Featuring Zuchu, Bensoul, Nviiri the Storyteller, Harmonize and more.
The first half of 2021 has seen East African artists and labels push the boundaries. The quality of the music and videos coming out of the ecosystem in general has incredibly improved. We have seen newcomers solidifying their spots in East African pop royalty and we have also enjoyed genre-bending hits from our more established acts looking to break into new audiences.
In no particular order these are our picks for the best East African songs of 2021 so far featuring Zuchu, Bensoul, Nviiri The Storyteller, Harmonize and more.
Boutross 'Yea Yea Yea'
Popular Kenyan shrap pioneer Boutross came through with a catchy trap-influenced banger titled "Yea Yea Yea" in February. With its colourful music video and catchy lyrics this track captured the mood of Nairobi's younger generation culminating in a chart-topping, TikTok trending moment for the rapper.
Tanzanian bongo newcomer Zuchu continues her winning streak with a new hit to start off the year. "Sukari" is a sweet love song about a love that is as sweet as "sukari" (sugar) that you can't get enough of it. This is arguably the biggest hit from the region so far in 2021, transforming Zuchu from promising newcomer to a bonafide bongo flava superstar.
Nviiri the Storyteller 'Niko Sawa' ft. Bien
Sol Generation artist Nviiri the Storyteller released his debut EP Kitenge earlier this year. His track with label boss Bien Aime Baraza of Sauti Sol, "Niko Sawa," has remained at high positions in the Kenyan Apple Music chart since its release. The 6-track EP features other Kenyan heavyweights like Sanaipei Tande, Khaligraph Jones, Sauti Sol and Bensoul and it's an amazing effort from the "Pombe Sigara" hitmaker.
Otile Brown & Kizz Daniel 'Baby Go'
Top Kenyan R&B crooner Otile Brown takes it all the way to the west with his newest track "Baby Go." He enlisted Nigerian afrobeats heavyweight Kizz Daniel for the catchy afropop track that all the radio stations and DJs have really enjoyed playing on rotation since its release.
Rayvanny & Innoss'B 'Kelebe'
Tanzanian superstar artist Rayvanny teamed up with popular Congolese star Inoss' B for "Kelebe," an upbeat party starter that combines bongo flava and rumba styles of music. The video also has elaborate dance numbers inspired by Michael Jackson and more. This track is a certain favorite from Rayvanny's new album Sound of Africa.
Spice Diana & Fik Fameica 'Ready'
Ugandan pop sensation Spice Diana continues her solid run with her hit single "Ready" featuring popular rapper Fik Fameica. This collaboration is long overdue for the two peers who are steadily taking over in Ugandan music.
Brian Simba 'Temptation' ft. The Only1Pabo
Tanzanian rap star Brian Simba is back after a short hiatus and he is already making major waves with his newest single "Temptation." The track is super catchy, with a jazzy-hiphop feel and he raps smoothly about his attraction and desire for a certain lady. This certainly gets us excited for a full project from the talented Dar es Salaam-based rapper.
Nikita Kering 'Ex'
Nikita's first release in the year 2021 gave us a taste of what to expect in her debut EP A Side Of Me.The 7-track EP takes you through a journey that only Nikita, in her own words, can relay to us with a voice of the angels. The track is currently topping the Kenyan Apple Music top 100 chart.
Bensoul 'Nairobi' ft. Sauti Sol, Nviiri the Storyteller & Mejja
Sol Generation artist Bensoul secured the number one spot on the charts earlier in the year with his popular single "Nairobi" featuring Sauti Sol, Nviiri the storyteller and Mejja. This track tells the truth about the Nairobi dating scene and how everyone is sharing their partner with someone else.
Harmonize 'Attitude' ft. Awilo Longomba & H baba
Tanzanian bongo flava heavyweight Harmonize released yet another huge single this first half of the year titled "Attitude" which features Congolese legend Awilo Longomba and H Baba. The track is an infectious rhumba influenced party starter encouraging people to live in the moment and have a great time while they can. All we can say is that Harmonize doesn't miss.
Azawi 'My Year'
Swangz Avenue artist Azawi achieved hitmaker status with her track "My Year." The track is clearly a favorite in Uganda which is unsurprising with its infectious dancehall-tinged beat. It sets the tone for Azawi's highly anticipated upcoming album.