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Burna Boy. Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage (via Getty Images).

The 20 Best Nigerian Songs of 2019

Featuring Burna Boy, Rema, Tiwa Savage, Zlatan, Mr Eazi, Wizkid, Teni, Davido, Lady Donli and many more.

2019 was another huge year for Nigerian music.

Zlatan's presence was ubiquitous and powered by the zeal for zanku, a dance which is now de rigueur. Rema led the charge for a group of young breakthrough artists that include Fireboy DML and Joeboy. They all represent an exciting crop of talents that point the way forward for Nigerian pop.

Burna Boy's new dominance, built around his excellent African Giant album, delivered on his rare talents, while the long wait for Davido's sophomore album, A Good Time, paid off in satisfying fashion. Simi's Omo Charlie Champagne Vol. 1 announced her departure from her longterm label. Tiwa Savage also made a highly-discussed move from Mavin Records to Universal Music Group. Meanwhile, Yemi Alade exuded female strength with her latest record, Woman of Steel.

Not to be left out, Wizkid sated demands for his fourth album with a new collaborative EP following a year of stellar features that included his presence on Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift, an album which also boasts Tekno, Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage. Mr Eazi also notably launched his emPawa initiative to help fund Africa's promising up-and-coming artists.

Asa returned in a formidable form with Lucid, while buzzing artists like Tay Iwar, Santi, and Lady Donli all shared notable releases. Lastly, the beef between Vector and M.I climaxed and sparked a resurgence of Nigerian rap releases from Phyno to Ycee, PsychoYP and more.

Read on for the best Nigerian songs of 2019. Listed in no particular order. —Sabo Kpade

Follow our BEST SONGS OF 2019 playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.


Zlatan 'Zanku (Leg Work)'

Zlatan ordained himself the originator of the zanku craze in January with the release of "Zanku (Leg Work)," which phased out shaku as 2019's new dance craze. The specific origin of the name is uncertain but the dance itself, says the artist, is one he noticed while visiting The Shrine in Lagos. Zlatan was sensible to capitalize on the attention the dance was getting by naming his single after it, as well as his 17-song debut album, Zanku. —SK

Santi 'Sparky'

A large part of Santi's charm is what he shrouds in metaphors and mystery. "Sparky" runs through strong imagery ("bon chiga with a darkie") layered with unexpected references like "sexy punkie rider," which could be a nod to Sean Paul. The Nigerian artist delivers all of this in a mumbled-patois that draws the listener in to his hazy world. —SK

Rema 'Dumebi'

"There's no actual box I belong to" said Rema in a recent interview with OkayAfrica, " I create different types of sounds. I'm led by my spirit to create." These sounds range from trap, afrohouse, R&B, and the near-perfect "Soco"-style beat heard on "Dumebi." Produced by Ozedikus, the song perfectly presents the musical brain showcased across Rema's three EPs—Rema, Freestyle and Bad Commando—which all have the brilliance of being both promising and fully formed. —SK

Burna Boy 'Anybody'

African Giant saw Burna Boy deliver several addictive shades of his signature afro-fusion sound by blending influences from afrobeat, dancehall, hip-hop, RnB and more. It's nearly impossible to pick just one (or two) tracks to highlight from the album for this list, but we're going with "Anybody." The Rexxie-produced song follows Burna as he sends a message to his naysayers over smooth saxophone riffs and rhythmic percussion. As the second track on African Giant, it conveyed the album's energy perfectly. The song was also Burna's choice when performing on big stages like The Tonight Show, where he could be seen delivering the zanku and several "gbeses" for U.S. TV audiences. —OKA

Lady Donli 'Corner' feat. VanJess & The Cavemen

"Corner" is a tale of an unfaithful lover that cleverly layers soulful harmonies over a rich highlife arrangement. Rather than present a simple throwback, Lady Donli brilliantly retools highlife in her debut album, Enjoy Your Life, which is packed with similar mercurial turns. —SK

Tiwa Savage '49-99'

