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Ayanda Jiya. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

South African Women Dropped the Best Debuts of 2019

We highlight 10 noteworthy albums & EPs from a new generation of vocal talent in South Africa, featuring Elaine, Ayanda Jiya, Ami Faku and more.

The South African music scene has seen an uptick in youthful, vocally gifted artists over the years. Much of this is owed to the recent global resurgence of R&B, as well as the increased significance of streaming sites, especially SoundCloud.

From internet-savvy artists creating jazz, alternative soul and house-infused spoken word to radio friendly iterations of pop and Afro-soul, 2019 has been the year of impactful debut performances.

This year ushered in the voices of a new generation of South African female artists announcing themselves to the world.

Here's a lowdown of 10 great releases from talented female vocalists, songwriters and composers marking this new era.

Read ahead below. This list is in no particular order.


​Elaine 'Elements'

R&B singer Elaine has dominated streaming charts with her youthful dynamism since the release of her Elements EP. Her 7-track offering is one of the biggest new independent releases in South Africa, having reached the top of Apple Music's Album Charts. It subsequently earned her recognition as the platform's New Artist Spotlight for Sub-Saharan Africa in November.The Pretoria-based singer offers a mellow blend of trap-soul and R&B with incisive explorations of adolescent love. With tracks like "You're The One," she sets the world alight over production by Clxrity.

Sio 'sbtxts'

Straddling spoken word, house and electro-soul, Sio offers deeply reflective art on her debut album sbtxts. Over production by Daev Martian, Julian Gomes and Atjazz, the Johannesburg native delves into both romantic and melancholic themes across the album's 17 tracks. Sio has an ability to marry the groove of house music with introspective songwriting, owed largely to her poetic delivery.

​Refentše Solo 'Genesis'

A sultry voice over soulful, emotive production sums up Pretoria native Refentše Solo's alluring sound. Fusing Northern Sesotho and English on her debut EP, Genesis, she's as poised as her music is moving. "New Moon" is a standout song on the EP that takes on the angelic tone of its spiritual lyrics, hinting at a vocalist finely in tune with her songwriting.

​Kim Venty 'Practice Room'

Practice Room, by Cape Town's own Kim Venty, is an aptly named 7-song EP. The release is an exploration in two senses: that of self and that of different sounds. With a jazz background and palette for pop music, Kim occupies a space that is influenced by the diversity of her taste. With her take on alt-pop, the singer's open to experimentation as is evident on her Gina Jeanz-produced single "For You."

Ayanda Jiya 'Ayandastand'

The soulful Ayandastand, an R&B project invested in the love of self and others, serves as Ayanda Jiya's debut album. While effortlessly displaying her vocal range on "The Sun" and across the entire album, the singer also taps into her longstanding hip-hop roots through collaborations with A-Reece and Stogie T.

Ami Faku 'Imali'

A project both youthful and timeless, Ami Faku's Imali is a refreshing take on Afro-soul. The singer-songwriter grapples with dream chasing, finding love and the solace of home over the eclectic soundscapes of these 11 tracks. In the truest sense of the word, Imali reimagines a traditional sound and infuses it with an infectious sprightliness.

nalu luvdust 'Tacenda'

Cape Town-based singer Nalu's Tacenda EP is a deeply engrossing listen. On it, she offers honest interpretations of sexuality and relationships while her lyrics are cocooned between R&B-meets-soul rhythms and lo-fi ambiance. The standout quality of Tacenda is its marriage of acoustic riffs and soulful bass, as embodied by the Hanna (the nigist)-featuring "Bedtime Confessions." A distorted interpolation of 50 Cent's "21 Questions" on "Kitty" is also a big EP standout.

​Valerie Omari 'Therefore I Am'

With her Therefore I Am EP, Valerie Omari announces herself to the scene as the quintessential R&B artist. Over palpably raw, echoic production, the Democratic Republic of Congo-born singer traverses the sensuality, heartbreak and addictiveness that comes with relationships. Valerie is at home with the more traditional R&B aesthetic though she comfortably leans towards fusion on the latter part of the EP. This is a voice destined for greatness.

​lordkez 'Revenge Season'

Kimberley-born singer Keziah Zoë Meyers explores a range of emotions through the lens of a revenge-wielding scribe on her 6-track debut offering. Deftly floating over instrumentation owed to the trap-soul wave, the Revenge Season EP sees lordkez tapping into themes of love, vulnerability and deceit—all the while with a score to settle. Lordkez's strength is her versatility as an artist, as she unveils layers of her vocal range alongside rhythmic flows that make you nod as much as her soundscapes make you feel.

