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The Best East African Songs of 2018

Here are the 23 best East African Songs of the year featuring Diamond Platnumz, Harmonize, Sauti Sol, Blinky Bill, Sheebah, Navy Kenzo and more.

For East African music, 2018 has been all about pushing boundaries in sound, and boosting the number of Pan-African collaborations.

The year kicked off with major album releases like Diamond Platnumz's A Boy From Tandale and Vanessa Mdee's Money Mondays. With a number of high-profile features from the likes of Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and Nyashinski, Kenya's top band Sauti Sol continued the roll-out of their long-awaited Afrikan Sauce album. This peaked with the release of "Short & Sweet," which infected the region like a plague.

Diamond Platnumz' WCB Wasafi imprint reigned supreme over the scene this year. The company boasts a roster of the most popular artists in the region like Harmonize, Rich Mavoko, Queen Darlene, Lava Lava, Mbosso and Rayvanny. Their dominance in this part of the continent is undeniable, and with every new chart-topping single released, this impressive ensemble continues to revolutionize the face of East African music.

2018 also saw some exciting offerings from the new wave with club starters from rising artists like Brian Simba, Fik Fameica and Vinka. The year rounded off with noteworthy releases like Wanja Wohoro's afro-feminist Matriarch album and Blinky Bill's Everyone's Just Winging it & Other Fly Tales.

Overall it's been a year full of versatile and forward-looking releases and we can only expect it to get better in 2019.

Below are our picks for the Best EastAfrican Songs of the year. Listed in no particular order.

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Bas. Photo : Rafael Rios for The Fiends + Milk Studios.

Bas: ​"I Was Born in France & Raised in New York But I'm Still African"

Exclusive: The Dreamville rapper talks about his Sudanese roots and the African influences on his latest record, Milky Way.

When American rapper and Dreamville signee, Bas, decided to head out to Nigeria in April as part of J. Cole's crew for a concert in Lagos, he had no idea what was to expect.

He wasn't billed as a performer, neither did he prepare for a set. But, during J. Cole's thrilling performance, he was asked to hit the stage. His mind blown. "I was called to perform two songs which wasn't planned at all," he recalls. "The songs didn't have J. Cole featured on them but while performing, thousands of Lagos people were rapping with me, word for word, and I was like 'ohhh, what the hell is going on here.'"

That experience opened Bas up to the possibilities that exist in the African market, and a whole new world of fandom. While in Nigeria, he was surprised to meet up with fans who were inspired by his music, and a nascent Dreamville supporters club who dot on his releases, and amplify them locally. That gave him an insight into the new market, where he has adapted his processes to include acknowledging and interacting with his African fan base. He's been on a journey, exploring the culture, the people, and taking lessons from the resilience and happiness that he's found in a lot of African stories. He's also tweeting about 'Shaku shaku' and the Nigerian football team, Super Eagles.

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Here's Some Vintage Sudanese Jazz From The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr

We premiere "Nile Waves" from the first official reissue of their 1980s album Jazz, Jazz, Jazz.

The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr's long-forgotten album, Jazz, Jazz, Jazz, is credited as being one of the key releases from Sudan's jazz scene.

Recorded in 1980s Kuwait, the rare 10-track album showcases a unique fusion of styles and is now getting it's first official reissue from Habibi Funk.

"The music is a unique combination of incredible horn arrangements powerfully performed, a vigorous drummer contributing a funky backbone and Saif uniting those elements," Habibi Funk label owner Jannis Stuertz tells OkayAfrica. "The results range from instrumental tracks awaking memories of 1970s crime thriller soundtracks to more Sudanese-rooted tracks, a lot of them modernized versions of traditional tribal rhythms and even an excursion into Soukouss."

Today we're premiering the new single from the album, "Nile Waves," an instrumental, funk-infused track that will have your head-nodding.

Below, Stuertz gives us a bit more background on this release.

"I heard about Seif Abu Bakr and The Scorpions for the first time maybe 3-4 years ago. Their album Jazz, Jazz Jazz ended up on my radar because of an eBay auction; it might have been the first auction for this particular album on the platform. While the bids kept on rising daily up to a staggering $1000, if I recall correctly, I was intrigued about the snippet preview bits of the music on this album as well as by the impressive artwork."

"I remember I did some quick research in the aftermath of the auction (which I obviously did not win) to gather some information about the band but apart from some vague bits and pieces I could not find anything. In most encyclopedic overviews of the Sudanese music scene of the 1970s the band appeared as a mere footnote. How come? I really do not know."

"While all of our reissues so far have been compilations in the sense that we put together our favorite selection of tracks by one artist, this album will be our first 1:1 re-release, simply because the quality of the albums does not fall off on a single track. With its eclectic influences it birthed a one-of-a-kind new mixture and serves as a blueprint for what we are looking for when we release music on Habibi Funk."

Pre-order Jazz, Jazz, Jazz here now.

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