It’s a first in Nigerian history: in 2021, Essence, produced by the compelling Afrobeats star Wizkid produced as a duet with the singer Tems, was certified “Platinum” by the prestigious Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In the U.S., where the organisation is based, the track has sold more than a million copies, including downloads and record sales. On YouTube – the preferred channel for online music listening on the continent, despite the arrival of streaming applications – the track has no less than 60 million views.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: the numbers prove it, the Covid-19 pandemic has not dented the vitality of the African music scene, which seems never to have been better. And the emergence of new ways to access music has partly benefited African artists, like Nigerian Ckay, whose track Love Nwantiti, which was released in 2021, has had an incredible renaissance on TikTok. As of 2021, the track has been featured in over 3 million videos on the Chinese platform.
Fashionable afrobeats and faithful Oriental/Arabic Pop
In West Africa, it is Afrobeat artists that have the most followers. Wizkid, JoeBoy, Gyakie, Olamide… The Nigerian and Ghanaian stars of this musical movement, born in Lagos in the 2000s and mixing electronic sounds with pop melodies, whose clips regularly exceed 20 million views on YouTube, are no longer in the limelight.
In North Africa, it is Eastern pop singers such as Morocco’s Saad Lamjarred or Egypt’s Hamza Namira, whose tracks systematically break audience records as soon as they are posted online, sometimes reaching 200 million views.
And everywhere, rap proves its popularity, from classic forms to the numerous reinventions of the style; from the Ghanaian drill of Yaw Tag to the rap mixed with coupé-décalé of the Ivorian Fior 2 Bior.
And, perhaps above all else, 2021 was the year that amapiano exploded. Recently confined to South African underground parties, where it was born a decade ago in the townships of Durban and Johannesburg, the style is now being exported to the international scene. Led by a handful of leading figures, such as DJ Maphorisa and singer Kamo Mphela, this slow-tempo deephouse derivative has now been adopted by some of the biggest names in Afrobeats – the undisputed emperors of the African contemporary music scene, Davido, for example, has teamed up with South Africa’s Focalistic for Ke Star, a track released in February, and Wizkid – again – has promised his fans that he will be releasing more amapiano tracks soon.
In this overflowing and inventive music scene, which stars have been listened to most? While Nigeria remains, without question, the most vibrant musical melting pot on the continent, where have artists managed to export themselves? Check out our hits of 2021 infographics to find out!
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