2021 should be another bumper year for African music.
We’ve taken a look at who’s innovating in terms of style and sound, as well as who is exploring new genres, to come up with our list of who to watch out for:
Elaine (South Africa)
Elaine is fast claiming her spot as one of the golden R&B voices from the continent.
In this era when many singers resort to auto tune, the 21-year-old stays true to her real voice.
She signed to US label Columbia records last August which should see her build on solid foundations.
Elaine captured fans with her authenticity and her 2019 song called You’re the One. This saw her become one of the most streamed artists in South Africa.
Her debut EP Elements was a powerful introduction showcasing her hypnotic voice, filled with memorable lyrics about love and relationships over trap-soul and R&B.
Fik Fameica (Uganda)
Fik Fameica, also known as Fresh Boy, is one of the most interesting rappers coming out of East Africa right now.
The rapper made his first appearance on the music scene in late 2017 with the single Kutama.
The 24-year-old steers away from typical mainstream Ugandan music and experiments with his sound that has been influenced by reggae.
Fik Fameica is breaking divisions and connecting with many young people through his music and has already scored collaborations with well known artists from across Africa, including Patoranking, Vanessa Mdee and Joeboy.
Gaz Mawete (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Gaz Mawete came onto the scene in 2018 with Olingi Nini, an easy, warm and melodic tune, and he rose to prominence in the world of Francophone music.
The Congolese dancer, who became known at home after taking part in talent contests, has collaborated with music royalty, including Fally Ipupa, who appeared on C’est Raté. Mawete also featured on Dadju’s album Poison ou Antidote.
Mawete has a launch pad for 2021 after being nominated last year in the Best African Act category at last year’s MTV Europe Music Awards.
Kabza De Small (South Africa)
Kabza De Small has made quite an impression since he first started releasing music in 2016.
The DJ and record producer is tagged the King of Amapiano, a genre originating in South Africa. His signature is melodic, energetic, welcoming and contagious music.
Kabza De Small has become a champion of a sound that crosses over into other African countries and is gaining acceptance across the world.
His influence can be heard in tracks recorded across the continent and that was recognised when he was nominated in MTV Europe’s Best African Act category last year.
KiDi, part of a new generation of Ghanaian artists, had his breakthrough moment when his recording Sugar won album of the year at the 2020 Ghana music awards.
The singer’s youthful Afrobeats and Highlife sound makes his music accessible to people beyond Ghana’s borders.
In 2020, KiDi’s song Say Cheese, from his Blue EP, gained the musician international prominence after American singer Teddy Riley collaborated with him on the remix.
The 27-year-old has also collaborated with other West African artists, including Davido and Mr Eazi.
Omah Lay (Nigeria)
Omah Lay caught our attention following the release of his song Bad Influence.
With his enchanting voice and well defined sound over a combination of Afrobeats, Afrofusion and soul, the fast rising artist has positioned himself as one to watch.
He is also leading the pack of new school artists from Nigeria and has worked with American singer and rapper 6lack.
Last year Omah Lay had a worrying few days after he was detained in Uganda for allegedly breaking coronavirus regulations, but a huge social media campaign for his release was testimony to his growing popularity.
Sha Sha (Zimbabwe)
Sha Sha is a gifted singer with a soulful sound, which she debuted on her 2019 EP Blossom.
The Zimbabwean born singer’s stirring voice comes on strong over Amapiano sounds, which she opts for and this sets her apart.
Sha Sha was listed as one of the top 10 most streamed female artists on Spotify in South Africa in 2020 while her single Tender Love featuring DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small was listed as one of the most streamed songs.
Last year she also won Best New International Act at the BET Awards.
Soraia Ramos (Cape Verde)
With her sweet voice, Soraia Ramos is exploring themes of love and relationships with lyrics in Portuguese and sometimes Creole.
She has given kizomba a refreshing twist, sometimes infusing it with elements of hip-hop and R&B.
The Cape Verdean singer is currently making waves with her single O Nosso Amor jointly released with Calema as well as the remix of her single Bai with Lisandro.
On YouTube her music videos for both the original version of Bai and the remix have more than 15 million views.
Commanding attention with the release of her 2019 single Try Me, Tems is a Nigerian singer-songwriter on the rise.
Renowned for her powerful voice, her music is layered over an infectious sound accentuated with elements of soul, hip-hop and R&B.
There’s a certain freedom that comes with her lyrics emphasising that the artist is in control.
With the release of her EP For Broken Ears, Tems is building a fan base that stretches beyond Nigeria and the continent.
As an upcoming artist, Zuchu’s growth has been phenomenal.
The singer performs in Swahili and English and is fond of experimenting with the Tanzanian genre Bongo Flava. Last year saw the singer releasing her debut EP I Am Zuchu and she also signed to Diamond Platnumz’ record label WCB Wasafi.
According to the BoomPlay streaming app, her EP was the most played album in Tanzania in 2020, and her music videos have gathered millions of views on You Tube.