.

Sauti Sol x Nyashinski "Short & Sweet"

Kenya's biggest musical acts, Sauti Sol and Nyashinski, joined up for an acapella-driven love song "Short and Sweet," the fifth single off Sauti Sol's Afrikan Sauce LP. The song fueled the "Odi Odi" dance craze and had the most viewed Kenyan video on Youtube this year.

Diamond Platnumz x Omarion "African Beauty"

The king of East African pop dropped his sophomore album, A Boy From Tandale, earlier this year, which for the most part is a collection of his many chart-topping singles. Produced by Krizbeatz, his most successful single of 2018, "African Beauty," exemplifies a new wave of Afropop music. He enlists American singer, Omarion, and has him singing in Swahili which has unlocked a whole new level for the East African music scene. WCB Wasafi's head boss continues to set the pace and raise the bar for all the artists in the region.

Vinka "Love Doctor"

Uganda's Vinka kicked off 2018 with a bang. Her dancehall-flavored pop hit "Love Doctor" cemented her place as one of East Africa's fastest-rising stars. This is one song that just never gets old.

Irene Ntale x Mr Eazi "Post Me"

Ugandan songstress Irene Ntale dropped the first single from her upcoming new album, Ntale Unchained, this month. "Post Me" features Nigerian heavyweight Mr Eazi and has a catchy ring to it. The new album will consist of collaborations with other major African artists such as Banky W, Stonebwoy and Sauti Sol so let's keep an eye out for that.

WCB Wasafi x Diamond Platnumz x Lava Lava x Mbosso "Jibebe"

East Africa's foremost record label WCB Wasafi released another scorcher this year featuring the labels newest signee's Mbosso and Lava Lava. The popular trio brings afrobeats to the East with this infectious club tune.

Mankind "Take and Go"

Mankind is a Kenyan alternative pop duo comprised of singers MANE and the Cloak who are known for their experimental sound. The group recently signed a deal with Pine Creek Records and Sony Music and they do not seem to be slowing down at all. "Take and Go," their newest single, is a funky and sonically-rich step forward for the Kenyan music scene.

Dully Sykes x Harmonize "Kadamshi"

Known as the pioneer of bongo flava music, Dully Sykes has been around since the early 2000s. His latest hit single "Kadamshi" proves that the Tanzanian music legend has still got it. He enlists "Kwa Ngwaru" hit maker Harmonize on this infectious, dance-ready bongo tune dedicated to all the beautiful ladies out there.

Vanessa Mdee x G Nako "Wet"

East Africa's afro-pop queen Vanessa Mdee turns up the heat with her single "Wet" which features GNako. The fiery dancehall-tinged track is accompanied by an exuberant music video which was directed by Justin Campos in Tanzania.

Blinky Bill "Atenshan"

On his debut solo album, Kenya's Blinky Bill reinvigorates his passion for experimental beat making. Blinky surprisingly leans to the mainstream more than ever with "Atenshan." With its towering horns and heavy percussions, this jam is a flamboyant centerpiece that will get the dance floor bubbling.

Navy Kenzo x Diamond Platnumz "Katika"

Tanzanian music duo and power couple Navy Kenzo released "Katika," a fiery banger which features WCB Wasafi boss, Diamond Platnumz. The track is incredibly catchy and dance-ready and is accompanied by a topnotch music video directed by Justin Campos.

Mbosso "Hodari"

"Hodari" is the latest hit single by highflying Wasafi records signee Mbosso. Produced by Lizer and Rash Don, this song flawlessly blends the seductive melodies of Bongo and Taarab music. What a jam!

Emmanuel Jal x Nyaruach "Ti Chuong"

This year South Sudanese artist Emmanuel Jal dropped his 6th album, Naath, a stunning joint collaboration with his hugely talented sister, Nyaruach. "Ti Chuong actually means you have the right. Basically, it's talking about the fact that if you're hiding something that's suffocating, you shouldn't. Just bring it out," he tells us about the album's incredible lead single.

Brian Simba x Vanessa Mdee x Michael Love "Silence"

Rising Tanzanian rap sensation Brian Simba released his highly-anticipated single, "Silence," which features the East African diva herself, Vanessa Mdee, and newcomer Michael Love. Jamaa Flani will surely get you out of your seat with this upbeat dancehall-flavored tune.

Muthoni Drummer Queen "Lover"

"Lover," is a buoyant, synth-lead anthem that tells the story of a proud and unapologetic transgender woman who, as Muthoni's team writes, "is experiencing the power and beauty of womanhood while basically having the sex of her life."

Yvan Buravan "Oya"

Rwanda's fast-rising R&B artist Buravan dropped another heartwarming love ballad called "With You" this year. His forthcoming album is set to be released soon and, if this single is anything to go by, it's surely going to have our hearts melting.

Ykee Benda x Reekado Banks "Time Table"

Popular Ugandan singer, Ykee Benda, teams up with Mavin Records' artist Reekado Banks for "Time Table," a dance-ready and modern afrobeats jam that will quickly get you hooked. We really love this Naija-Uganda collab!

Nandy "Ninogeshe"

Tanzanian pop princess Nandy continues to do what she does best with "Ninogeshe," another romantic bongo-flava track. With her charming vocals and the traditional style production, this song has a timeless feel.

Victoria Kimani " Wonka"

The Kenyan afro-pop singer continued to up her game in 2018 with the release of her EP, AFROPOLITAN, which is the first project under her own independent label. The first single, "Wonka," is a steamy and seductive pop rendition produced by Nigerian producer Gospelondebeatz.

Maua Sama x Hanstone " Iokote"

"Iokote" is the newest offering from the talented Tanzanian songstress Maua Sama and Hanstone. This bouncy afro-pop track will definitely get you in a carefree mood.

Cherrie "Det Slår Mig Ibland"

Swedish-Somali R&B; singer, Cherrie, returned in May with a poignant new single "Det Slår Mig Ibland" from her sophomore album Araweelo. According to the singer, the song is a testament to her strength as a woman.

Sheebah "Mummy Yo"

Sheebah is one of East Africa's most consistent artists, and she's well-loved for always pushing the boundaries in Uganda's music scene. "Mummy Yo" is just one of the stunning releases she gave us this year.

Aslay x Nandy "Subalkheri Mpenzi"

After the split of Tanzania's beloved Yamoto Band, Aslay won the hearts of fans as a solo artist with "Hauna" in 2017. He continued to win our favor this year with his cover of "Subalkheri Mpenzi," featuring Tanzania's fastest rising female artist, Nandy. With the duo's beautiful Taarab-influenced vocals and the traditional bongo instrumentals, this is the perfect Swahili love song.

Follow our Best Songs of 2018 playlist on Spotify.

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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Nigerian Officials Drop Charges Against Naira Marley for Violating Coronavirus Lockdown Order

The Nigerian star was arraigned on Wednesday for attending a party at the home of Nollywood actress Funke Akindele.

Naira Marley has been pardoned by Lagos authorities, after being arraigned in Lagos for attending a party at the home of Nollywood actress Funke Akindele last weekend, which violated the city-wide lockdown.

According to a report from Pulse Nigeria, the "Soapy" singer and two other defendants—politician Babatunde Gbadamosi and his wife—were ordered to write formal apologies to the Government of Lagos, give written assurance that he will follow the ordinance going forward, and go into self-isolation for 14 days.

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