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Silicon Africa: A Playlist of Africa's Electronic Music Innovators

This SILICON AFRICA playlist showcases how technological innovation has influenced artists across the continent and their song craft.

This month, OkayAfrica will focus on technology's impact on young Africans.


As the continent gains access to fast internet at accelerating rates, we'll be looking at how Africans are using it to transform their lives—from tech entrepreneurs and inventors to the people and places making the continent a place for innovation and expression.

This Silicon Africa playlist showcases how technological innovation has influenced artists across the continent and their song craft. It features modern, electronic and, at times, experimental tracks from the likes of Spoek Mathambo, Baloji, Okzharp & Manthe Ribane, Just A Band, Petite Noir and more.

Get the extended playlist, and much more, on OkayAfrica's Apple Music channel.

Okzharp "Dear Ribane" ft. Manthe

Back when it first dropped, we called London-based producer Okzharp and South African artist Manthe Ribane's "Dear Ribane" the future of electronic performance art music videos. A couple years have passed but we still feel the same way.

Baloji "Capture" ft. Petite Noir & Muanza

Belgian-Congolese MC and songwriter Baloji teams up with Petite Noir for this stunning love letter to the Congo. "Capture" was featured in Baloji's 64 Bits & Malachite EP, which references computer processors ('64 bits') and 'malachite,' one of the few minerals found in the DRC that isn't mined for use in operating systems across the globe.

Spoek Mathambo "Control"

For years, Spoek Mathambo has been one of the leading innovators of electronic music on the continent. In "Control," the songwriter/producer/rapper fuses the energy of South African house music into a cover of this Joy Division classic.

The song's accompanying black-and-white music video, directed by Pieter Hugo & Michael Cleary, is a work of art in its own right.

Just A Band "Huff +Puff"

The concept behind Just A Band's video for "Huff + Puff" came about from a challenge: two Norwegian filmmakers dared the band to shoot a video “with a bunch of constraints, such as having to include a movie reference… starting with A Clockwork Orange."

The end result, shot in the outskirts of Nairobi, is a golden marriage of comedy, dance moves and some very impressive electronic pop.

Stream the 'SILICON AFRICA' extended playlist on Apple Music.

Eli Fola "Wonders"

Brooklyn-based, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Eli Fola created a sound he calls 'Tech Afrique' out of his love for house and techno music. Dive into Fola's colorful world with "Wonders."

Petite Noir "Best"

Congolese-Angolan artist Petite Noir describes his music style as 'noirwave.' Through it, he examines the perception of Africa as a “dark continent," exploring its split identity as a both beautiful and unforgiving place, and showcasing a new, forward-thinking African aesthetic influenced by the likes of Fela Kuti, Tabu Ley Rochereau and Yasiin Bey.

Jojo Abot "To Li"

Heavy delay, 808 drums and reggae-inspired synths reverberate through Ghanaian vocalist Jojo Abot's "To Li."

Abot mentions that "To Li" is “a dramatic term that cuts through the bullshit... In a generation of young people determined to take life by the horns with little tolerance for injustice and inequality, 'To Li' contributes to that narrative and spirit of cutting through the layers in search of honesty and truth."

Mbongwana Star "Malukayi" ft. Konono No.1

Kinshasa's Mbongwana Star are an eclectic outfit who blend Congolese rhythms with recycled instruments and post-punk bass into the distorted electronic sound heard on "Malukayi," alongside Konono No. 1.

Muthoni Drummer Queen "Kenyan Message"

East Africa's baddest boss lady Muthoni Drummer Queen tackles the alarming social issues Kenya is faced with—including the widening wealth gap, ineptitude in government and the doctor's strike that made headlines since it started in December—in electronic tribute to Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's "The Message."

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Photo: Kyle Weeks.

Watch Baloji's Debut Short Film 'Kaniama Show'

"A fictional satire about the collusion of State and media powers in an unidentified African country."

Baloji is a leading force in his space.

For years, the Congolese-Belgian artist has paired his unique blend of soukous, hip-hop and pop elements with sharp critiques about the power that governments, industries and technology have over societies—particularly across Africa.

Recently, Baloji release his latest album, 137 Kaniama, a 12-song record which offered potent commentary on, among other issues, how today's cellphone culture is making all of us zombies. That album is going to be re-released its originally-intended form of a one-track single as Kaniama: The Yellow Version tomorrow.

The new release is paired with a 22-minute short film that takes a satirical look at the shady ties between state and media with the backdrop of a '70s Soul Train-esque TV show.

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Op-Ed
Image via TONL

On Behalf of My Unborn Son: Thank You African Male Artists

African men's openness towards exploring different kinds of masculinity gives me hope for the future.

First things first: I'm not pregnant. But, like many people, I contemplate the world I'll be bringing my children into whenever they so choose to arrive. I don't know who or what their father will be. Ghanaian-Swedish? Haitian-Italian? American – who knows? What I do know for certain is that any son I have will be, at least, half black.

I've long struggled with the seeming paradox of the black imagination. One the one hand, our creative conscious imagines entire lifestyles into existence. We create global trends in fashion, music, dance, language, poetry and literature. Our minds are ground zero for creating entire cultures. But when it comes to ourselves, we seem to be unable to imagine being seen as whole human beings. I feel like even in our imaginations we don't dare to imagine ourselves truly respected and truly free because that freedom might threaten others. It's a problem I have in myself, it's a problem I'm not proud of.

So when I imagine the world my son will enter, I'm hesitant about bringing a son into a world that won't make room for the multitudes he will contain—that all of us contain. I worry that he won't know that he can be all the things he needs to be and be black.

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GuiltyBeatz, Kwesi Arthur & Mr Eazi's "Pilolo" visualizer video (Youtube).

The 20 Best Ghanaian Songs of 2019

Featuring Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, Amaarae, Kwesi Arthur, Shatta Wale, Efya GuiltyBeatz, Joey B, R2Bees and many more.

2019 was definitely an exciting year for Ghanaian music.

Right from the top of the year, we saw both new and established make their mark with songs that would soundtrack the nation's airwaves, functions, and nights for months to come. In 2019 we got to experience an E.L comeback, Shatta Wale and Beyoncé on the same song, numerous solid Ghana-Naija collaborations, and bop after bop by old and new artists alike.

We also saw the rise of brand new artists, starting from the likes of J.Derobie's wave making debut in January, to Kofi Mole's widespread trap anthem, to Fameye's declaration of brokeness, to the promising future superstar Sam Opoku. As far as projects go, 2019 was a good year for that in the Ghana music space as well. We were blessed with an EP from Sarkodie, an album by the superstar duo R2Bees, talented singer King Promise's debut album, Ko-Jo Cue's stellar debut, and M.anifest's 7-track feel-good EP, among several others.

Ghanaian music has been stepping its game up lately, and there's only one way to go from here. Below, we give you the rundown on the Ghanaian songs that stole ears and hearts and set the pace for the country's sound this year.

Check out the list below. Listen in no particular order.—Nnamdi Okirike

Follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for AFI)

Cynthia Erivo Earns Golden Globe Nomination for 'Harriet'

Check out the full list of 2020 nominees (and the snubs).

Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman in Harriet. She's earned a nomination for Best Original Song for 'Stand Up."

She's nominated in the "Best Performance by an Actress In a Motion Picture—Drama" alongside Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Renée Zellwegger and Saoirse Ronan.

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