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10 Artists Changing the African Music Industry in 2023

One of the most diverse continents on the planet, Africa consists of 11.7 million square miles of sprawling forests, savannahs, deserts, wetlands, and cityscapes. Even more remarkable than its natural beauty is its rich myriad of musical and cultural perspectives. Traditional regional genres have given rise to captivating new sounds that blend the classic and contemporary. Cross-cultural diffusion creates new, distinct milieus of music, all of which express a unique lived experience.

African artistry, both traditional and new, continues to have a profound impact on the larger global music industry. This influence appears in obvious and discreet ways, showing up sometimes as entire genres and, in other instances, as individual rhythms. Visionary musicians from Tunisia to South Africa are developing inventive creative identities, the likes of which have yet to be echoed around the world. There are many more than ten artists pioneering the next wave of musical trends; the following article provides a jumping-off point for readers to immerse themselves in the ever-evolving African music industry.



Ghana's M.anifest, also known as Kwame Ametepee Tsikata, puts a fresh spin on hip-hop through witty lyricism and flows in English, Twi, and Pidgin. Combining influences in rap, reggae, and other hometown (Madina) sounds, M.anifest pulls attention from fans across Africa, Europe, and the United States to Ghana's rich music scene.

The artist released Madina to the Universe: The E.P.Ilogue in late 2022 as a continuation of his acclaimed 2021 album Madina to the Universe. The EP picks up right where the original project leaves off, closing out M.anifest's spirited sonic odyssey and taking fans home to Madina, Ghana. Opening track "GPS" navigates listeners straight into the rapper's fandom, with an earworm vocal hook, hypnotic synths, and strong bass lines establishing a unique energy.

M.anifest's collaboration with Kenyan artists Blinky Bill and Khaligraph Jones on "Inazewa Haiwezi" might just be one of the most underrated hip-hop drops of 2022. The title roughly translates to "it can and it can't", and the lyrical proves that the power trio most certainly can. In this Kenyan-Ghanaian masterpiece a la Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE", the group boldly puts their talents on display.

“Ishaweza, Ishakua, mi hucheza, mi sichezi, mi hufanya vitu kali daily, niko league moja”

Lines in English and Swahili, such as the one above, which means "Ishasheta, Ishakua, I play, I don't play, I do strong things daily, I'm in the same league" in English, showcase a confidence in artistry and a hunger to create that will never be shaken. Each verse highlights the individual strengths of the three performers. Innovative instrumentals pack a punch and set the song apart from other recent rap releases. East and West coalesce in "Inaweza Haiwezi" to unite not only the corners of Africa but also the continent with the world at large.



Zimbabwe-born and London-raised, KWAYE incorporates his training with viola, saxophone, and guitar, as well as his eclectic musical tastes in his individualistic, genre-defying sound. Funk, pop, and neo-soul spiced with Zimbabwean heritage manifests itself into the music of today and tomorrow. There's no question that KWAYE is building the discography of the future.

2017 single "Lost In My Boots" brings groovy bass lines, angelic layered vocals, and and stirring lyricism together in the ultimate soul-pop power ballad. The track opens with a single guitar and grows into a dynamic, sophisticated instrumental arrangement. Lush background vocal harmonies highlight key moments in the song and lift lead vocal improvisations and falsettos above the mix. The performer's impressive range is on full display in this tune. KWAYE may be lost in his boots, but he's certainly found his way into the hearts and playlists of fans across Australia, France, England, America, Zimbabwe, and the Netherlands.



Pongo is the rapidly rising queen of kuduro music. At eight years old, the artist left Angola with her family, hoping to escape the civil unrest brewing there. The family settled in Portugal, where they shared a single room in a hostel for a year. When they moved to a predominantly white neighborhood of Northern Lisbon, Pongo faced discrimination from her classmates in school. A controlling father further isolated her and her siblings, denying them social lives and opportunities to meet other children in the area.

An attempt to jump from a seventh-story window at age 12 sent Pongo to a physiotherapist across town with a broken leg. The train took her to a station in Queluz, a diverse neighborhood teeming with different cultures and outlooks. It was during one of these visits that Pongo first watched Denon Squad, a kuduro dance group, performing outside. As soon as she recovered from her leg injury, she joined the group, first as a dancer and later rapping.

