On The Map: The London Musicians Redefining the Black British Experience

Our latest installment of On The Map takes you through the new revolutionary sounds coming out of London.

In our series, On The Map, we ask artists, DJs, writers, and general in-the-know people to tell us about what’s happening in their hometown’s music scenes.

It’s no secret that London is a hub for eclectic music scenes and envelope pushing artists. In this fourth edition of On The Map, writer, music geek and occasional radio host Remi Graves takes us through the new revolutionary sounds coming out of London.


First up is Gaika who’s stand-out vocals and forthright command of a blend of genres means he’s the artist in everyone’s earbuds. Following last month’s launch of his new SECURITY mixtape at Boiler Room, Gaika just wrapped up his first world tour, which saw him play New York’s RBMA and close things out at Tropical Waste in London.

Listening to his Red Bull Music Radio slot (he plays Bones Thugs-N-Harmony alongside Rage Against the Machine) uncovers the range of influences that can be heard in his genre-bending productions. From dancehall rhythms to dissonant bass and eerie distorted vocals, the Brixton based artist packs a mean multilayered punch with each release.

From a stellar feature on the remix of Kelela’s “All The Way Down” to collaborations with Mykki Blanco and Bipolar Sunshine, Gaika’s atmospherically melodic rapping is the sound of an artist experimenting with groove and grit. The result is unique and enticing. If you’ve never heard Gaika before, wrap your ears around his haunting banger "Blasphemer" below.

Kojey Radical

With Kojey Radical making similar waves on the alternative rap scene—and beyond—it’s no surprise he featured on the line up for Gaika’s mixtape launch. The Ghanaian Londoner sits on the boundary between poetry and rap, filling the liminal space with his version of what it means to be a black Brit in London today.

His aesthetic toys with a unique blend of hip-hop, trap and spoken word, speaking to current trends whilst also shifting their course. Whilst sleek and arresting visuals add weight to his already poignant lyrics, Kojey’s live show is a level up.

From krumping to azonto-ing on stage, the vibe is electric. For an artist currently without a record deal, the turn up and turn out at his shows is testament to the relevance of his work. “We’ve come a long way from being scared to say our African names when asked” reads the strapline on Kojey’s latest EP 23 Winters (which dropped earlier this year).

It sums up the specific black British experience that Kojey speaks to, where tracks like “Kwame Nkrumah” place the African ancestry of Black Londoners on centre stage. Fresh from supporting Ghost Face Killah at The Royal Festival, Kojey has just dropped fresh visuals for his track "Footsteps" (watch below) and will be performing in Bristol on June 15.


Co-founder of NON Worldwide; Nkisi is a regular on London’s best independent station NTS radio. Based in London but originally from Brussels with roots in Congo, Nkisi plays high-speed experimental techno, doomcore, house and electronic music from the diaspora on her monthly show. Her own productions (which featured on NON’s 2015 compilation) push the boundaries of music fusing dissonance with breakneck speeds and minimalist yet danceable, flickering beats. Whether spinning tracks in London’s underground basements or avant-garde art shows such as Paul Maheke’s Squad, Nkisi's redefining, rather smashing to smithereens, the limited idea of what black music can and should be.

Yusef Kamaal

London isn’t all nightclubs and well-established concert venues, and it’s in Clapton’s aptly named St James the Great Church that one of London’s best home grown live outfits Yussef Kamaal sweat it out to pay tribute to iconic jazz drummer Idris Muhammad just a few weeks back.

Drummer extraordinaire Yussef Dayes and killer keys man Kamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu) are the pioneers behind Yusseff Kamaal , a jazz band that brings pure groove to everything they touch. The tribute brought together some of London’s most talented young jazz musicians including Rocco Palladino on bass, Nubiya Garcia on saxophone and the inimitable 19-year-old Mansur Brown on guitar.

