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Zlatan "Zanku (Leg Work)" music video.

The 15 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month

Featuring Zlatan, Burna Boy, Bella Alubo, Davido, Adekunle Gold x Simi and more.

It's official: zanku is the new dance craze of 2019. It has also made its originator, Zlatan Ibile, the hottest pop property in Nigerian pop so far this year. But other newcomers continue to make impressive strides with every new release, as do the tried and trusted, some of whom are quick jump on the newest bandwagon of soundscapes while one, a legend of afropop, revisits an old template with surprising results.

Read ahead for our selection of the best Nigerian songs of January.


Zlatan "Zanku (Leg Work)"

2019 just got a whole lot better thanks to Zlatan Ibile. The rapper's dance is the new craze and he's capitalised on this by creating a song solely based on it. The brilliant house beat does the rest of the job.

Read: Is Zanku Set To Be the New Dance Craze of 2019?

Bella Alubo "Aiya"

"Don't want your number, want your name / don't want your money, want your time" clarifies Bella Alubo to a love interest on "Aiya," the stand out single from her re-Bella EP, the artist's most mature and enjoyable project thus far.

Casanova x Davido x Tory Lanez "2AM"

"I've got more keys than a trapper" brags Davido in a scene stealing verse that brings star power and afropop credibility to "2AM" from New York rapper Casanova and Tory Lanez.

Read our interview with Casanova about the collaboration

Burna Boy x Zlatan "Killin Dem"

Brilliantly energised singing from Burna Boy benefits from a competent, succinct verse from Zlatan which doesn't not outstayed its welcome.

Oxlade "Shugar"

Oxlade's feature on "Mamiwota" by Blaqbonez was a highlight of the latter's celebrated debut in 2018. Oxlade is no less impressive on "Shugar" on which his fine writing and engaged singing emphasises the song's urgent request from a love interest who is said to have a "fire waist."

Zamir x Kidda Kudz "Dangerous" & "Jan 1st"

A double release by both Zamir and Kidda Kudz draws closer attention to their shared vocal approach with slurry, lower octaves and muscular image as bodybuilders. Listen to "Jan 1st" here.

Phyno x Flavour x Deejay J Masta "Ani"

Time and again, the synergy between Phyno and Flavour is strong, urgent and rewarding as on "Ani"—enough to wish for a full project that will exhaust their combined musical ideas that goes beyond their mastery of the Igbo language and pop song making.

Shizzi x Teni x Mayorkun "Aye Kan"

A suitably melancholic and nostalgic piano chord progression by producer Shizzi is improved upon by Teni's wistful melodies, which are unspoiled by a Mayorkun's verse.

Tekno "Woman"

An ode to women and womanhood that dismisses old ideas of submission for equality. Rather than depend on the lofty messaging for musical value, Tekno's astute songwriting makes for an enjoyable song, enough to make it evergreen.

2Baba "Oyi"

2Baba's strongest musical influence is roots reggae despite an unrivaled reputation as a legend of afropop. On "Oyi," an otherwise decent love song is imbued with proverbs and maxims about self-regard and conduct towards others, conveyed in English, pidgin and Idoma, his ancestral language.

Adekunle Gold x Simi "Promise"

In both song and video, "Promise" is self explanatory about its themes of love, loyalty and fidelity. And with a proven musical synergy and vital independent careers, a joint album a la The Carters is and perhaps should be expected.

Patoranking "Everyday"

Patoranking's well-formed singing voice is smoothened out with autotune but not enough to to lack real character by the bigness of the production on "Everyday" whose heavy dembow beat and attention-seeking horns are busied by a guitar.

Ycee "My Side"

After a relatively quiet 2018, Ycee begins 2019 with the release of the video for "My Side" and news of his own record label Ain't Nobody Badder Than, a long bandied tag of his. For the song, he's repurposed Tony Tetuila's own reworking of "Omode Meta Sere" by King Sunny Ade to his particular way with rap-singing and knack for song making.

Tolani x Reekado Banks "Ba Mi Lo"

New comer Tolani's credible singing chops is a good match for proven balladeer, Reekado Banks, on "Ba Mi Lo" which is made even better by a heavy dembow beat that is couched in a patient piano.

Lil Kesh x Naira Marley "Royal Rumble"

Naira Marley's charmingly husky flow may have come in too soon after a winning start by Lil Kesh but both combine well enough to convince of the struggles of chasing money and wants.


Interview
Photo: Lex Ash (@thelexash). Courtesy of Simi.

Interview: Simi Is Taking Risks

Nigerian star Simi talks about the successes & risks of this year, her thoughts on the #EndSARS protests, and how her husband, Adekunle Gold, inspired Restless II.

Simi is restless. It has nothing to do with the year she has had, in fact, she reaffirmed her status as one of Nigeria's most successful musicians with a single music drop, "Duduke," which enjoyed widespread appeal as the nation went into lockdown earlier in the year.

The 32-year-old singer's restlessness is a reflection of the organised chaos that has defined her recording process this year as she combined the rigours of being an expectant mother with an examination of her place in the wider world. It, more accurately, reflects her re-negotiation of the parameters of her stardom.

"I've never really been a big fan of the spotlight," she whispers silently early in our Zoom conversation. "I know that it comes with the territory, but when I got my big break and more people started to recognise me, I realised that I had to edit myself, my life, and most of the things that I'd do or say because I wanted to be careful to keep a part of me for myself."

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