As a continent that has endured some of the highest levels of human atrocity, misfortune and pillaging in the world, Africa’s nations are in the very least united by their immense struggles. However, if you need any evidence that Africa’s peoples do not see themselves as victims, just look at their music. Regardless of the traditions of a given region, there is almost always a fighting spirit that shines through. NU AFRICA symbolises the desire to move forward from the horrors of eras past and embrace the elements that make it what is today; traditional, colonial and modern. NU AFRICA is about unity in diversity. If it was a music festival, this is some of the stuff you might hear:
Buraka Som Sistema – Eskeleto (feat. African Boy)
On album opener, ‘Eskeleto’ from Buraka Som Sistema’s new album, Komba, African Boy chews up all the ignorant labels and preconceived notions used to describe African diasporas in other countries and spits them back out into a bile-filled diatribe over a menacingly warped synth line, which acts as both percussion and melody. African Boy brings real fire with his caricatured growl, which is frighteningly defiant (“look into my eyes, can’t you see I’m a demon!”) and disturbing in its conviction.
DVA – Just Vybe (feat. Fatima)
In ‘Just Vybe’, DVA’s polyrhythmic tribal percussion underlies sassy vocals from Fatima, whose own performance is reminiscent of late 80’s hip-house. It is a song, which really embodies its title and taps into a primitive instinct that makes it impossible not to sway along. Listening to this song is like sunbathing in rays of good vibrations. There is no bad energy or negativity anywhere in site on this track.
NAIRA – Put Me On (feat. Lloyd Musa)
‘Put Me On’ is a fun, straight-up R&B throwback from NAIRA, a multi-talented artist from Atlanta by way of Nigeria. On this cut, NAIRA’s purr sounds euphorically exasperated as she coos for you to put her on. Given the name of her album is Fearless: The Art Of Letting Go, it is only fitting that she would suggest such a seductive come on. But instead of going the Lil Kim route, it is a proposition delivered in smooth style.
Jonti – Firework Spraying Moon
Jonti is a South African/Australian artist who is becoming increasingly better known for his challenging and off-kilter output. ‘Firework Spraying Moon’ is one such cut which features an eccentric mix distinctly African drumming motifs (e.g. interplay between syncopated hand claps and a clipped, tight-skinned drum beat) with a glistening keyboard melody that even Disney would fall in love with. Exaggerated? Ironic? Who knows? Whatever the case though, its replay value will mystify you.
Popskarr – Fighter
Wow. If Depeche Mode had died, been reincarnated and their souls repatriated to South Africa, they would probably sound something like Popskarr. ‘Fighter’ submerges itself in those familiar aching synth washes reminiscent of the 80’s, and Terrance Pearce’s darkly resonant croon. However the real clincher in this song is the beautiful African blues mini-riff that flutters in and out of the misty synth fog.
Spoek Mathambo – Put Some Red On It (Shabazz Palaces Remix)
Spoek Mathambo is entirely capable of making exciting Afro-futuristic hip-hop all by himself. Anyone who has listened to Father Creeper can attest. However, on the sparse post-dubstep stomp of ‘Put Some Red On It’, Mathambo enlists Shabazz Palaces to chop and screw this anthem detailing the horrors of conflict diamonds. As a result, it transforms into something else entirely; a beast resembling a woozy transformer or something out of ‘Power Rangers’. A huge, mechanical monolith that is powerful but endearingly clumsy as it destroys everything in sight.
Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang – Eh Mane Ah
Bubu, a style originating from Sierra Leone, has Janka Nabay to thank for exposing it to an international audience. Originally an art form devoted to occultist practices, it now represents the synergy of regional traditions with the area’s Muslim influences and espouses messages of peace and equality. ‘Eh Mane Ah’ is a frantic, percolating number with virtuosic electric guitar and keyboard swirls resembling 60’s psychedelia. It makes complete sense when you reflect on the fact that this type of music is associated with religious and supernatural practices; its frenzied repetitiveness is hypnotic and transcendental.
Dawn Richard – Change
Now, it’s not hard to be sceptical when someone presents you with a solo album from one of the former members of Danity Kane. Nor is it hard to be sceptical when many alternative music websites are suddenly raving about said-artist, now that they have come back with an album of independently released R&B. However, Dawn Richard’s Armour On EP is a genuinely impressive collection of songs that exploits the best things about R&B and leaves the middle of the road, mass-produced shlock out of it. ‘Change’ is a meditative love hymn that resembles something you would imagine Kanye West producing something for Rhianna ala ‘Love Lockdown’. It’s like waiting for the sun to rise over an African savannah. The song grows as impatient as Richard’s protagonist praying for change. However, at the same time she sounds entirely devoted because of her certainty that a change will come; as certain as we are about the beauty of a sunrise. (Note: No pun was intended at the time of writing linking the song to a dawn).
This article is lifted from The Nu Africa issue of Art Nouveau Magazine. Get your hands on the Nu Africa issue here!