This pulsating single sees Tiwa Savage referencing Fela Kuti's famous "49 sitting, 99 standing" line from his 1978 song "Shuffering and Shmiling." Throughout "49-99," Tiwa sings about the pursuit of money in her home country, offering commentary on widespread poverty."'49-99' is a term coined from the hard life many Nigerians go through," she explained. "A transit bus serves as a case study. It ought to have only 49 seated passengers, however due to poor economic conditions, we often have nearly twice that number of passengers standing (99)." —OKA

Olamide, Wizkid, Id Cabasa 'Totori'

Producer Id Cabasa scored a massive hit with the help of Nigerian stars Wizkid and Olamide, who once again prove themselves a potent combination following "Kana" and other collaborative hits. "Totori" is a head-nodder that's sure to get stuck in your head. OKA

Tems 'Try Me'

"Wanna lock me away? I'm winning. You wanna add to my pain? I'm shining," belts Tems on "Try Me," a feminist ballad that's equally powerful as a stance against any kind of oppression: physical, mental or existential. "Try Me" is the breakout single by the newcomer, whose other high notes of 2019 include her single "Looku Looku" and a feature on Lady Donli's Enjoy Your Life. —SK

Kizz Daniel 'Fvck You'

"Fvck You" is a marvel of a song about a spurned love: "Na you the cheat na me the beg / make una check ogbanje / shebi na me the find sisi yellow." The repetition of the offensive song title has real bite and could've easily been tasteless if done by another singer. But it's well presented here by Kizz Daniel's supreme delivery, which spawned endless covers as part of the #FvckYouChallenge from the likes of Tiwa Savage, Falz, Sarkodie and others. —SK

Odunsi (The Engine) 'Wetin Dey'

Odunsi (The Engine), one of the leading artists coming out of Nigeria's new wave, came through with a surprise drop of the hip-hop-leaning "Wetin Dey" alongside the hazier "Better Days." "Wetin Dey" samples a classic tune from Nigerian underground rap pioneers Ruff Rugged & Raw. "I wanted to express the youth in Lagos going out and having fun," Odunsi has mentioned. "I was inspired by the Will Smith 'Summertime' video." —OKA

Reekado Banks 'Rora'

Reekado Banks returned after a quiet period with "Rora," his first single of 2019 and the lead track from his upcoming album. "Rora" (translated from Yoruba as 'Take It Easy') offers a highly-addictive production built on mid-tempo beat work, highlife influences, and playful lyrics aimed at a love interest. The song, produced by Tuzi and Altims, "is really chill, it relaxes you," Reekado Banks told OkayAfrica. "The message is quite playful and sexual (laughs)." —OKA

Beyoncé, Wizkid, Saint Jhn 'Brown Skin Girl' feat. Blue Ivy Carter

The global impact of Beyoncé, Wizkid, and Saint Jhn's single "Brown Skin Girl" is irrefutable. From Lupita Nyong'o to the adorable Dream Catchers' viral video, it's clear that this song, and more especially its lyrics, affirms and continues to affirm brown skin girls in every corner of the world. From its minimal afro-fusion inspired beat to Wizkid's outstanding lead verse, this was a major moment that showcased just how far Nigerian music is going. —OKA

Burna Boy 'Killin Dem' feat. Zlatan

"Killin Dem" sees Burna Boy and Zlatan going in over some highly-infectious beat work produced by Kel P. The song is a straight-up banger that seamlessly blends Zlatan's energetic 'zanku' style with Burna Boy's afro-fusion. While the single dropped in early 2019, it later was included as one of the many standouts in Burna's African Giant album. —OKA

Simi 'Ayo'

A psalm for good fortunes inspired by Nigerian jùjú music legend Ebenezer Obey is tastefully crafted here by Simi and the production duo Legendury Beatz. "Ayo" was the third single from the singer's standout album, Omo Charlie Champagne, Vol.1, released in March. —SK

Davido 'Risky' feat. Popcaan

Davido initially dropped "Risky" as a taste from his long-awaited album A Good Time. The single sees the Nigerian heavyweight connecting with Jamaican star Popcaan as they both go in over afrofusion-meets-dancehall production. It was produced by DMW's in-house beatmaker Speroach Beatz. The track notably features Davido doing a cheeky flip of his own freestyle he did on Shade 45 earlier this year, which was made fun of across social media. "What you all laughed at !! You will dance to !! " Davido posted on Twitter. —OKA

