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The 11 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month

Featuring Tekno, Zlatan, Lady Donli, Tems, Rema, Odunsi and more.

Here's our selection for the best to come out of Nigeria in August.

Follow our new NAIJA HITS playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.


Tekno & Zlatan 'Agege'

Aided by Zlatan, it's originator, Tekno subsumes the zanku wave into his proven song=making and new preference to talk-sing on "Agege," as he's also done on "Don't Jealous Me" from Beyoncé's The Lion King: The Gift.

Dj Big N 'Ogologoma' ft. Rema

DJ BIg N enlists the boy wonder of Nigerian pop, Rema, who squeezes musicality out of a clunky word whose refrain, in the hook, is simple and effective in "Ogologoma."

Odunsi 'Wetin Dey'

Odunsi injects new life in an enduring pidgin phrase in the audio for "Wetin Dey" and turns up the nostalgia in the video which is either a send up or homage to Nigerian pop music videos of the 1990s.

Jidenna "Vaporiza"

"Sou Sou" and "Zodi," Jidenna's pair of promo singles for his sophomore album 85 To Africa capture his double heritage of rap and afropop, especially in one lasting phrase about going to "Afropunk in Jozi." More enchanting is "Vapourizer," on which marching drums give way to a delightful highlife mix of chirpy horns, searching snare drums, leisurely bass and patient sun-clappers made even better by Jidenna's charming singing about his charmed love.

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 is equally powerful as a stance against any oppression whether physical, mental or existential.

AYLØ 'xozhu'

AYLO's killer falsetto is used to devastating effect on "xozhu" from his third EP dnt'dlt. Drawing from Drake's ambient trap ballads, the mercurial singer-producer-rapper is even more subterranean, his annunciations have bite and his singing is both tortured and controlled. The last 40 seconds of the song are a show of vocal virtuosity that makes AYLO a singular artist.

Nonso Amadi 'Better' ft. Simi

The Mr Eazi feature is one reason why "Go Outside" is the lead single off Nonso Amadi's Free EP but just as good is "Better" with Simi, a soothing avowal to improve as a lover. The soft percussion and ambient piano dissolves, in the last third, into a highlife arrangement whose tempo is suited to the Sade-esque soundscape from which both singers readily draw.

Lady Donli 'Corner' feat. VanJess & the Cavemen

Verses about defiance and resolve distract from the song's focus: a tale of an unfaithful lover that cleverly layers soulful harmonising over a rich highlife arrangement. Rather than a throwback, "Corner" is a brilliant re-tooling of highlife by Lady Donli whose debut album, Enjoy Your Life, is full of other such mercurial turns.

Bez Idakula 'Far Away'

Taken from his new album The Light, "Faraway" is a song about yearning for closeness with a lover, in mind if not in body. The song's connecting tissue of American soul and afropop is captured in its lyric: "hope say I dey make a little bit of sense," as in the seamless combination of genres which blends an electric guitar with heaving conga drums and back-up vocals typical on Fela's afrobeat.

Brymo 'Take Me Back To November'

"Take Me Back To November" is a plaintive call to relive a memorable past "when love was sweet and free" and "when our hearts were free from disaster" by Brymo the soulful pianist turned bluesman on his 5 track EP titled A.A.A, which he has also adopted as a moniker of sorts.

Toby Grey 'Medicine'

A rallying call to the "single and searching," "Medicine" is the standout song off Toby Grey's debut EP Love In Lagos. The "soco beat"—now a staple of Nigerian pop—is improved by Grey's fine balance of rRnB and afropop diction.


Follow our new NAIJA HITS playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.


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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