Music

Artist Playlist: Sarz

Having worked with the likes of Wizkid and Drake, Sarz is one of the biggest afrobeats producers out right now. Listen to his exclusive playlist for OkayAfrica.

Sarz is the man behind some of your favorite tracks.

He was the one who produced "Come Closer," the huge collaboration between Wizkid and Drake from Sounds From The Other Side, and has worked on countless hits for Starboy—"Sweet Love," "Jaiye Jaiye," "Beat of Life," "African Bad Girl," and "Sound It," to name a few.

He's also lent his production skills to several singles from many of afropop's biggest names, including 2face Idibia, M.I, Skales, eLDee, Banky W, and Niniola.

We caught up with the Nigerian super producer for our latest Artist Playlist, for which he decided to highlight the songs he wishes he'd produced.

Check out the new Artist Playlist: Sarz below and on our Spotify and Apple Music channels.

Collie Budz "I Got You"

Sarz: This song got me through the summer. Love it!

Skrillex & Rick Ross "Purple Lamborghini"

Sarz: If there's anyone in the world that I don't understand how he does it, it has to be Skrillex!

Tracy Chapman "Baby Can I Hold You"

Sarz: This song makes me feel vulnerable lol.

Drake "Controlla"

Sarz: This smash sounds like something I would do and I wish I did it lol

Michael Jackson "Liberian Girl"

Sarz: This is just pure vibes. The beat?!?! Omg!

Wizkid "Shabba" ft. Chris Brown, Trey Songz & French Montana

Sarz: This song tormented me even before it was out. It made me ask myself: "What are you doing with your life Sarz?!"

Shabba Ranks "Housecall" ft. Maxi Priest

Sarz: No words. I forget the world when this song is on.

D'banj "Oliver Twist"

Sarz: The production on this is brilliant! It's Don Jazzy again!

Dua Lipa "New Rules"

Sarz: I love this. I totally wish I did this.

Kanye West "Love Lockdown"

Sarz: This is such a tune and also very creative.

Listen to Sarz' Artist Playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.


Interview
Sarz. Photo: Manny Jefferson. Courtesy of the artist.

Interview: Sarz Has Powered a Generation of Nigerian Music—and He Isn't Stopping Anytime Soon

We talk to the star producer about his role in the rising global popularity of Nigerian music, spanning his production on massive singles from the likes of Wizkid, Skepta, Drake and more.

"I think more than the music, the narrative is more important these days," says Sarz as he sits at the offices of his press agency. "So one great song with an amazing narrative can get you farther than five great songs sometimes."

When Sarz talks about music, his eyes light up. They dart with excitement as he runs through topics like sounds, production, trends, and innovation. These are all words that represent his life's work of impactful music production, which has powered a generation of music in Nigeria, and is currently playing a role in its international future. Sitting at the offices, decked in a white t-shirt, red trousers and Nike kicks, he makes a point that he rarely grants interviews. And when he does, it's in spaces like this, in rooms and studios where his business is conducted, and his work is birthed and refined for public impact.

Born Osabuohien Osaretin, the 30-year-old music producer discovered sounds by accident when his ears would automatically pick apart music and focus on the beat. Interestingly, he discovered that he could remember every beat in detail. It was the entry point to a career that took off in 2010 when he scored his first hit on Jahbless' "Joor Oh" remix—during the formative stages of the current Nigerian pop success—and has provided sounds that have shaped the culture and given it its biggest moments.

With afrobeats' global ambitions taking off, Sarz's production is playing crucial roles in celebrated cross-cultural projects. He's helmed Drake's "One Dance," unlocked the chemistry between Wizkid and Skepta on "Energy (Stay Far Away)," and added composition on Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift album.

"I'm inspired by the thoughts of how far I can take music. Just thinking about where this music can take me to," Sarz says, taking swigs from a water bottle. The producer has also worked with the biggest stars in afrobeats, and a look through his catalogue has hits every year since 2007.

He talks passionately about his work, the source of inspiration, where good music originates from, and how he identifies where to direct his energies. He runs an academy that has been a vehicle for delivering new producers to the culture. Sarz converses with range, a brimming energy, and a humility that is tied to purpose and achievements. He never shies away from topics that examine his revered place in this ecosystem, admitting without bragging that he is no one's mate. Even his 2019 SINYM EP is affirmation that "Sarz Is Not Your Mate." He has seen a lot and has a lot to say.

Sarz. Photo: Manny Jefferson. Courtesy of the artist.

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Music

Michael Brun's Zouk & Konpa Starter Kit Playlist Is a Must-Listen

Michael Brun picks a fire selection of new and classic tracks from Haiti, Guadeloupe and the Caribbean exclusively for OkayAfrica.

Michael Brun is on a mission to push a contemporary Haitian sound forward through his music, while waving its iconic flag proudly.

That can't happen without knowing one's music history. The Haitian-born artist touched base with OkayAfrica to give us an introduction to the zouk and konpa tracks that laid the foundation of the fresh sounds coming from that genre out of Haiti, Guadeloupe and across the Caribbean.

Brun also dropped a funky, new single featuring Brooklyn-based Nigerian artist Kah-Lo: "Spice." You can take a listen here.

Dig into our latest Artist Playlist—Michael Brun's Afro-Caribbean: Zouk & Konpa Starter Kit—on our Spotify and Apple Music channels below.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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