(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.

Interview

Fireboy DML On Embracing His Inner 'Playboy,' Stepping Outside & Learning to Let Go

On Playboy, Fireboy moves further away from his previous records and embraces the mainstream afrobeats sound hinted in recent hits like "Peru" and "Bandana." We sit down with the Nigerian star to talk about his new album.

“I would like to discuss my forthcoming album only, nothing else. That is where my headspace right now.”

Nigerian superstar Fireboy DML draws up the rules of engagement as soon as we get on a Zoom call. The notoriously reticent singer, fresh from enjoying the biggest year of his musical career, powered by the international breakthrough of his single "Peru," is checking in from London. The city has become somewhat of a second home for him of late and it is here that Fireboy is ensconced while getting ready to kick off promotional activities for his third studio album, Playboy, which arrived last Friday.

The 14-track album comes almost two years after Fireboy’s last pop effort, Apollo ,which in turn was released about nine months after his stellar debut, Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps. On Playboy, Fireboy moves further away from his previous records and embraces the mainstream afrobeats sound hinted in recent hits like "Peru" and "Bandana," with newbie Asake.

He tells OkayAfrica about putting the album together below.

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Culture
Image courtesy of the artist

Spotlight: NK Is The Future and Star of His Own Show

We spoke with the 18-year-old visual artist about creating art from his surroundings and empowering his generation.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Ghanaian digital artist NK. The self-proclaimed Afrocentric visual artist's love for drawing and sketching at a young age pushed him to explore the many ways in which modern technology supports and advances creativity. Simply playing around with a popular photo editing app propelled the young artist into a world of self discovery, empowerment, and a keen understanding about how big the Universe we call home actually is. As the digital creative puts it, "I think my interest in space and what could exist outside the world we live in also had an impact on my desire to incorporate futuristic technology with cultural art." Armed with a keen interest in all things Afrofuturist, NK's futuristic eye has gained the teen artist recognition from some of his industry faves, too.

We spoke with the 18-year-old visual artist about creating art from his surroundings and empowering his generation.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Describe your background as an artist and the journey you have taken to get to where it is today.

I grew up with an interest in art and drawing. I loved to draw and sketch, usually with both pen and pencils, whatever was interesting around me. I would make compositions of items within my surroundings and paste them on the walls of my parent’s rooms. My interest in the digital world peaked around the ages of 14 and 15 -- I've always been intrigued by astronauts and futuristic technology. I started digital art in 2017 when I created 2D pieces on the PicsArt app on a phone at home. Eventually, I gained access to the Adobe Photoshop software.

Artists like David Alabo, Beeple, Basquiat, and Juan Carlos Ribas inspired me and also made me think of what I could achieve if I tried. I spent a lot of time watching tutorial videos and related content online to be able to develop my skill. Initially, I created my pieces by combining a number of stock images and online resources to create an entirely new fictional scene. Around early 2020 I had a creative block and was desperate to find new sources of inspiration. Over time I came to the realization that my inspiration surrounded me and that I shouldn’t have to force creativity. I did more research on Afrocentric art and stepped out of my comfort zone to create my first Afrocentric pieces, “Gateway to Paradise” and “Modernization”. These pieces attracted a lot of attention and also the smArt magazine which granted me my first interview and magazine feature opening the door to new relationships in the creative industry, various opportunities, and collaborations.

What are the central themes in your work?

My work is mainly centered around the expression of development in the Black experience and empowering African Culture. I try to factor in Afrofuturism and Afrocentrism in making my pieces whether it’s how my models are dressed, their accessories, or represented by items that surround them. My pieces are intended to put forward the message of creating brighter futures and realities where Africans thrive. This helps give my pieces in themselves an identity.

How did you decide on using a digital medium for your art?

Even though I do draw and sketch, I also feel very comfortable using digital software which to me offers endless possibilities. I believe that using digital media as an African artist helps bridge the gap between technology and cultural art, directly falling in line with my field of interest, Afrofuturism.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

The start of the pandemic in 2020 was devastating. A lot happened during that period. It was during the lockdown that I made the decision to transition into creating Afrocentric art. We were made to take a break from school, which freed up a lot of my time. I had the time to research, watch tutorials and practice more. It might have been one of the most defining years for me as an artist. It also granted me a larger audience as everyone was made to work from home. I actually learned a lot and worked hard during that period and this led to my work improving massively.

Can you describe your artistic relationship with ‘Afro-futurism’?

Afrofuturism is a theme I can really relate to as a young African. It's our responsibility to contribute to our development as a people. I think my interest in space and what could exist outside the world we live in also had an impact on my desire to incorporate futuristic technology with cultural art. I like to think of what we can achieve, the seemingly impossible things, and then I pour out those thoughts and ideas into my art and that is why I immediately fell in love with Afrofuturism. We are the future, the stars of our own show.

Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories in your art?

The most dominant figure in my pieces is usually the black figure/model which usually stands out as the main subject. Regarding the backgrounds, I usually try to make a scene with colors to create a particular mood or in some of my pieces to complement the clothes of the model, usually African prints. They range from solid backgrounds to gradients and various sky textures. I use different cultural accessories both for beautification and also to provide that Afrocentric feel and message. I love to use various beads, bracelets, and traditional cloths with interesting textures to convey these messages of who we are as Africans and where we come from.


Artwork by NK

"Cultural Adornment"

Image by @signaturebyKam

Listen: Mádé Kuti Pleas For 'No More Wars' In Latest Single

The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter blends easy listening with a powerful message in his first drop of 2022 so far.

Nigerian musician Mádé Kuti has released his first single of the year, and it comes with an important message.

The latest of the Kuti dynasty to break into the music scene, Grammy-award nominated Mádé releases his new single 'No More Wars', via Partisan Records. The groovy track is the first in a series of singles the singer will be releasing before the end of the year. It's the first time we've heard from Kuti since he joined his father, world-renowned Afrobeat ambassador Femi Kuti, on their joint venture 'Legacy +'.

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Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for YouTube Beauty

Nigerian-American Jackie Aina Catches Flames For Insensitive New Candle

The s-candle burns bright on Twitter as the Youtuber's 'Sòrò Sókè' candle sparks fury over the political meaning behind the name.

We didn't think this week we would see drama from a candle release. But here we are.

Nigerian-American Youtuber Jackie Aina has angered the Nigerian online community after the latest release from her lifestyle candle brand Forvr Mood. The candle, titled"Sòrò Sókè" which translates to "Speak Up", has the Nigerian community up in arms as the saying was originally used during the inhumane #ENDSARS saga that saw the Nigerian government willfully gun down peaceful protesters.

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