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20 Emerging African Artistes Who Should Be on Your Radar

20 Emerging African Artistes Who Should Be on Your Radar

From the enticing rhythm of Afrobeat to the soul-stirring melodies of traditional folk music, these artistes are shaping the global musical landscape, bringing some freshness and excitement into the music industry.

By Hope Ibiale

Every other day, new talents break into the music scene hoping to stand out and be received by an audience with an ever-dwindling attention span. From a skilled pen game to ethereal vocals and unique production skills, these fresh acts display varying talents that aim at not just connecting with an audience, but are redefining the status quo and expanding the reach of African music far beyond its current boundaries. 

From the enticing rhythm of Afrobeat to the soul-stirring melodies of traditional folk music, these artistes are shaping the global musical landscape, bringing some freshness and excitement into the music industry. In this article, we delve into the sounds of some of Africa’s most promising rising stars, exploring the influences, inspirations, and journeys that have propelled them into the spotlight. With the year already a quarter gone, here are a few acts you should have on your radar. 

Kold AF

Kold AF - African emerging artiste - Afrocritik
Kold AF

Kold AF started pursuing music professionally in 2020 and appeared on Aristokrat Records’ Open House Vol.1 in 2022. Since then, the artiste has been on the path to musical stardom. With records like “Pisces” and her debut EP, Kollide, the artiste’s sonic inspiration has been revealed to be Dancehall, Afrobeats, and R&B. 

The artiste has a two-pack project, Kold Szn, released in December 2023 and an EP, Kollide, which both bear witness to her vocal delivery and exquisite songwriting skills. While Kold Szn introduces listeners to Kold’s style and strength, Kollide EP encapsulates the breadth of her artistic growth. The choice of features, song arrangement, level of confidence and vulnerability, and the different pockets the artiste navigates effortlessly puts Kold AF as one to watch out for. 

To make her 2024 debut, Kold AF collaborated with rising artiste, Aema, to deliver a two-pack project tagged No Pity. The titular opener, “No Pity”, is a smooth introduction to Aema and Kold AF. “Everyday (I Pray)” affirms the easy appeal of Kold AF as a performer and songwriter. Much like Bloody Civilian, Simi, Asa, and Ayra Starr, Kold AF belongs to a generation of talented female musicians who are turning everyday happenings into beautiful sonic experiences. 

Taves

Taves
Taves

If you pay close attention to the trajectory of artistes like Ayra Starr, Joeboy, Rema, Johnny Drille, Teni the Entertainer, and many others who were discovered on social media after they posted a cover to a popular song, you’d notice that they are the top of the African music industry food chain. It looks like the same narrative is playing out for Taves. Born Toluwanimi Aluko, Taves was discovered after he posted a cover of BNXN’s “For Days” on Instagram

Before he made the cover, Taves was recording on his phone and posting on Soundcloud. Even with limited resources, he recorded projects like 17, 18, and The Nest: First Day Out, all of which are proof of the artiste’s consistency. With his latest two-pack project, Bodija/Folake, Taves continues his journey of consistency while weaving tales of love and youthful exuberance into melodies. Through Taves’ discography, his smooth execution slides over upbeat and Afropop productions that elevate his range. With his relatable stories of heartbreak and love that are connected to Ibadan, the city that has been influential to Taves’ growth, the artiste is charting his path to becoming one of the next-rated artistes from Africa. 

Qing Madi

Qing Madi jpeg
Qing Madi

The Nigerian music scene never has a shortage of viral breakout stars. Since the turn of the decade, Ayra Starr, Rema, Asake, Fireboy, Joeboy, Ruger, and more stars have been introduced to the local audience and beyond. One of the newest breakouts is Qing Madi, a 17-year-old from Enugu state. As with many success stories in music nowadays, Qing Madi broke out via TikTok. A few months before Qing Madi released her debut song “See Finish”, snippets of the song were trending on TikTok and Instagram. 

Even with the fortune of a career-elevating hit song under an artiste’s belt that might end up being tagged beginner’s luck, Qing Madi is far from being a one-hit-wonder. She continued to push the envelope with her sophomore single “Why” and records like “Ole”. Shortly after, Qing Madi released her self-titled debut EP, Qing Madi. The 7-track project provided a space for the artiste to send heart-woven messages to her lover and be vulnerable. Last year, the artiste was named as an artiste to watch out for by Vevo and there’s no doubt that she’s one whose name will be on everybody’s lips. 

