Jan 15, 2021
In recent years, we have seen a rise in African influence within the global cultural conversation. In the vast realm of music specifically, it is imperative to note the reign that African popular music has enjoyed within the sphere of culture. From such a juggernaut co-sign as Drake including Nigerian artist Wizkid on his song “One Dance”, to the most Shazamed song in the world being Jerusalema by South African artist Master KG featuring Singer Nomcebo, with the worldwide dance sensation to accompany it, it is undeniable that the African sound is in high-demand worldwide.
Through the lens of social media, the rise in the worldwide notoriety of African pop music may appear instantaneous; however, the climb has been a gradual one. One of the originating genres, Afrobeat became popularized across Africa between the late 1960s and early 1970s. The popularity was based on artists from West Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo gaining reference and influence from Jazz and Funk music. Their ability to combine these infectious sounds and create a unique blend that incorporates local languages and rhythmic familiarity allowed for early supporters of the music to feel heard and represented in these new liberties in post-colonial Africa. This growing appreciation allowed for global attention to be turned towards genres predating Afrobeat such as, Ghanaian Highlife, Congolese Ndombolo, and East African Chakacha.
As the African diaspora spread and the world demanded more of these sounds, artists such as Fela Kuti used this momentum to introduce Afrobeat to artists in the USA , Europe, and beyond. Fast forward to the early 2000s, as social media created a free-for-all platform: young people began to sample the formative melodies and rhythms from Afrobeat with popular Hip-hop, R&B and House beats to create a new blend that we find today called Afrobeats (not to be confused with Afrobeat—no s), which can also be referred to as Afro-pop or Afro-fusion. This synergy has created a strong connection between the diaspora and locals which has given global admiration to artists such as Grammy-nominated Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, and Mr. Eazi. The global appreciation is reciprocated, an example being when Burna Boy’s mother accepted his BET Award win on his behalf, giving a sincere and unapologetic speech dedicated to his diasporic fanbase, admonishing them to “please remember that you were Africans before you were anything else”, a statement which was received by the audience with a standing ovation.
This alignment has allowed for our modern and progressive society to now demand more authentic African representation in all facets of culture, fashion, and music working in tandem. It is quite a empowering moment when visuals for musicians correlate with their heritage, such as Nigerian Afrobeats artist Runtown creating a fictitious lookbook for his ‘Mad Over You’ music video (for which he partnered with stylist and designer Ifeanyi Nwune to showcase local artisans and prints), Tiwa Savage’s recent spread in The New York Times where she is featured wearing a Kenneth Ize Suit, and Sho Madjozi wearing her traditional Tsonga attire with Nike Airmax sneakers and bright athleisure staples.
From these examples, it is quite easy to draw parallels between the admiration for both the latest fashion and music coming out of the continent. Here is a curated list of new musical releases from some of Africa's notable artists across a variety of regions, paired with looks inspired by the mood each song expresses.
Mood: NEW BEGINNINGS
play: Woza by Sha Sha
Photo: Still from the "Woza" music video by Sha Sha.
Zimbabwean Artist Sha Sha, known for her soulful melodies, lives up to her reputation with her single ‘Woza’ which combines Shona (Zimbabwe’s native language) on South African ‘Amapiano’ beat, a rising genre within the continent, redolent of house and electronic music. As we enter a new year, play this song as motivation to start each day and choose to rise above what may come.
Diarrablu’s White Umy Jumpsuit and let your look serve as a metaphorical clean slate, then finish things off with Loza Maléombho’s Thila Heel, and Tongoro’s Green Fitini Bag.
Shop the mood
mood: Head Over Heels (In Love)
Play: Catch A Vibe by Karun
Photo: Still from the "Catch a Vibe" music video by Karun.
R&B can pull on the heartstrings of just anyone. It has been beautiful to see the rise of singers from East Africa take the genre to new places within the continent. So whether it is a love for self or loved to be shared, feel the love in the song “Catch A Vibe” by Kenyan vocalist Karun.
Pair with Taibo Bacar’s Mandevo Street Pajama, Okapi’s Stonewash Aja Clutch, and Patrick Mavros’ Ndoro Graduated Earrings for a romantic look that’s in tune with Karun’s loved-up lyrics.
shop the mood
mood: Everyday’s a Holiday
Play: Jamani by sho Madjozi
Photo: Album art for "Jamani" by Sho Madjozi.
Sho Madjozi is one of South Africa's most versatile artists, with her ability to rap and sing in Xitsonga, Kiswahili, and English serving as a top attraction to her music. Her song Jamani sees her delivering vocals in Kiswahili over Amapiano beat: a combination that is quite different for her, but allows for her high-energy to be felt in a fresh way. Jamani is just the song to get you hyped up on your next road trip or adventure (even if that’s just a drive to the grocery store).
Andrea Iyamah’s Takwa Dress, Shekudo’s Tinubu Slides, AAKS’ Tia Ruffle Bag, and Pichulik’s Bossa Nova Earring for a holiday-ready, resort wear-inspired look.
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mood: Life of the Party
Play: Koroba by Tiwa Savage
Photo: Album art for "Koroba" by Tiwa Savage.
Tiwa Savage's latest album 'Celia' was such a stellar release last year. The single ‘Koroba’ was popularized due to a social media challenge created around the song, which allowed users to share screen with Tiwa and showcase their moves. With a catchy chorus and danceable beat, this song will get everyone dancing, whether virtually or socially distanced.
Emmy Kasbit’s lilac-hued Ojongo Suit Set, Sidai Designs’ Kifungo Short Tassel Earring, and Loza Maléombho’s White Fah Regal Sandal, and you’ve got an ensemble that’ll turn heads, and render you Queen of the dancefloor.
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mood: Easy Does It
Play: Blessed by Juls featuring Miraa May & Done'o
Photo: Album art for "Blessed" by Juls featuring Miraa May & Done'o.
Ghanaian-British producer and DJ Juls is known for his ability to create sonic yet minimalist Afro-pop sound, released this new track, giving listeners a moment to pause and relax. As we set intentions and change work-out plans in this new month, this song is perfect for those cool-down sessions or played during a yoga class.
Laidback pieces that allow for easy movement like IAMISIGO’s Patched Front T-Shirt and Kahindo’s Colorblock trouser, then add Reform Studio’s sporty Rebel Tote Bag, and an on-trend, chunky sneaker.
Shop the mood