Music: Our top 25 African hits of 2022 rule the dancefloor

By Dami Ajayi, Udochukwu Ikwuagwu
Posted on Friday, 30 December 2022 12:38

People dance by the stage of The Nest club during the Vogue Nights Jozi Ball, in Marshalltown, Johannesburg on September 24, 2022. (Photo by LUCA SOLA / AFP)

2022 has been a good year for African music, particularly for the Amapiano and Afrobeats genres reeling out hits after hits for dance halls and Tik Tok galleries. We countdown the top 25 songs from the African soundscape this year.

25. Didi B featuring JR La Mélo & TamSir: ‘En Haut’ (Côte D’Ivoire)

Ivorian rapper Didi B’s ‘En Haut’ blends trap, coupé-décalé, and call-and-response. With tempered vocals from JR, Didi B reels off braggadocio lyrics targeting his perceived foes. ‘En Haut’ employs the masterstroke of praise-singing associated with coupé-décalé for a solid party-starter effect at shindigs and clubs.

24. Highlyy featuring Tion Wayne: ‘Soldier’ (Congo/Diaspora)

Soldier’ entered public life as a TikTok tease. Sensational soul singing, communicating unease and zest with equal intensity, the 18-year-old Essex native Highlyy repurposes BNXN fka Buju’s lyrics on Reminisce’s ‘Hustle’ for her debut, ‘Soldier’. Grime artist Tion Wayne secures the song’s street credibility with hard bars depicting the disquiet of UK street life while coasting over JRocs’ production.

23. Jay Melody: ‘Sugar’ (Tanzania) 

Tanzanian singer Jay Melody lends his tenor and occasional falsetto to this dancehall tune inflected with East African rhythms. It is about love as much as it is about dance—but ultimately it gestures towards longing, the food metaphor of choice is a familiar one, sugar, without which life cannot be sustained.

22. Bien: ‘Inauma’ (Kenya)

Sauti Sol member Bien’s consolatory tune Inauma highlights majestic guitar rhythms patterned after those soulful East African tunes sitting somewhere between love song and dancehall.

His vocal delivery segues into the alchemy, little wonder this tune released in the final quarter of the year has gained quite a massive following.

21. Oxlade: ‘Ku Lo Sa’ (Nigeria) 

The conceit of Oxlade’s falsetto-laden smash hit goes beyond the iconic acrylic green set of his Colors studio performance, it is the indigenisation of that English word “closer” to Yoruba. It is linguistically subversive in its irony, without shedding any shine from Oxlade’s vocal accomplishment.

20. Pheelz and BNXN (fka Buju): ‘Finesse’ (Nigeria)

Finesse is such a fine word for what it stands for: the craft of being an impostor, navigating spaces alien to one’s upbringing and social status, with an aspirational end goal in sight.

Add the gift of garb to a dream and a dime and you will find the operational manual veteran producer-turned-singer Pheelz valorises with fine vocal ad libs assists from BNXN.

19. Wegz & Ash: ‘Amira’ (Egypt) 

For the electropop single ‘Amira’, Egyptian trap rapper, Wegz, and Middle Eastern-infused deep house producer, Ash, teamed up.

Amira’, a love story, might sharply contrast with Wegz’s hard-hitting, tough persona exhibited on records like ‘TNT’ and ‘Dorak Gai’ that garnered him notoriety.

18. Grâce Lokwa featuring Moses Bliss & Prinx Emmanuel: ‘Kumama Papa’ (Congo) 

When Maajabu Talent Show contestant, Grace Lokwa, posted a 31-second clip on TikTok in late January, he didn’t anticipate stardom.

Within weeks of release, the video titled “Kisi Y’a Soni” (not to be confused with the opening track on his debut album) garnered millions of views on the platform and affiliate websites, with tens of covers.

For the official release, he features Nigerian gospel artists, Moses Bliss and Prinx Emmanuel.

17. Asake: ‘Terminator’ (Nigeria)

On ‘Terminator‘, Asake employs a multisyllabic flow to deliver the double meanings and layered witticisms.

Understanding his witty poetry behooves the listener to deconstruct his first verse: Come make we talk, I no be killer-killer, hire-hire (hire-hire)/This your loving get meaning for my body oh.

Asake’s love story, adopting lingo from South-Western Nigeria’s spiritualist movement, proves the hypothesis that the enthralling features of the human body (read: female body) present a channel to the divine.

16. Deep London & Boohle: ‘Hamba Wena’ (South Africa)

Duets are standard fare in making Amapiano hits and “Hamba Wena” hardly varies that formula.

It is automated drums and sizzling synth, slowed down for that effective African rhythmic spread; little wonder it comes with its own dance.

Imagine you are in any nightclub anywhere in the world, what is said hardly matters.

15. Musa Keys & Loui: ‘Selema (Po Po)’ (South Africa/Tanzania) 

Giyani-born producer Musa Keys’ ambition with ‘Selema’ may have been political, perhaps a tool to unify the SADC-member countries’ influence in the global music industry. The result is a smash hit.

14. Kizz Daniel & Tekno: ‘Buga (Lo Lo Lo)’ (Nigeria)

Kizz Daniel often credits himself as having no bad songs. This boastful assumption was a little too early for his credentials and understandably frowned upon.

But in retrospect, his assertion may have been modest. In 2022, he started the first quarter with the hot embers from his late 2021 release, Barnabas EP, smashed the middle of the year with his dance-crazed boastful tune, ‘Buga‘ and finished it off with his latest, ‘Cough’.

13. Nadia Mukami featuring Latinoh: ‘Zawadi’ (Kenya) 

Barely a month after the birth of her son with partner and fellow Kenyan artist, Arrow Bwoy, Nadia Mukami released her sophomore project, Bundle of Joy.

