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Systema Solar: 10 Things I Love About Afro-Colombia

The collective Systema Solar, musical ambassadors to Colombia's Caribbean coast, share the 10 things they love most about Afro-Colombia.

In our “10 Things I Love” series we ask our favorite musicians, artists & personalities to tell us what they like the most about their home country.


In this new installment, the dynamic collective Systema Solar, musical ambassadors to Colombia's Caribbean coast, share the 10 things they love most about Afro-Colombia. The group's new album 'Rumbo a Tierra' is available now.

Sound Systems in Barranquilla

KZ Son Palenque in the city of Barranquilla is excellent. KZ is the place where the verbena, or sound system parties take place, and where you can enjoy dancing to a Picó. While there you'll probably hear Congolese music, like classic tunes from the master, Lokassa Ya Mbongo.

Eating Rondón while listening to friends' music

Rondón is a typical islander dish from the Afro-Raizal (the creole-English-speaking inhabitants) population. Rondón’s pronunciation is derived from the English “RUN DOWN.” It's a coconut milk-based stew with fish, snail, pigtail, accompanied with yam, cassava, plantain, bread fruit and dumpling. We love listening to our friend Elkin Robinson’s music while a delicious Rondón is being prepared.

Rafael Cassiani at Festival de Tambores. Image by Simón Sánchez Sotomayor via Fickr (under Creative Commons License)

Festival De Tambores

We once played the Festival De Tambores (drum festival) in San Basilio de Palenke. Whoever visits can be easily captivated by its beauty, musical power, and in general, by the cultural practices of the wonderful people from that place. They're truly a part of Africa in Colombia.

Cultural Preservation

Check out Kuagro collective and Kombilesa Mi (our friends) who aim to safeguard their language, the Palenkera tongue from San Basilio de Palenke. On top of preserving their own culture, they're an example of resistance and dignity from the Afro-Colombian community.

Carnaval del Suroccidente

Afro-Colombian communities contribute a lot to the Carnaval Del Suroccidente in Barranquilla, which takes place in February, through troupes, cumbiambas (cumbia dancing), masks, various ancestral dances, and valuable expressions rich in their own oral traditions, braiding arts and various hair designs.

The master, Candelario Obeso

You have to look up the master Candelario Obeso’s work, which has always stood for the contribution African cultures have had on Colombia. He wrote dramas, comedies, pedagogical texts and two novels, as well as articles related to Colombian politics of his time. He also translated Shakespeare’s Othelo and numerous plays by Victor Hugo, Byron, Must, and Longfellow among others.

The diffusion of Afro-Colombian thought

Angel Perea Escobar analyses and diffuses African thought and beauty through powerful writing that's full of flavor, without being condescending to its reader. Escobar is a true sweetheart, with him, the reviews and contexts of all the constellations of Afro-Colombian art and life are always backed by effective data. Recommended for anyone who’s interested in learning about the stellar Afro-Colombian universe.

Petronio Alvarez Festival. Photo by Sol Robayo via Flickr (under Creative Commons License).

The Pacific Coast

It’s impossible to go to Colombia and not experience the display of strength, power, and great Afro-Colombian cultural vibrations from the Pacific coast. The yearly Petronio Alvarez Festival in Cali is the best manifestation of the culture from that coast, whose seas, rivers and jungles irradiate wisdom and dignity year after year.

El Palenke de San Jose De Uré

El Palenke de San Jose De Uré, an hour apart from Montelibano in the county of Córdoba, has an Afro-Colombian community that is known for protecting its memory and looks to project itself to the world.

Manuel Zapata Olivella

The legacy of the doctor, anthropologist, writer and researcher Manuel Zapata Olivella, is key to knowing the history of African people and cultures in Colombia. Changó, El Gran Putas, Chambacú Corral De Negros and La Rebelión De Los Genes are part of his work.

Systema Solar.

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Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

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Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs

We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

We thought to delve into his hit-filled discography to bring you The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs.

This list is in no particular order.

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Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images.

Black Coffee Is on a Mission to Raise Funds for Coronavirus Relief Efforts

The South African musician is raising funds in an effort to donate a million rands to organizations fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.

DJ Black Coffee is on a mission to help raise funds for organizations fighting to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Having already raised R90 000 (approximately USD 5000) in just five days for the government's Solidarity Fund, the South African artist wants to raise a total of 1 million rands (approximately USD 55 000), according to reports by TimesLIVE.

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Veteran Somali Musician Ahmed Ismail Hussein Has Died

Considered one of the founding fathers of contemporary Somali music and affectionately known as 'Hudeydi', the musician has passed away from the coronavirus at age 92.

Veteran Somali musician Ahmed Ismail Hussein has passed away at the age of 92 according to reports by the BBC.

Considered one of the founding fathers of contemporary Somali music, the musician passed away in London, England, after having tested positive for the coronavirus.

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