Thandeka Dladla of Unity Band 'Fabric'

The singer Thandeka Dladla serves as the lead vocalist of the Cape Town-based Unity Band. The Unity band was formed by South African College of Music graduates Lumanyano Mzi, who also serves as a drummer for trumpeter Mandisi Dyantyis. 24-year-old Dladla fronts the eight-piece outfit, which blends elements of pop, funk and hip-hop while keeping jazz at the crux of their sound. Thandeka adds an arresting lyricism to the band's explorative ethos and compliments their unique African take on jazz fusion with her isiXhosa vocals. If the band's debut release Fabric is anything to go by, the young vocalist will be a great addition to South Africa's jazz scene for years to come.

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Zero12Finest &Thamagnificent2 "Baby Are You Coming?" (Youtube)

The 10 Best Amapiano Songs of 2019

2019 was the year of the yanos.

Amapiano, South Africa's new dominant electronic music movement, oozes through mobile and car speakers, sound rigs and shopping mall PA systems throughout the country.

Amapiano borrows from the music that's been popular in South African townships for decades: kwaito, jazz and house are just some of its raw ingredients. Started in Pretoria, SA's administrative capital, the rising genre is a sophisticated hybrid of deep house, jazz and lounge music characterized by synths, airy pads and wide basslines. What each producer does with these is as much evolution as it is chemistry.

The word "amapiano" translated to English is "pianos." It merges an isiZulu plural article (ama) with an English noun (piano). Hundreds of new amapiano songs are released through messaging apps and free file-sharing sites every day. Few become popular, a handful become anthemic and even fewer become ubiquitous, as they're heard ringing out at countless clubs and parties across South Africa.

Read ahead for The Best Amapiano Songs of 2019. Listed in no particular order.

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Burna Boy. Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage (via Getty Images).

The 20 Best Nigerian Songs of 2019

Featuring Burna Boy, Rema, Tiwa Savage, Zlatan, Mr Eazi, Wizkid, Teni, Davido, Lady Donli and many more.

2019 was another huge year for Nigerian music.

Zlatan's presence was ubiquitous and powered by the zeal for zanku, a dance which is now de rigueur. Rema led the charge for a group of young breakthrough artists that include Fireboy DML and Joeboy. They all represent an exciting crop of talents that point the way forward for Nigerian pop.

Burna Boy's new dominance, built around his excellent African Giant album, delivered on his rare talents, while the long wait for Davido's sophomore album, A Good Time, paid off in satisfying fashion. Simi's Omo Charlie Champagne Vol. 1 announced her departure from her longterm label. Tiwa Savage also made a highly-discussed move from Mavin Records to Universal Music Group. Meanwhile, Yemi Alade exuded female strength with her latest record, Woman of Steel.

Not to be left out, Wizkid sated demands for his fourth album with a new collaborative EP following a year of stellar features that included his presence on Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift, an album which also boasts Tekno, Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage. Mr Eazi also notably launched his emPawa initiative to help fund Africa's promising up-and-coming artists.

Asa returned in a formidable form with Lucid, while buzzing artists like Tay Iwar, Santi, and Lady Donli all shared notable releases. Lastly, the beef between Vector and M.I climaxed and sparked a resurgence of Nigerian rap releases from Phyno to Ycee, PsychoYP and more.

Read on for the best Nigerian songs of 2019. Listed in no particular order. —Sabo Kpade

Follow our BEST SONGS OF 2019 playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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C Natty/emPawa

You Need to Watch C Natty's New Music Video For 'Ojah'

Video Premiere: Check out the striking first release from Mr Eazi's #emPawa30.

C Natty arrives in style with his new single "Ojah."

The track, which is the first release from Mr Eazi's new group of #emPawa30 artists, sees the Nigerian artist delivering a highly-infectious and grooving concoction over jazz-leaning afrobeats produced by Killertunes.

The new music video for "Ojah," which we're premiering here today, is equally as stunning and follows the story of someone who doesn't take others' advice. C Natty told us the following about the DK of Priorgold Pictures-directed video:

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South African Hip-Hop Producers Tweezy and Gemini Major Set for Instagram Live Beat Battle

Two of South Africa's hip-hop super producers Tweezy and Gemini Major will face-off in upcoming Instagram live beat battle.

After Instagram live beat battles such as Swizz Beatz versus Timbaland and Mannie Fresh versus Scott Storch amid the lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it was only a matter of time until the hip-hop community across the world followed suit.

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