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Reekado Banks 'Rora'

The 12 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month

Featuring Reekado Banks, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, Yemi Alade, Blaqbonez, Phyno, Peruzzi and more.

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

For more Nigerian hits, follow our NAIJA HITS playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.


Tiwa Savage '49-99'

Written by Olamide, the producer Pheelz and Tiwa Savage, "49-99" borrows its lead line—as well as its themes of survivalism—from Fela Kuti's "Shuffering and Shmiling," rendered tastefully in the current idiom of Nigerian pop. Savage's own ease with melding R&B, pidgin, Yoruba and English is mirrored in Pheelz' production which, among other tinkerings, cleverly builds a swell of orchestral strings over an afrobeat rhythm section.


Reekado Banks 'Rora'

Reekado Banks came back 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') is a highly-addictive production built on mid-tempo beatwork, highlife influences, and playful lyrics aimed at a love interest. The new single was produced by Tuzi and Altims.

Yemi Alade 'Shake' feat. Duncan Mighty

The slink and bounce of twin guitars introduce "Shake," a fine duet from Yemi Alade's fourth album, Woman of Steel. The song, which features Duncan Mighty, sees the pair take turns sounding off sex overtures with fair warning: "don't start what you cannot finish." Her intentions are clear: "I really want you to do am again" and she will boost his ego to get it: "You get head, no be mouth." Playful, inventive and effective, "Shake" is the gem off a satisfying album from the afropop giant.

Blaqbonez 'Shut Up'

"Everything big, everything fresh, everything clear" pronounces Blaqbonez on "Shut Up," proving to be a maximalist in his lyrics as in person, introducing himself to a crowded Lagos traffic with a loudspeaker to promote his new single. The song's title rebuffs strong opinions about him recent claim to being the "Best Rapper In Africa." The video serves up images of mean-mugging male models with machine guns in fluffy dresses, bringing to life the album cover for "rare" by Odunsi in a most vivid fashion.


Phyno 'Vibe' ft. Flavour

Of the different musical turns with which Phyno impresses on his third album, Deal With It, "Vibe" is the show-stopper. The track is an energised interpretation of Igbo traditional music by the mercurial Masterkraft, whose choice of a cheery one drop piano on "Vibe" ventilates the brilliant polyrhythms of an ogene-udu ensemble. This brilliance is matched by Flavour's charged singing and Phyno's engaged presence whether rapping or ad-libbing.


WizKid 'Ghetto Love'

"Ghetto Love" sees Wizkid staying true to his dancehall-inspired sound. The track, which was produced by both Killertunes and Kel P, has an incredibly infectious beat and catchy lyrics you'll be singing along to in no time.

Peruzzi 'Nana'

"Strike a pose, it's a perfect picture" sings Peruzzi assuring a love interest on "Nana," which may have started as a melodic lead line—"na, na, na"—over soft synths, occasional strings, and drumming, but is also a name and has made for the near perfect pop song.

Seyi Shay & Teyana Taylor 'Gimme Love Remix'

While host Seyi Shay renders pidgin English in an R&B cadence on the remix of "Gimme Love," guest Teyana Taylor toes a more careful line free of Nigerian-isms.


Naira Marley 'PXTA'

Whether as an aesthetic scene change or morality tale, the models in bathing suits in the video for "PXTA"—mostly set at a pool party—turn up in the second verse heavily pregnant and yet able to twerk without restrictions. "How water get into coconut" is the philosophical nugget Naira Marley is either puzzled by or asks rhetorically in the second verse of "PXTA." The song itself may borrow propulsive drumming from Young John's work on "Bobo" by Olamide but it is Marley's drawl and developed songwriting which remain the draw here.


Reminisce 'OGB4IG'

It's hard to begrudge Reminisce's claim: "aged 38, still the best rapper off of these streets" from his new single "OGB4IG" especially with four full length albums and a near-decade of music-making in a genre that is obsessed with youth and fads. The song is a career overview and show of vitality, and just as appropriate is the solid production by Sarz, his long term collaborator dating back to Book Of Rap Stories, his debut album released in 2012.

Shaydee 'Badman'

Produced by Masterkraft, "Badman" is Shaydee's first solo release since "Make Sense" with Wizkid, released back in November 2018. It is fitting return for the singer whose 20 song debut album, Rhythm & Life (2016), deserves more praise.

CKAY 'DTF'

Ckay's love interest on "DTF" is perhaps convinced of his offer of a "no strings" relationship but is yet to give in despite his assurances that "feelings get messy / it's the last thing we need." "DTF" is the first song off Ckay The First, the sophomore EP from the singer/producer.



For more Nigerian hits, follow our NAIJA HITS playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.


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Collage by Ta'Ron Joyner

I Would Rather Breathe Than Think Outside the Box

South African artists were already working for little to no pay, but the pandemic has unleashed a flood of exploitative work requests right when we need money the most.

This essay is part of OkayAfrica's SA Reframed series, featuring personal writing from some of South Africa's best young writers edited by Verashni Pillay.

