African-rooted artists are growing in numbers and contributing to the success of the Toronto music scene.
Toronto thrives as one of the leading hubs for new music and art that continue to make an impact on a global scale. With the insurgence and influence of artists from different cultural backgrounds, the Toronto music scene has curated the soundtracks for different seasons and memorable moments within the city and across the world. African artists are particularly growing in numbers and contributing to the music industry's success here. As a Toronto-based DJ myself, it's important to me to redefine what people consider to be African music. There are many more layers to African music and artists than what's been popularized in the city.
Read ahead for our list of 10 African Artists From Toronto to Watch.
Moël is one of a kind. He somehow found a way to sonically combine elements of traditional Ethiopian sounds with contemporary R&B sounds. In his latest single "Damage," the audience may resonate to the emotional experience of unrequited love, heartbreak and melancholy. Above all his music is a melo-trip; a spiritual healing you never knew you needed. Witness the huge potential of Ethio-Eritrean music mixed with R&B.
M.I. Blue, an alternative-soul singer & songwriter, might be one of the most interdisciplinary artists you can find in Toronto. Her pride and appreciation for Eritrean culture is showcased in every medium of art she puts out. Whether she's directing her own music video, designing a costume or writing her songs in Tigrinya, she's always representing her roots. Infused with neo-soul and jazz, the multi-dimensional sounds that are unique to her own genre are hauntingly beautiful. You could get to know more about her as an artist through her spontaneous Instagram live sessions.
Moncliche (DR Congo)
Moncliche effortlessly creates afrobeats with subtle notes of Congolese rumba, likely influenced by his father's music taste. After taking a long break from music to work on his craft, he discovered new afrobeats-inspired sounds. He released a summertime anthem "Move It Slow" in 2019, which had been featured on Soulection Radio on Beats 1. His music collective Igloo consists of musicians, producers, engineers and DJs he handpicked from cities like Paris and Toronto.
Toronto rapper Friyie recently shared a new song that represents his Ghanaian heritage. A trip back home to Ghana inspired him to create his new single "Kente Cloth." The song was produced by Toronto-Nigerian producer Godflow. Hailing from the city's west end, his music serves as a constant reminder to never forget where you come from. You can expect to hear more afro-influences and features in his upcoming releases. Expect the unexpected from Friyie's sounds.
Basi (Nigeria & Ghana)
Basi, aka Yungbakugo, was born to both Ghanaian and Nigerian parents. Basi's musical influences are a crossbreed of the sounds he discovered growing up across places like Lagos, Accra, London and Maryland. His new single "Slow Burn," featuring Kafayé, sets a mellow vibration with a sensual trumpet melody and a head-bopping riddim. This song might have unlocked a new variety of sounds he can offer.
Amaal is currently one of the most intriguing Somali R&B singers in North America. The artist unapologetically channels her female energy through vulnerable words, angelic vocals and a minimalistic approach. Amaal offers a refreshing and alternative perspective on what it is to be a modern day Somali artist. Through this, she inspires other emerging Somali acts to be themselves through their art, without conforming to cultural norms. You may discover comfort, healing and a new found confidence after listening to her EP, Black Dove.
Deelo Avery (Nigeria)
Deelo Avery's talent as a musician cannot be contained in a box. It is difficult to define the sound of Garçons, a genre-explorative duo comprised of Deelo and producer Julian Strangelove. Their inspiration comes from legends in music who were not afraid to stand out: James Brown, Nina Simone, Pharrell, Outkast and Erykah Badu to name a few. Deelo's slick use of his mother tongue Igbo in his lyricism may often catch you by surprise. There is just no barrier.
After putting out records on Soundcloud and performing at local gigs in Toronto, Ethiopian R&B singer Emanuel was discovered by Universal Music Canada. This month, he released a single titled "Need You," which came out and was featured on Apple Music and Spotify billboards. Idris Elba co-signed it after being touched by the song, remembering the things that he needed to get through these difficult times as he was dealing with COVID-19 himself. Elba took the initiative to help make the "Need You" video come to life with his creative direction.
Teebee takes an experimental approach to afro-fusion. Without a doubt afrobeat, afrobeats and afro-fusion influences structure the base of his sounds. "West African Love Story" is his latest project that showcases his versatility and the inspiration he draws from dancehall and reggae riddims. His forthcoming project Dangerous will unveil yet another dimension he has explored in his musical journey and it is expected to drop this summer.
The Nigerian-Canadian singer and rapper TOBi redefines soul music by combining his diverse musical influences while representing his Nigerian upbringing. His dapper street style is also part of his artistic expression. He recently dropped STILL+, a sequel to his previous project STILL, and a perfect way to close the chapter. His melodical and edgy vocals float through smooth, hip-hop infused beats.