Drummer Yussef Dayes, leads the band driving through breakbeat, and jazz/hip-hop grooves with mind bending ease, smoothed over by the woozy sound of Kamaal’s Rhodes. They played to a full house at Jazz Re:freshed's 13th birthday (the hotspot for London’s homegrown jazz) and mentioned the forthcoming release of their album, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, tastemaker Gilles Peterson (and long standing supporter of the band) has put the band on the lineup for his Worldwide Festival in the South of France this summer. Yusseff Kamaal are part of a larger scene of envelope pushing jazzers keeping the form alive and share a bill with drummer and producer Moses Boyd alongside Kamasi Washington at London’s Sunfall festival this summer. Watch a teaser of their church show below.

Though the artists listed above are independently covering new ground in their respective genres, there’s a tangible feeling that their scenes overlap. These are London-based artists with roots in the black diaspora who are no doubt influenced (but by no means limited) by their identities.

With its finger on the pulse it’s no surprise that NTS, which has grown from a digital community radio station in Hackney to a household name for independent artists in the UK and beyond, is at the heart of the community supporting, and promoting the artists in this list.


Finally, because his track "Coffee with Larry B" (watch below) is an absolute scorcher and he’s been hinting at the imminent arrival of new music on his Instagram, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for new work from South London DJ and producer CKTRL. A regular at NTS Radio and at club nights such as Brixton’s LOCAL, he released his Forest EP last year, a blend of pitched up R&B vocals, the occasional saxophone, grimey electro and beats you’d expect to hear on the dance floor of a Vogue ballroom.

Despite the closure of pioneering club venues like Shoreditch’s Plastic People (and Dance Tunnel which is set to shut in August), the artists fuelling London’s independent club scene give no sign of letting up.

And we are forever grateful.



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Keep calm with this playlist afro-jazz, funk, alternative, and R&B tracks from Nigeria, South Africa and more.

It's a time of uncertainty and stress right now for people all over the world. As we socially distance and quarantine ourselves, it's expected that we deal with feelings of anxiety and loneliness. But it's also good to remember that we're all in this together and music can certainly help with that.

For that, we've curated a playlist of Chill Songs to Relax to at Home with music ranging from afro-jazz, funk, alternative, and R&B that can help you relax but also maintain perspective during these days.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning & Gavin Rodgers

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Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Davido's Fiancé, Chioma Rowland, Tests Positive For Coronavirus

The Nigerian musician made the announcement via a heartfelt Instagram post on Friday.

Chioma Rowland, the fiancé of star Nigerian musician Davido, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The artist shared the news via Instagram on Friday, writing that he and 31 people on his team decided to get tested after returning back to Lagos from abroad. While he and the rest of his team received negative results, Rowland's test came back positive.

"Unfortunately, my fiancé's results came back positive while all 31 others tested have come back negative including our baby," wrote Davido. He added that they both showed no systems, but would be self-isolating as a safety measure.

"We are however doing perfectly fine and she is even still yet to show any symptoms whatsoever. She is now being quarantined and I have also gone into full self isolation for the minimum 14 days," he added. "I want to use this opportunity to thank you all for your endless love and prayers in advance and to urge everyone to please stay at home as we control the spread of this virus! Together we can beat this!"

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The Ghanaian-British producer heads to South Africa for the music video for the amapiano-inspired track.

Heavyweight Ghanaian-British producer Juls shares his first offering of 2020, and it does not disappoint.

The producer enlists South African music star Busiswa and London's Jaz Karis for the jazz-inflected "Soweto Blues," which also boasts elements of South Africa's dominant electronic sound, Amapiano. The slow-burner features airy vocals from Karis who features prominently on the 3-minute track, while Busiswa delivers a standout bridge in her signature high-energy tone.

"The song dubbed "Soweto Blues" is a song depicting the love, sadness and fun times that Soweto tends to offer its people," read the song's YouTube description. The video premiered earlier today on The Fader. "The energy is amazing, the people are lovely and I've found a second home — especially the vibrancy of Soweto," the producer told The Fader about his trip to Soweto for the making of the video "Jaz Karis is singing a love song, which is symbolic of my new love of Soweto and I'm honoured to have worked with Busiswa whom I have been a fan of for a long time."

Fittingly, the music video sees Juls traveling through the township, taking in its sights and energy. The video, directed by Nigel Stöckl, features striking shots of the popular area and its skilled pantsula dancers.

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