Naira Marley x Zlatan 'Am I A Yahoo Boy'

The beat here is a delight and, while Naira Marley is a strong individual presence, tag-teaming with Zlatan adds even more gusto. "Am I A Yahoo Boy" is a song that both disavows internet fraud and heartily embraces it. It led Marley and his cohorts to be arraigned before Nigerian courts. Periods of incarceration and continuing legal cases at the hands of the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission continue to contribute to the rising profile of the newcomer. —SK

Yemi Alade 'Shake' feat. Duncan Mighty

The slink and bounce of twin guitars introduce "Shake," a fine duet between Yemi Alade and Duncan Mighty. The track, which is one the the highlights from Alade's Woman of Steel album, follows the two big Nigerian names as they connect seamlessly in a song filled with sexual overtures. —SK

Mr Eazi, J Balvin, Bad Bunny 'Como Un Bebé'

'Como Un Bebé,' featured on Latin superstars J Balvin and Bad Bunny's collaborative album Oasis, was built on Nigerian framework. The beat, produced by Nigerian duo Legendury Beatz, is an ear-catching blend of a dancehall bass line and afro-fusion percussion, over which Mr Eazi delivers the song's best verse. "Como Un Bebé" is an exciting example of the many musical conversations between West Africa and South America that we could be seeing in 2020. —OKA

Teni 'Power Rangers'

Teni continued her ascension in 2019 with the release of her Billionaire EP and standout loose singles. "Power Rangers" was produced by JasSynths, the man behind her previous smash hit "Case." Her strongest single of the year, the track follows Teni as she sings about how much she cares for her man. —OKA

Adekunle Gold 'Kelegbe Megbe (Know Your Level)'

Adekunle Gold's "Kelegbe Megbe ("Know Your Level") is as spirited as it is absolutely beautiful. The mellow high-life track, which was produced by Sess, showcases some clear Fela Kuti influences. Its accompanying music video, directed by Clarence Peters, shifts between shots of Adekunle Gold and his performers in both couture and quirky clothing. It's a stunning visual that feels like a high fashion photo-shoot in motion. —OKA


Follow our BEST SONGS OF 2019 playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.



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Zero12Finest &Thamagnificent2 "Baby Are You Coming?" (Youtube)

The 10 Best Amapiano Songs of 2019

2019 was the year of the yanos.

Amapiano, South Africa's new dominant electronic music movement, oozes through mobile and car speakers, sound rigs and shopping mall PA systems throughout the country.

Amapiano borrows from the music that's been popular in South African townships for decades: kwaito, jazz and house are just some of its raw ingredients. Started in Pretoria, SA's administrative capital, the rising genre is a sophisticated hybrid of deep house, jazz and lounge music characterized by synths, airy pads and wide basslines. What each producer does with these is as much evolution as it is chemistry.

The word "amapiano" translated to English is "pianos." It merges an isiZulu plural article (ama) with an English noun (piano). Hundreds of new amapiano songs are released through messaging apps and free file-sharing sites every day. Few become popular, a handful become anthemic and even fewer become ubiquitous, as they're heard ringing out at countless clubs and parties across South Africa.

Read ahead for The Best Amapiano Songs of 2019. Listed in no particular order.

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Ayanda Jiya. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

South African Women Dropped the Best Debuts of 2019

We highlight 10 noteworthy albums & EPs from a new generation of vocal talent in South Africa, featuring Elaine, Ayanda Jiya, Ami Faku and more.

The South African music scene has seen an uptick in youthful, vocally gifted artists over the years. Much of this is owed to the recent global resurgence of R&B, as well as the increased significance of streaming sites, especially SoundCloud.

From internet-savvy artists creating jazz, alternative soul and house-infused spoken word to radio friendly iterations of pop and Afro-soul, 2019 has been the year of impactful debut performances.

This year ushered in the voices of a new generation of South African female artists announcing themselves to the world.

Here's a lowdown of 10 great releases from talented female vocalists, songwriters and composers marking this new era.

Read ahead below. This list is in no particular order.

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Darkovibes

The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Sarkodie, Cassper Nyovest, Elaine, Darkovibes, Stogie T, Phyno, C Natty, and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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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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