With her fresh take on the kuduro genre, which mixes hip-hop, EDM, dancehall, bass music, and melodic pop, Pongo is shaking the music industry to its core. High energy track "UWA" is a prime example of the multitude of influences at play in the star's work. The vivacious song reminds listeners just how exciting it is to be alive, with an imaginative instrumentation mixing traditional African sounds and electronic elements. "UWA"'s vivacious dance beat suits joyful steelpan and synth tracks perfectly. The tune feels like an epic beach party year-round; it's impossible not to fall in love with it–and Pongo.


Sampa the Great

Zambia-born Botswana-raised rapper Sampa the Great embodies the intersection of classic hip-hop and traditional South African sounds. Each song is an addictive musical exploration of self-expression. Her appearances at music festivals such as Coachella and Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival marked the first ever performances by a Zambian artist at many significant venues and events. Having lived and toured across Australia, Europe, Africa, and the US, Sampa spreads her love of music and her cultural influences to all corners of the Earth.

The trailblazing nature of Sampa's work extends beyond live shows into her songwriting, arrangements, and flow. Collaborators in various rap niches such as Denzel Curry, Joey BadA$$, and Mwanjé have contributed to innovative rap tracks in the Sampa the Great discography. 2019's debut album The Return received widespread acclaim, winning awards across the globe. The album saw creative partnerships with talents in numerous genres, including jazz, hip-hop, pop, and R&B.

Single "Final Form" on the same album accumulated accolades ranging from an ARIA Award for Best Hip Hop Release to the coveted Australian Music Prize. The song embodies badass, hype-up energy; it truly feels like the perfect walk-up song for life. Stacked horns and synths give "Final Form" an anthemic energy, with dynamic choral background vocal sections interwoven into the groove. Sampa embraces her African roots while inspiring listeners to tap into their own power with this confidence-boosting bop.



Born in Nigeria and based in London, Obongjayar, also known as Steven Umoh, fuses afrobeats with ultramodern hip-hop and electronic genres. Umoh released the first Obongjayar titles during the mid-2010s, with five song EP Home catching listeners' attention in 2016. The 2017 Bassey EP fueled Umoh's success. The artist began actively performing and collaborating with other rising talents, supporting King Krule on tour dates and featuring on a number of Danny Brown tracks. Other notable partnerships include Pa Salieu, Jeshi, and Little Simz.

2021 brought EP Sweetness, a collaboration with Nigerian producer Sarz. Although all four tracks contribute to the overall listening experience, single "Gone Girl" stands out as a discography highlight for Umoh. The Obongjayar sound has grown and evolved over the years, and this tune perfectly epitomizes the visionary's genre-defying nature. Umoh's signature soulful vocals hover above a beat that is simultaneously groovy and electronic.

"Baby, lately when I hold you, you're missing / I wish you were here"

Bittersweet lyrical content juxtaposed with a catchy dance beat strikes with an unexpected power. At first listen, "Gone Girl" may seem like a light dance track, but it actually addresses the more hard-hitting topic of a relationship in which one person has become distant or emotionally absent. Umoh's vulnerability comes through most in the hook, a sing-along melody with "zombie" repeated.



Yarden, born Okereke Blessed Jordan, is an ear-catching new musical voice from Lagos, Nigeria. Best described in the artist's own words, the Yarden sound embodies the duality and dynamism of a "split personality." Dark, serious elements contrast with mellow, breezy grooves in this vintage classic-inspired pop.

"Wetin" encapsulates Yarden's essence as a performer and storyteller. Mellow pop structures with a fresh, individualistic spark leave a lasting impression on the listener. Short but sweet, the track is one minute and 18 seconds of sheer euphoria. Romantic lyricism and vocal melodies paired with delicate guitar arpeggios and reverb effects make for an ideal musical interlude. "Wetin" feels like a fleeting vacation from everyday stress and anxieties. Gentle, floating backing vocals accentuate the effect of the song as a peaceful oasis for reflection.



