News Brief

The Weeknd Donates $50,000 Toward New Ethiopic Studies Program

Abel Tesfaye—AKA The Weeknd—has donated $50,000 to help establish an Ethiopic Studies program at the University of Toronto.

The Weeknd officially overtook Drake this weekend to become the new 6 God.

The Toronto Star reports that hometown-hero Abel Tesfaye has donated $50,000 to help establish an Ethiopic Studies program at the University of Toronto.

The Ethiopian-Canadian superstar whose hits include "Can't Feel My Face" and the BDSM anthem "Earned It" has been vocal about his Ethiopian heritage and the role it plays in his music which makes his gift to the new program more than fitting.


According to the Star

The Scarborough native, whose parents emigrated from Ethiopia, “immediately” answered the call from the Bikila Awards organization who said they weren’t even sure he’d respond to their request, but was surprised by his immediate generosity. (The Star could not reach Tesfaye for comment on Saturday.)

“It’s unbelievable,” Tam Gebeyehu, board member of the Bikila Award told the Star. “He grew up in Toronto as an Ethiopian-Canadian, and now he’s giving back to the community.”

The Bikila Award, named after Ethiopian Olympic hero Abebe Bikila who won gold twice running barefoot in the marathon in the 1960s, is an organization created to foster academic, professional and business excellence and promote volunteerism among Ethiopian-Canadians.

 

Interview
Sarz. Photo: Manny Jefferson. Courtesy of the artist.

Interview: Sarz Has Powered a Generation of Nigerian Music—and He Isn't Stopping Anytime Soon

We talk to the star producer about his role in the rising global popularity of Nigerian music, spanning his production on massive singles from the likes of Wizkid, Skepta, Drake and more.

"I think more than the music, the narrative is more important these days," says Sarz as he sits at the offices of his press agency. "So one great song with an amazing narrative can get you farther than five great songs sometimes."

When Sarz talks about music, his eyes light up. They dart with excitement as he runs through topics like sounds, production, trends, and innovation. These are all words that represent his life's work of impactful music production, which has powered a generation of music in Nigeria, and is currently playing a role in its international future. Sitting at the offices, decked in a white t-shirt, red trousers and Nike kicks, he makes a point that he rarely grants interviews. And when he does, it's in spaces like this, in rooms and studios where his business is conducted, and his work is birthed and refined for public impact.

Born Osabuohien Osaretin, the 30-year-old music producer discovered sounds by accident when his ears would automatically pick apart music and focus on the beat. Interestingly, he discovered that he could remember every beat in detail. It was the entry point to a career that took off in 2010 when he scored his first hit on Jahbless' "Joor Oh" remix—during the formative stages of the current Nigerian pop success—and has provided sounds that have shaped the culture and given it its biggest moments.

With afrobeats' global ambitions taking off, Sarz's production is playing crucial roles in celebrated cross-cultural projects. He's helmed Drake's "One Dance," unlocked the chemistry between Wizkid and Skepta on "Energy (Stay Far Away)," and added composition on Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift album.

"I'm inspired by the thoughts of how far I can take music. Just thinking about where this music can take me to," Sarz says, taking swigs from a water bottle. The producer has also worked with the biggest stars in afrobeats, and a look through his catalogue has hits every year since 2007.

He talks passionately about his work, the source of inspiration, where good music originates from, and how he identifies where to direct his energies. He runs an academy that has been a vehicle for delivering new producers to the culture. Sarz converses with range, a brimming energy, and a humility that is tied to purpose and achievements. He never shies away from topics that examine his revered place in this ecosystem, admitting without bragging that he is no one's mate. Even his 2019 SINYM EP is affirmation that "Sarz Is Not Your Mate." He has seen a lot and has a lot to say.

Sarz. Photo: Manny Jefferson. Courtesy of the artist.

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mage courtesy of TIFF

Senegalese Filmmaker Mati Diop Tells a Haunted Story of Migration

We caught up with the celebrated director at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about her new film, Atlantics

It's been a good year for French-Senegalese director Mati Diop and her film Atlantics.

The movie got its North American premier at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this month after wowing critics and audiences at Cannes, where it won the prestigious Grand Prix. Diop was the first Black woman to successfully submit a film in the Cannes competition, and naturally the first to win any award at the iconic festival.

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Audio
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.

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News Brief
Album Cover Art.

Listen to Stormzy's New Album 'Heavy is the Head'

The British-Ghanaian grime star has dropped his much-anticipated sophomore album featuring YEBBA, H.E.R., Burna Boy, Ed Sheeran, Tiana Major9 and Headie One.

British-Ghanaian rapper Stormzy has finally dropped his much-anticipated sophomore album Heavy is the Head. The album comes two years after he released his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer.

The 16-track project features the likes of American singer-songwriter YEBBA, H.E.R., Burna Boy, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, Tiana Major9 and Headie One.

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