(YouTube)

Valerie Omari pictured above.

7 South African Female R&B/Soul Artists to Watch In 2020

From Ayanda Jiya to Naye Ayla, we highlight seven rising female artists on South Africa's R&B/Soul scene.

Hip-hop, house, gqom and more recently amapiano, may be dominating South Africa's music scene these days but R&B and soul are just as popular.

While the genre boasts established artists such as Simphiwe Dana, Lira, Zahara, Vusi Nova, Nathi and several others, there are equally as many artists on the come up.

Last year saw South African female artists in particular, releasing some of the dopest debut projects. As we put it, "[2019] ushered in the voices of a new generation of South African female artists announcing themselves to the world."

On the back of some pretty noteworthy albums and EPs, be it the emboldened lyricism of Ayanda Jiya or the soothing tones of Naye Ayla, we highlight 7 South African women artists in R&B/Soul that are set to bring the heat this year.

This list is in no particular order.


Lucille Slade

lucille slade

Lucille slade

Photo courtesy of Lucille Slade.

Lucille Slade continues to dominate our watchlists. Last year, she featured on our 15 Artists to Watch in 2019 list for the same reason she now features on this one: she continues to secure the bag. Slade first burst onto the music scene after her cover of Cassper Nyovest's "Tito Mboweni" track went viral. She followed up by releasing her debut album Scratch the Surface and has gone on to release popular singles including "Velvet" and more recently, "Khuluma Nami." This year will see the release of her EP titled Love Me Slowly and a number of dope collaborations.

Read our recent interview with the artist here.

Ami Faku

Ami Faku

Ami Faku.

Still from YouTube.

With her contemporary take on Afro-soul, Ami Fakuis not just an upcoming artist star, she's fast becoming a household name. Having been initially catapulted into the spotlight as a contestant on the South African version of The Voice, Faku solidified her position as an artist in South Africa's R&B/Soul genre last year with infectious singles including "Ubuhle Bakho" and "Ndikhethe Wena." She not only collaborated with the likes of Sun-El Musician and Mthunzi, but went on to put out her refreshing debut album titled Imali.

Read our recent interview with the artist here.

Ayanda Jiya

\u200bAyanda Jiya

Ayanda Jiya.

Ayanda Jiya is perhaps one of the best female vocalists in South Africa right now. Determined to produce world-class R&B with a classic South African twist, Jiya put out her debut album cleverly titled Ayandastand last year--the more definitive follow-up to her 2017 EP To Whom it May Concern. Jiya has also worked with the likes of Lady Zamar, Stogie T, Ginger Trill, A-Reece and Ralf Gum among several others. Her glorious anthem titled "The Sun" is a standout track which speaks to triumphing over adversity.

Read our recent interview with the artist here.

Valerie Omari

Valerie Omari

Valerie Omari.

Still from YouTube.

Valerie Omariis perhaps the most "traditional" of the R&B/Soul artists listed here. While she at times leans towards fusion, the artist's music is largely comprised of elements that many would view as being "quintessential" to R&B/Soul. Her explosive debut project titled Therefore I Am EP is a palpably raw and uncensored exploration of the frequently changing tides in romantic relationships.

Elaine

Elaine

Elaine.

Still from YouTube.

Elaine is turning her popularity and loyal fan base into actual numbers. Following the release of her dynamic 7-track debut EP titled "Elements", she went on to top Apple Music's Album Charts last year. With songs such as "You're the One" and "When We're Alone," the artist fuses R&B with trap-soul as she explores the trappings of adolescent love as well as the universality of love as a whole.

Refentse Solo

Refentse Solo

Refentse Solo.

Still from YouTube.

Refentse Solo's sultry and emotive vocals as well as exquisite lyrical ability, distinguish her from the rest of her peers. Her Genesis EP, which incorporates both Northern Sesotho and English, powerfully explores several complex themes including spirituality in a deeply vulnerable manner—an emerging signature of Solo's distinct sound.

Naye Ayla

Still from YouTube.

Naye Ayla is a part of the Pretoria-based band Culture Cartel. However, the artist also boasts an impressive solo career that has seen the release of two EPs thus far with the most recent being the 2018 6-track project titled Exi(s)t. However, it is her standout 2019 single "Mercury," which explores femininity and womanhood, that really showcases her ability to create anthemic hits now and in the future.

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Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Nomcebo Zikode, Zakes Bantwini & Wouter Kellerman Win Grammy Award For Best Global Music Performance

The South African artists won for their song "Bayethe" award at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony.


South African artists Nomcebo Zikode, Zakes Bantwini, and Wouter Kellerman, and scored a win for their hit song "Bayethe" at this year's Grammy Awards ceremony.

The three SA artists won over Nigeria’s Burna Boy, Uganda’s Eddy Kenzo, USA’s Matt B, Ghana's Rocky Dawuni, and Pakistan's Arooj Aftab in theBest Global Music Performance category at the Grammy Awards.

The South African winning trio consists of Nomcebo Zikode, who is renowned as the singer in "Jerusalema," singer, record producer and singer Zakes Bantwini, and celebrated flutist, producer and composerWouter Kellerman.

According to ZALebs, during a prestigious Grammy's brunch dedicated to African nominees a day before the award show, both Zikode and Bantwini expressed excitement about the potential win. According to the publication Zikode had stated that she felt like she had already won the award.

“I’m hoping that South African people are going to be proud of me, we’re hoping to take this one but hey, if we don’t take it, it’s OK, I feel like I’m a winner already,” Zikode said at the time.

