Afro Jams of the Week: June 24, 2022

Leonel's Afro Jams of the Week returns featuring some Ethiopian Oromo pop magic, Cameroonian afro-salsa fusion, and more.
By    June 25, 2022

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African music never sleeps, and neither does Leonel.

Daangaa H Qanani – “Shillimii”

From Ethiopia: When I first discovered Ethiopian Oromo music, I was instantly fascinated about how they are able to create such lush, complex melodies that convey a deep range of emotions by just sticking to the Tizita and Bati pentatonics — here it’s a 2nd Tizita, or ‘Oromo Tizita’. In the case of “Shillimii”, the dual phrasing of brass and flute takes you places while Qanani’s incredible melisma fills your ears with absolute joy. It is sheer aural bliss.

Dajiya Hassan – “Dacar Qadhaadh”

From Somalia: Still in the Horn of Africa, this Dajiya Hassan piece is interesting in another way; those are 5-line, 10-bar verses that intercalate with regular 8-bar and 6-bar measures. But this cool structure wouldn’t result in something as compelling if it wasn’t for Dajiya’s ultra-warm, effortlessly expressive voice and that swinging beat.

Yama Sega – “Ça irá”

From Guinea: What a great use of the ‘less is more’ approach. This tune only needs a subtle rhythm box playing around the soukous metric, a balafon going up and down the scale, a couple guitar accents here and there, and Yama Sega’s unmistakable croon. And check out that balafon playing the Fela Afrobeat clave in the hook.

Rinyu – “Na Mala”

From Cameroon: Rinyu is still on her victory lap from the success of the iconic Black Girl Magic album — arguably the best African record of 2021 — and we finally got a video for her single ‘Na Mala’. This tune is one of the record’s standouts; it’s basically her doing a makossa/salsa/rumba fusion. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Wally B. Seck – “Wave Paiement Marchand”

From Senegal: Seck is Senegal’s biggest artist of the last 10 years, and he proves it with every release. His uncanny talent for crafting catchy melodies is so natural to him, it feels like he doesn’t try anymore. The production sounds strangely breezy and Mediterranean — an evidence that he’s looking at France almost as much as he does the Motherland.

Ko-C x Innoss’B – “Quand J’aurai L’argent”

From Cameroon/RD Congo: It’s so fun when collaborations actually bring the best in both artists, even sonically — it is an afro house tune with ndombolo bounce, illustrating the communion of their styles and sensibilities.

Benzema x Jimito Baaba x Kushman – “Potential”

From Kenya: Last time we listened to Benzema, we were marveled by the smooth and sensual “Kasoro”, but the guy’s semi-whispered tone is still much better when paired with loud, dirty Gengetone. And he even brings over two masters of the form, whose verses turn up the nasty factor.

Femi One x Mbithi x King Kaka – “Hepi”

From Kenya: Femi is an unstoppable force destroying every beat she encounters, and this flute-laden genge is no exception, but Mbithi and King Kaka both match her fierceness and determination. Party-starting music par excellence.

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