The self-styled African popstar’s transition to motherhood was not a smooth one as she battled miscarriage, depression, self-doubt, career halt and uncertainty.

She tells her story on her Bundle of Joy EP, starting off with the paean for her son, aptly titled gift in Swahili. Piano-led ‘Zawadi’ features labelmate, Latinoh, who lends his tenor to the beautiful ditty.

12. Ahmed Saad: ‘Wasa3 Wasa3’ (Egypt)

The 41-year-old multi-hyphenate Egyptian pop and Shaabi singer is a breakout international star consolidating his popularity in the Arab world with worldwide recognition.

His percussive patriotic anthem ‘Wasa3 Wasa3’ not only serves as an original soundtrack of the Egyptian television series, The Choice 2: Men of Shadow, it is an ear candy combining prospects of nationhood and healing with a feel-good sound, and it works.

11. Calema & Zé Felipe: ‘Onde Anda’ (São Tomé and Príncipe/Diaspora)

São Tomé and Príncipe-born duo Calema’s foray into music has seen their sound transverse the Lusophone world.

On ‘Onde Anda’, the now Portuguese-based singers expand their sonic palette with the infusion of sertanejo into their well-known pop music.

Joined by Brazilian heartthrob, Zé Felipe, they recall a night of stolen kisses, one-night stands, long-distance relationships, regrets, and a baby.

Although they lament the lost love complicated by distance, they pause to reminisce on the good of love across borders.

10. Daliwonga featuring Mellow & Sleazy, M.J: ‘Abo Mvelo’ (South Africa)

Daliwonga’s ‘Abo Mvelo’, like most successful Amapiano tunes, thrives on the irresistible groove of sizzling maracas and well-paced relentless drumming.

The verses slather effusively on the edgy rhythms produced by Mellow and Sleazy as if to instigate dance or channel black rage into sublimation.

9. Rema: ‘Calm Down’ (Nigeria)

Rema’s ‘Calm Down’ is a study of the fine art of seduction over melodies.

On the rather mellow record, Rema invites producer, Andre Vibez, as wingman on his quest for love.

Although love isn’t the sole pursuit of this baby-faced singer fearing heartbreak, he admits to its dulcifying effect.

8. Black Sherif: ‘Kwaku the Traveller’ (Ghana) 

Kwaku the Traveller’ is one of those life-changing songs, for both singer and listener.

It belongs in the firmament of songs that reimagines genre, in this instance, it is UK Drill travelled back in time to Ghana for some lessons in the griot tradition, so that it can fully carry the weight of Black Sherif’s experiences which adds just the right amount of grit and assuredness to the subgenre.

7. Zuchu: ‘Mwambieni’ (Tanzania)

Fast-rising Tanzanian pop star Zuchu offers a smooth low-tempo tune for the dance floor, something uniquely East African in its instrumentation and a honeyed vocal performance in Kiswahili with a call and response to boot.

Recently certified with five million followers by social media behemoth Instagram, 2022 is a good year for this chanteuse on almost every count.

6. 9umba, Toss & Mdoovar featuring Sir Trill, Sino Msolo, Lady Du, Young Stunna & Slade: ‘uMlando’ (South Africa)

The ensemble responsible for this early 2022 release TikTok viral sensation hardly imagined its ceiling-shattering success, but in these days of intensely percussive Amapiano and warm bass lines, anything from Soweto can set the world alight, especially if garnished with a charismatic dance.

5. Camidoh featuring Mayorkun, King Promise & Darkoo: ‘Sugarcane (Remix)’ (Ghana)

‘Midoh’s ‘Sugarcane‘ conveys romantic overtures to an aloof love interest.

Its potency is the ease with which the Ghanaian singer’s words translate from lyrics to rhythmic body movements.

If the intention of the original was subtle, in its blend of Ghanaian-Nigerian references, the remix exposes romance beyond words, innuendoes and borders.

4. Asake featuring Burna Boy: ‘Sungba (Remix)’ (Nigeria)

2022 has been a meteoric rise for Nigerian Fujipiano star Asake whose four-track self-titled EP features the street hop anthem, ‘Sungba’.

An amazing guest verse by Burna Boy transformed this tune from a regular Lagos party fare into international recognition for Asake, who may be the fastest-rising male superstar Afrobeats ever produced.

3. Costa Titch featuring C’Buda M, Alfa Kat, Banaba Des, Sdida & Man T:  ‘Big Flexa’ (South Africa)

Costa Titch’s influence on amapiano has been certified with ‘Big Flexa’ as the most viewed amapiano video on YouTube. ‘Big Flexa’, built on persuasive percussion, with interjections of whistles and swoons, and celebratory lyrics rapped in borrowed S’pitori accent, is a delight.

2. Farid: ‘Be’amart Meen’ (بأمارة مين) (Egypt)

Farid’s ‘Be’amart Meen‘ is one of the finest and most well-composed songs of the year.

With lyrics by Mostafa Nasser, composition from Tiam Ali, Tiam Tariq, Mostafa El-Attar and Mohamed Maghrabi, and vocals sung in Arabic by Ahmed Farid, the song works a soothing falsetto oscillating between human trepidation and divine interference.

1. Burna Boy: ‘Last Last’ (Nigeria)

Musicians mine heartbreaks to sell records, but when pop stars do, we get a dance.

When Nigerian Afrobeats star Burna Boy released his most intricate and emotive album yet, Love, Damini, its musical direction, and theme of vulnerability were anchored on the Toni-Braxton-sampled ‘Last Last’.

Although Burna Boy’s masculinity was not in question, ditto for his vulnerability, ‘Last Last‘ shines a light on his current state of mind.

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