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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
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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