The 10 best?... rising African pop stars

2013-10-06 14:00

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With music award season on the way Jeanette Chabalala and Refilwe Kgosimang track a new school of big-selling, boundary-breaking musicians


1 D’banj

Nigeria is way ahead of the rest of the continent in the pop race and its icon, D’banj, is going global and is also set to become one of Africa’s biggest names of all time. The 33-year-old is a complete package, his music and dance moves continue to attract more fans in Naija and across the continent. Also known as The Koko Master, D’banjnow hangs out with Jay-Z and Kanye West and is a top producer and music label boss. His track Top Of The World was a theme song for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Mafikizolo. Picture: Leon Sadiki

2 Mafikizolo

You just can’t move on the social scene without getting a blast of Khona in your ears. The track marks the real comeback of the Afro-pop band that gave the world Ndihamba Nawe but took a break to do solo projects and were then left reeling by the death of band member Tebogo Madingoane. Now, the duo – Nhlanhla Nciza and Theo Kgosinkwe – is matching their early success with Reunited, their new album. If anyone steals the MTV European Music Award from Wizkid, it will probably be Mafikizolo. The band has developed its own brand of pop that today sounds more African than South African.

2. Wizkid. Picture: Wizkid

3 Wizkid

Another impeccable pop all-rounder is Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, a.k.a. Wizkid. The 24-year-old is a hit maker on the Nigerian charts and he’s also heading for the world charts. Once again, he is up for an MTV European Music Award for Best African Act next month. The Nigerian singer-songwriter is a breath of fresh air and he’s spreading the love, unearthing new talent and collaborating with big names. He kicked off his singing career at the early age of 11 and has placed male vocals at the forefront of the new brand of African pop.

Davido. Picture: Adelson Cadete/

4 Davido

David Adedeji Adeleke, known as Davido, is a performing and recording artist and producer who co-owns HKN Music record label. Davido is getting big attention. Growing up, he travelled between the US, the UK and Nigeria. He was influenced by different cultures, but remained true to his roots and that’s evident in his music. In his brief stint in pop music, he has gained a fanbase not only in Nigeria but across the world. His first single, Back When, featuring homeboy Naeto C, was the stuff of overnight sensation. He followed it up with Dami Duro, which became a global club anthem. Davido is yet to disappoint.

PSquare. Picture: PSquare

5 P-Square

It’s more pop genius from Nigeria and more nominees for this year’s MTV European Music Awards. The identical twins – Paul and Peter Okoye – are having another big year. They signed with Akon in 2011 but began performing while at school. Their first love, though, was football, which delayed their focus on music. P-Square’s sound combines Western and African rhythms to create a fresh style that is winning fans across the continent. They’ve recently been taken to task for their excessive sampling of hits, but in the process have generated their own and are selling big each time they release.

Sarkodie. Picture: Esse Grant/Getty Images

6 Sarkodie

The rest of the world sat up and took notice of Ghanaian star Sarkodie when he won the BET Award last year for Best International Act: Africa. He was the first artist from Ghana to lift a statue at the BETs. He is known for rapping in his native language and for his distinctive style of approaching lyrics. He is a game-changer, bringing hip-hop cred to pop culture. He even has his own clothing line, Sarks Collection. He has shared stages with the likes of T-Pain, Trey Songz and Ludacris. He also featured Davido on his song Gunshot. Sarkodie is a shrewd businessman and is believed to be one of the richest musicians in Africa.

Micasa. Picture: Micasa

7 Mi Casa

Known on the continent and across the world as a leading House music band, Mi Casa – made up of Dr Duda, JSomething and Mo-T – shot to fame in 2011 with the release of Mi Casa Music. The debut album went gold and won them several awards and nominations at the SA Music Awards. The album also earned the band recognition internationally with praise

being heaped on their smooth vocal skills. Their track, These Streets, hit the top spot on all local charts. They have in the past been opening acts for international bands The Layabouts and Reel People, and Canadian recording artist Drake. Their new album Su Casa is already creating waves.

Camp Mulla. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo

8 Camp Mulla

This Kenyan “bubblegum hip-hop” act was nominated for a BET Award for Best International Act: Africa last year. Their clever use of social media has seen them amass more Twitter followers than any other Kenyan artist, a sign of the huge fanbase they’ve managed to cultivate over a short period. They are slick and shameless in merging hip-hop and R&B to please their audience – the young at heart. The older Kenyan music lovers dismiss them for being too commercial, but Camp Mulla is having the last laugh. They describe their pop as 254Low, pronounced “two five flow”, which is a play on Kenya’s dialling code +254.

Burna boy. Picture:

9 Burna Boy

The rising Nigerian star creates smooth and distinctive “patois-influenced dancehall” hits. He is the grandson of Benson Idons, who was the manager of Afro-beat legend Fela Kuti (now you know why Burna Boy likes taking his shirt off while performing). He has been climbing higher since his second hot mix tape, Burn Notice, which included the catchy anthem Abeg Abeg Abeg and the dancehall banger, Wombo Lombo Something. The recent launch of his debut album, L.I.F.E – short for Leaving an Impact For Eternity – marks his true arrival on the pop scene.

Tiwa Savage. Picture: Obi Somto/

10 Tiwa Savage

Singer-songwriter and recording artist Tiwa Savage performs both in Yoruba (a language spoken mostly in Nigeria) and English. She emerged first as a backing vocalist for George Michael and also lent her voice to Mary J Blige and Kelly Clarkson. It’s only this year, though, after entering reality singing shows and battling to get a big break, that she finally released a solo album, Once Upon a Time. Her debut single, Kele Kele Love, topped Nige-rian music charts. Her hot tones, vivacious dance moves and electric stage presence propelled her to the top of the game, and she intends staying there.

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