Video

Stream Njaaya's 'Social Living'


Since her debut as a solo artist, Njaaya has been on the grind steadily turning heads with her sultry afro-acoustic bounce and re-applications of the blues. A veteran of PBS-Radikal—a later manifestation of Positive Black Soul—who went on to co-found Alif, the first female hip-hop group in Senegal, Njaaya is making moves again. In her latest manifestation, she pushes a style that maintains the emcee swagger of her hip-hop days while revealing a voice that seems fortified in a soul context with added space to swell. Lyrically, she deals in large denominations, reflective texts that cut deeper into the Wolof language than the average mbalax pop song and manage to emote toughness without relying on tired English buzz words or Wolof catch phrases of the moment. Think Angelique Kidjo meets Lauryn Hill in Medina, Dakar.

Njaaya’s style is not without its own risk in Senegal, where she represents a radically different femininity than mainstream artists—save perhaps Coumba Gawlo—and she’s met her share of difficulty garnering attention for her music. Building off of a hip-hop career, Njaaya often gets up only briefly at street stages that push line-ups designed as a quick fix for the public’s demand to get down. No doubt she knows how to move a crowd and hold her own in these scenarios, but she can truly devastate in the rogue-lit lounges that support her new acoustic configuration and emit an elegant stage presence. On a good night in these more intimate venues her voice summons its greatest strength. Rising like massing water, gently stirring the room into a blur.

After enamoring a delegation of Spanish music promoters in Dakar this spring, Njaaya found herself in Spain months later, on what is likely the first of many tours as a solo artist. Gaining new momentum and keeping pace with a regular performance schedule in Dakar throughout the fall, the single, "Social Living," remains the lone teaser for her forthcoming album of the same name.

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.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

How Nigerian Streetwear Brand, Daltimore, is Rising To Celebrity Status

We spoke with founder and creative director David Omigie about expression through clothing and that #BBNaija pic.