Kendrick Lamar. BTS. Avril Lavigne. DJ Maphorisa. Thomas Newman. These are some of the most prominent musicians of our time, scattered all around the world and respected in their own right, but, ultimately, brought together by the need to create a universal sound. Music tastes are different, but its role is the same to many of us. It is a comfort tool in turbulent time. It is a source of inspiration or a source of truth. And to others it is the only way they know of rekindling their spirituality. When creating a playlist, therefore, it is a personal process. We mix in the obvious go-to songs of artists we already know and whatever sounds familiar and we cling to them.
But the thing about music is that it is meant to be re-lived, tasted and sampled. Discovering music is great, because you grow to appreciate the genres you already listen to while also learning about others and finding similarities in drums, or instrumentals or lyrics. I have made friends through music, and it is a genuine feeling when you realise that you and a stranger are connected by a song.
So, on that note, here are 12 tracks from different artists with individual stories to share with whomever will listen. Add them to your playlist to enhance your Spotify Malaysia or Apple Music for the perfect concert experience at home. It is a careful selection of the latest tracks and the timeless pieces from Western musicians who are experimenting with Afrobeats styles, as well as African artists who have pioneered its golden age.
Afropop, which is also known as Afrobeats, combines a distinct percussion set and symphony influenced by Afro and Caribbean sound, with Western musical elements. It is currently making its global mark on every party scene, from giants like Wizkid and Burna Boy, to the newcomers Joeboy and Sha Sha taking home international music awards. And while it has been around for years it is beginning to grow in popularity among youth of different backgrounds in Malaysia.
1. Like I do – Fireboy DML
First off is Like I Do, one of the best summer love songs for the listeners who appreciate a soft liquid voice over a simple, uncomplicated symphony. It’s a great first song to ease you into Afro pop if you are new to it.
2. Sekkle down- Burna Boy ft. JHus
It’s no surprise that Burna Boy is on the list. With his several global accolades it is no wonder. Sekkle Down is a must-have if you are trying to spice up a lo-fi playlist because it includes low bases that accentuate his already subtle but recognisable tenor voice.
3. Kontrol- Maleek Berry
Maleek Berry makes fun and light music that will transport many young adults back to their high-school days, Kontrol, is an easy song to dance to. You can’t help but start to move your body when you listen to this quick and playful tune by the British- Nigerian.
4. Leg Over– Mr. Eazi
Mr. Eazi continues to produce new powerful sounds, but I often go back to the first song that put his name on the global stage. It is a short but vibey tune that dominated his 2017 album Accra to Lagos and it is easy to see why.
5. Tender Love– Sha Sha ft. DJ Maphorisa & Kabza De Small
Sha Sha is new to the international scene, but she quickly bagged the Best New International Act at the BET Awards in 2020, showing that she is an artist to notice. Tender Love is a multilingual and multi-layered song perfectly sewn together by her vocal gift and one that many will appreciate.
6. Questions– Shekhinah
One of Africa’s young gems, Shekhinah, has a thrillingly unique voice that a music lover can easily fall for. Questions is from her newest album Trouble in Paradise, a perfect young-adult angst story for deeper listeners.
7. Joro– WizKid
Joro is a much beloved track that many other celebrities have been shown to enjoy immensely in their cars, in their homes or celebrity functions. WizKid is an acclaimed Afropop king, and this track was a feel-good anthem for 2019. Two years later it is still a relevant song.
8. Feeling– Ladipoe ft. Buju
This is a track I recently stumbled upon on an Instagram story. What attracted me was the different beat that compliments any kind of mood you are going for. It is a hype song, but with a light musical arrangement.
9. Early Momo– Vector ft. Good Girl LA
A slow sultry testament to romance, the rapper Vector switches to melody to tell the story of young love. As smooth as honey, this is an Afrobeats song you cannot hate.
10. Djadja– Aya Nakamura
If you are looking for a calm, empowering track for a hard day, this is the perfect one because you will be amazed by Aya’s strong jazzy vocals. Djadja is a gem still coaxing people in, especially in French-speaking West Africa and Europe.
11. Unforgettable– French Montana ft. Swae Lee
The title says it all. Unforgettable is exactly that. French Montana pays homage to his own home nation Morocco through this love song that easily reached anthem status among many friend groups and club settings.
12. Single& Searching– Yemi Alade ft. Falz
This is another old one, but it recently made a comeback in Tik Tok comedy skits in 2020. It serves as a reminder that some music never actually grows out of style, but it redefines itself to its listeners, finding itself in places it never expects to be. Yemi Alade is a giant in the studio and a presence outside it.
This is evidently a short list that excludes so many significant artists. I implore you to try the new song you keep skipping. Music is ever-evolving and we evolve with it, and while it may be hard to introduce a new sound to your daily listening, consider it. Give the unknown artists a shot and they may surprise you. And if a song disappoints you, Afropop promises a good time to anybody who appreciates it.