On the radio the other day, I heard a small business owner of a costume design company being interviewed and asked how they have managed to:

a. Reinvent themselves during this period, and

b. Think outside the box while doing so.

Their conversation made me think about how I have not managed to wrap my head around any sort of future, or reinvention outside any kind of box—beyond the one that wraps itself around my immediate reality. When the lockdown was announced, three friends and I withdrew to a remote area where internet access was dubious and, most times, simply not available. I would need to walk a bit of a distance to locate a spot under a tree or up a mountain to be connected for thirty minutes, or so.

Then I would do a basic comb through my emails and respond to work or requests that were already underway pre-lockdown. I only responded to new requests that either afforded me the opportunity to earn an income or those that allowed me to be productive on my own terms.

I was tired, lowkey grateful for the global pause, and no longer interested in the overly productive, overloaded nature of my previous normal. Something about the forced halt made me realise that I was on the edge of everything—myself included. I turned down anything that required me to join the endless online festivals, zoom panel discussions, Instagram takeovers and live readings. I refused all opportunities that needed me to grapple with any sort of forced normalcy. The ones that offered data or airtime or solidarity as compensation or assumed that I had gone pro bono. I needed a moment. I needed the space and time to re-bargain with the point of it all.

The pause was both useful and scary. It brought to the surface fears and revelations about the shortfalls of our industry and how creatives are positioned within the productivity machinery and economy of South Africa, or rather all the ways we fall outside of it.

As Minister of employment and labour Thulas Nxesi mentioned in a briefing two months ago, "On the issue of freelance workers—unfortunately with the current legislation they fall outside. Maybe what we are going to do is that after this we will have to re-look at it in terms of our legislative amendments and start a debate about that." Why are there laws that have gone unchallenged? Who should be challenging them? Why are artists hearing, out loud for the first time, of convenient loopholes that render us outside of an economy that taxes us like everyone else, and consumes us and our work. Yet, in times of crisis, this same economy engages with our art and our productivity and our products, but still deems us on the margin, outside, and non-essential. If we are not assisted financially, how can we be productive, how can we acquire the resources to produce? How can we apply our minds to anything else outside of survival and scrambling to stay afloat.

Pandemics do not mean that artists have gone pro bono

When you approach an artist with the assumption that they have gone pro bono during this time, when you draft an email to request a collaboration, a commission, a participation, a productivity of any kind, please bear in mind that artists are up against an unconcerned and corrupt government that has failed to provide aid and assistance to their sector during this time.

Theatre critic Sara Holdren says "Art is hard and most of it fails—either in small ways or catastrophic ones." In South Africa, the process of making art is hard, sure, but more than that, the conditions and the context in which we make work fails us in catastrophic ways that will require more than a debate and amended legislation. It will need, for starters, a minister who cares about the arts and understands its soul and mechanisms. This pause has brought about more questions and concerns for me than inspiration to reinvent or think outside the box. I have questions about the box itself and why I feel asphyxiated and trapped by its design.

I would rather breathe than think outside of the box

This pandemic has made me question what my career, livelihood and stability have been built on; what has been propping them up all this time, and what has been allowing me to appear valued and valuable in this economy? What does and will the spectrum of value look like in a normal that has been disrupted and now sits in a near distant future that may or may not be near?

Then I find myself vacillating between hope and concern. My hope is that when the pandemic is no longer with us, artists can have a come-to-jesus conversation about what has contributed and exacerbated this attitude and disrespect toward our practice and industry, I hope we can challenge the legislations that we have been dared to challenge, I hope we can be productive in ways that serve us and make sense for our well-being, that we will be paid our worth and that our society will realize that without the artist producing, there will be no art, or music, or films, or books and things that have kept people entertained and creatively nourished during this time.

My concern is that the "free"content artists are currently creating and the free access to art or performances, will not make this realisation possible, and that this kind of access, that was already undervalued and exploited, will be irreversible. The exploitation dialogue is tiring. Being treated as non-essential is tiring and terrifying too, and while most of the world can slowly start going back to work, most artists will probably have to hang tight until 2021, maybe even 2022.

While artists deal with a hoax of an arts and culture department that is dead to us and a minister who tweets more than he does his job, in an ideal world, I wish that artists could afford to indulge uncertainty, and fear, and pause, in ways that allow them to heed the call made by Nicholas Berger in his piece The Forgotten Art of Assembly [Or, Why Theatre Makers Should Stop Making] "We must lean into this pain. We must feel the grief. We must mourn. Mourn the loss of work, the loss of jobs, the loss of money, the loss of life. Mourn the temporary loss of an art form that demands assembly. Lean into the grief. Lean in. Lean in. Lean in. We must remind ourselves that mourning is a human act, not a digital one."

Koleka Putuma is an award-winning poet, playwright and theatre director. Her bestselling debut collection of poems Collective Amnesia is in its 10th print run and her play No Easter Sunday for Queers Sunday for Queers won several awards.

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