Hailing from Congo and Paris, respectively, Faty Sy Savanet and Nicholas Dacunha form the musical duo Tshegue. Of all the projects in the article, this one may just be the most difficult to define sonically. The name Tshegue, which is also the moniker given to little boys in the streets of Savanet's birthplace (Kinshasa), captures both the youthful energy and the seriousness of the group's music. Sometimes described as afro-punk or alternative and other times called electro-trance, Tshegue is as fluid as an ocean–and just as powerful.

"When You Walk", track three on Tshegue's 2017 EP Survivor, flirts with self-confidence and a sprinkle of evil, all with an alternative afro-punk flair. Musically, the song differs in many ways from Le Tigre's "Deceptacon" , but the two tunes share the same unapologetic, carefree energy. Uptempo drums and a strong belted vocal performance characterize "When You Walk". An earworm guitar motif brings classic punk grit and attitude into the mix. Tshegue inspires fans to walk to the beat of their own drum, and to do so with conviction, a sentiment mirrored in the track's lyrical content and bold instrumentation.


Ayra Starr

With a name like Ayra Starr, it seems that success was written in the cosmos for this Gen Z afrosoul icon. Born in the Benin Republic and raised between Cotonou and Lagos, Nigeria, Starr has developed a unique musical self-identity. With influences ranging from classic Yoruba and Beninese artists (like 2Face and Wande Coal) to pop and fashion icons à la Rihanna, the musician resonates with an entire generation of young women and girls across the globe.

2023 collaboration with Tiwa Savage and Young John "Stamina" is one of the singles of 2023. Falling in love has never been so chic; rich, sultry melodies and seductive lyricism give the song a must-listen quality. "Stamina" is, in a word, sexy.

"I'll make your fire ignite / until you see the sunlight / S'oti mu ra, Sugar?"

The three artists' voices and musical styles are the afrosoul holy trinity, with angelic harmonies highlighting important phrases. A laid-back, percussive groove provides a steady pocket. The song's emotional build comes to a head in the final tag, when a high-octave violin joins the arrangement.


Baaba J

Jemima Baaba Haywood-Dadzie (Baaba J) grew up in Tema, Ghana. Her music, which incorporates elements of indigenous high life, rap, soul, and pop, is inspired by her childhood and experience as a woman. Baaba J draws on her mother's gospel music, Samini, Asa, Beyoncé, and a plethora of other artists to curate her own uplifting sound. She performs in Pidgin, English, and Ga, celebrating her roots with a poetic marriage of the three languages. The artist's mission is to prove to listeners that "they can be unconventional and still achieve their goals," as well as amplifying the dynamic creative voices of women in Africa.

One of the most high-energy tracks on Baaba J's latest album, Okay Baby, Let's Do This, "OLE" incorporates electric guitars and full drum sounds into the signature Baaba J sound. While heavier than the majority of her other songs, the track maintains an optimistic, inspirational tone. Unspoken love and proud individuality come hand in hand through the lyrics of this uplifting single. In a stand-out melody roughly halfway through the song (1:20), Baaba J delivers a fresh burst of passion followed by a slightly more broken-down section. Distinct dynamic jumps and drops are just one part of what makes "OLE" so great.


Rhys Davids

With just three singles out to date, Cape Town, South Africa's Rhys Davids is a promising pop newcomer. The singer-songwriter and producer's sound can be likened to that of Jeremy Zucker or Messer. Melancholic, semi-minimalist soundscapes ensnare listeners into Davids' immersive and entrancing world. If his existing discography is any indication, we're looking forward to great things from the latest breakout talent of this decade.

"Dream" feels like just that: a dream. Gently twinkling synths and airy guitar swells whisk the listener away to a surreal sonic space. Silky vocal melodies bolstered by ultra-satisfying backing vocals lead fans through an imaginative adventure. Davids' production is the definition of nuanced. "Dream" is the perfect song for night drives and romanticizing the little things in life. Simultaneously calming and haunting, the tune leaves countless new details to be discovered and enjoyed with every listen.


Listen to the full Spotify playlist for this article here. What do you want to see covered on Enharmonic Magazine next? Let us know.


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