Afro Jams of the Week: February 1, 2023

Leonel's Afro Jams of the Week returns featuring sinister rap from Côte d'Ivoire, sultry Afropop from Rwanda and sexy sax from Equatorial Guinea.
By    February 1, 2023

Alyn Sano/Instagram

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African music never sleeps, and neither does Leonel.

Vanilla Karr – “Carikaturha”

From Equatorial Guinea: The small nation of Equatorial Guinea stands out for being the only one in Africa that speaks Spanish, but curiously, its music scene, although it has echoes of latinidad, tends to take more sonic references from its French-speaking neighbors or from Lusophone Africa. “Carikaturha” is built on a beat that’s similar to modern Cameroonian urban, but the arrangements borrow more from kizomba or zouk, especially the beautiful saxophone runs that adorn the song. Vanilla Karr’s voice and lyrics give us an outburst of tenderness and infatuation that make the entire result a sweet experience in the ear. And yes, the song is about another woman, which may explain such an intriguing vibe.

Libianca – “People (Check on Me)”

From Cameroon: With a touch of American R&B, an African gospel chorus, and lush textures via kalimba-synths, Libianca’s vibrant, earthy voice rises to a tale of depression and the self-destructive drive, with one of the most honest choruses I’ve ever heard recently: “I’ve been drinking more alcohol for the past five days, did you check on me?” It’s just chill-inducing.

Alyn Sano – “Boo and Bae”

From Rwanda: I love how the arrangements kick in at the beginning of the song, like bubbles bursting at Alyn Sano’s voice, but what stands out the most are the basslines, which decorate the song with great expressiveness, and complement one of the catchiest choruses ever by the Rwandan star.

Black K – “Hum Hum”

From Côte D’Ivoire: Cavernous, provocative and seductively sinister, this Black K track is remarkable from its mammoth distorted bass entrance, but it’s its glacial pace and the demonic effect of Black K’s vocals that make it one of the hottest tracks of the year so far in African rap; 100 seconds of dark fire.

Bakarin Flow – “Nani Boy”

From Mali: It’s rare to find amapiano beats in places like the French-speaking Mali, and for that reason Bakarin Flow’s tune “Nani Boy” feels like a bigger accomplishment, not only for creating a solid theme within that universe, but for incorporating sounds and percussion from its region of origin in an ingenious way. That sampled wind instrument that underlines the track has a flavor that only the Islamic Sahel possesses.

Tidiane Mario – “Plat Favori”

From Congo-Brazzaville: Fun is often an undervalued element in music appreciation, but for Congolese music it is essential, and, as is the case with “Plat Favori,” fun is central to the songwriting. This is an effortlessly cool fusion of several different sounds from the Congo region, from its choice of percussion to its vibraphone synths, and Tidiane Mario’s magnetism sells it perfectly.

Kerozen x Ste Milano – “TCHÔKÔRÔBA”

From Côte D’Ivoire: Kerozen’s take on coupé décalé rhythms is always interesting, as he always tries to fuse the trap drums with more traditional percussive structures and zouglou guitars. And Milano’s guest appearance provides the right balance between modern melodies and the good old-school flow.

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