This is the first time Zikode and Bantwini win a Grammy. Kellerman won the award in 2015 for his album Winds of Samsara.

Previously, some controversy surrounded the song "Bayethe," with OkayAfrica reporting reporting that Zikode would be taking Open Mic Records to court after the singer alleged that the South African record label had told Spotify to take down the song over an intellectual property dispute. It is unclear where the lawsuit currently lies.

Several fans of the record took to social media to gleefully congratulate the South African artists for the accolade.

Watch the music video for the Grammy-winning "Bayethe" below.

“Nomcebo & Zakes just won a GRAMMY for Bayethe 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎🌎 #Grammys2023 #Nomcebo #Zakes #Bayethe”

Watch the music video for the Grammy-Winning "Bayethe" below.

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Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images.

Tems Becomes the First Female Nigerian Artist to Win a Grammy Award

Nigerian star Temshas won her first Grammy Award—and it's only up from here for her.


Temsjust added "Grammy Award Winner" to her teeming list of accolades. During the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, the Nigerian singer, whose full name is Temilade Openiyi, earned her first Grammy for her contribution to Future's ‘Wait For U,' which also features Drake.

The musical bombshell won in the category of Best Melodic Rap Performance over artists like Latto (“Big Energy (Live)”, Jack Harlow (“First Class”), Kendrick Lamar (“Die Hard”), and DJ Khaled (“Beautiful”). With this win, the 27-year-old fan-favorite just made history as the first female Nigerian artist to win a Grammy.

Tems, who has made a big impression with her music over the past few years is also up for Album of the Year for her contribution to Beyoncé’s Renaissance. Earlier this year, the "Higher" Singer scored an Oscar nomination at the 2023 Oscars for co-writing "Lift Me Up’, one of the songs on 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

"Wait For U" sampled Tems' song "Higher," which was a record off of her 2020 debut album For Broken Ears. "Wait For U'" was released on May 3, 2022, and was released as the second single from Future's ninth studio album, I Never Liked You.

Shortly after the record was released, Future took to social media to praise Tems' vocal ability. The rest of 2022 would involve Tems getting praise and international recognition for her artistry, and a fleet of projects, including notable collaborations with mega stars like Beyoncé and Rihanna.

Ever since news of the Tems' win broke, several fans took to social media to excitedly congratulate the Lagos-born mega star.

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Photo By Adedamola Odetara for OkayAfrica

Photo Series: Vic Mensa's Pilgrimage to Ghana

OkayAfrica traveled with Vic Mensa as he visited his father's childhood home, Koforidua. Here's a behind-the-scenes look about what happened.

Back in December, American rapper Vic Mensa went on a pilgrimage back home. The rapper was in Accra, Ghana for his historic Black Star Line Festival, which he was co-hosting with longtime friend and fellow rapper Chance the Rapper.

But, on a hot day before the festival, the rapper traveled two hours from Accra to Koforidua to visit his extended family. There is a lot of history in Koforidua. Highlife trailblazer Chief Kofi Sammy grew up there. Not only was he founder of the famous Okukuseku International Band but Sammy also had a long and fruitful relationship with Afrobeat legend Fula Kuti.

He also happens to be Vic Mensa's uncle. And part of the reason Vic took this trip is to convince Sammy to join him on stage at the Black Star Line Festival in Accra, in front of 50,000 fans. However, while there, Vic made sure he had time to connect with his extended family.

It was a special, intimate moment. One OkayAfrica was lucky enough to witness firsthand. Check out our photo gallery of Vic Mensa's pilgrimage below.

Photo By Adedamola Odetara for OkayAfrica

In December 2022, Vic Mensa took a trip to visit his uncle, legendary Highlife artist Chief Kofi Sammy. It’s about a two hour drive from Accra to Koforidua. A bit longer when you factor in Vic stopping for some of his favorite snacks.

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Photo: Etan Comics

Ethiopia’s First Superhero Comic is Going Global

Etan Comics is launching a kids version of the kickstarter-backed title, which will be published in 11 languages.


After the successful release of their graphic novel, Jember, Etan Comics is teaming up with the non-profit Open Hearts Big Dreams (OHBD) to launch a special collaboration. Etan is working with the Seattle-based organization, which has produced over 700 bilingual early-reader titles, to turn Jember into a bilingual kids book that's based on the award-winning graphic novel.

The release of the book coincides with Black History Month, and will be launched in 11 different languages, including Amharic, Arabic, French, Greek, Igbo, Kiswahili, Spanish, and Wolayta. Jember was first published in hardcover format in October 2022, and after its release it garnered +$12K pre-orders on Kickstarter. The comic book is designed to help emerging readers build their reading confidence, and learn more about African cultures and languages. Created and written by Beserat Debebe, it was illustrated by Yonatan Solomon and Michael Okoroagha.

Jember is being turned into a bilingual kids book that's based on the award-winning graphic novel and will be available in 11 different languages.

Photo: Etan Comics

Beginning in mid-February, the books will be available globally on Amazon and IngramSpark. They will also be available at Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, and in public libraries shortly after.

With the release of Jember, Etan Comics aims to make African stories accessible to global readers. The collaboration will also help Ethiopian children, who make up 40% of the Ethiopian population, to be empowered through the story, which speaks to the rich cultural heritage of the Ethiopian history.

With this development, Etan Comics has joined the growing list of new generation of African comic book creators who are sharing African culture through comics to engage readers with various parts of the continent's history.

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