Tega Ethan

Tega Ethan
Tega Ethan

For anyone paying attention to the budding music scenes in Ibadan, Tega Ethan’s name doesn’t stray far from the conversation. With two EPs and a few records under his belt, while also opening shows for Johnny Driille and The Cavemen, Tega Ethan is an artiste we should keep our eyes out for. The artiste has been writing songs since he was 12 years old, but he only began to consider himself an artiste in 2017. 

Ethan’s debut EP McCarthy Street, placed him as a versatile artiste weaving stories around Ibadan, coffee, love, and heartbreak. Reiterating his sheer artistry, he delivered another heartfelt performance on his sophomore EP, Falling in Love is Like Lagos Traffic. Dive into Ethan’s social media pages and you’ll find him armed with an acoustic guitar and intimate lyrics, delivering song covers and originals that tug at the heart of his community. When asked what listeners should expect from him in the future in an interview with Bella Naija earlier this year, Ethan said, “An album that will go down as one of the greatest albums in Nigerian history”. With the sincerity in his music and the obvious versatility in his craft, he is well on his way to delivering one of the best albums in Africa. 

Baaba J

Baaba J jpg
Baaba J

Ghanaian artiste, Baaba J stands out with her music that revolves around themes of love and self-love. Commanding attention with her music that spans genres like neo-soul, Afropop, folk, and Reggae, Baaba J’s music catalogue is a big ball of versatility that secures her position on a list of emerging artistes to watch out for. 

After making her debut in 2020 with “Black or White”, she released her debut EP, Lumumba St., and followed it up with a sophomore project Okay Baby, Let’s Do This in 2023. Across both projects, the artiste explores themes that range from love to admiration, identity, and overcoming depression. One noticeable feature in Baaba J’s discography is her ability to seamlessly tell stories across different genres while she switches between expressing herself in English and Ga. With her first release of the year, “Sunshine”, it is evident that Baaba J is a promising artiste peeling a new layer of her artistry with each release. 

Tar1q

Tar1q | Afrocritik
Tar1q

Tar1q is one of many artistes who discovered their love for storytelling during childhood and decided to tell their stories through music. In his debut project, Son of the Moon, his storytelling prowess shines. From telling stories about love, heartbreak, finding purpose, mental health, and struggling to meet his family’s expectations, Tar1q weaves these stories in giddy melodies that are guaranteed to make you bop your head. His debut EP garnered him over 1 million streams across all platforms and has fixed him in Afropop conversations today. 

Last year, he resurfaced on the scene with “Pretty Like”, a song that landed on multiple media publications’ Best Songs of the Year lists. The record set the mood for his sophomore EP, All I Felt, a 4-track project that perfectly blended R&B, Soul, Pop, and Hip-Hop. Since then, Tar1q has only shared with listeners songs that have stood out. He followed his last project with the release of the Khaid-assisted record “Jigga” where both artistes merged their distinctive strengths melodiously and Khaid’s word-bending delivery for a good collaboration. This record is a statement from an artiste who has begun a good year sonically and is ready to become an even bigger star.

Phiwo

Phiwo | Afrocritik
Phiwo

South Africa’s R&B scene is always bubbling with talents. From Nanette to Elaine, Ami Faku, Shekhinah, Lloyiso, Lordkez, Sishii, Hunter Rose, and the KwaZulu-Natal-born singer Phiwo, are talented artistes revolutionising the R&B space in South Africa. Since her debut in 2021 with “Nmbrs”, Phiwo has delivered heart-tugging performances on emotive tracks. In her songs, the artiste’s airy falsetto glides over mellow beats as she sings earnestly about love and the experiences that come with romantic relationships. In Phiwo’s debut project Letters, listeners are transported to the artiste’s world where she confidently cuts off an unfaithful lover. 

Across the 5-track EP, each song is loosely tied together by soft guitar strums and soothing rhythms which gives cohesiveness to the whole project. This skill in cohesive delivery continues into her sophomore EP, Things We Feel, a project which also addresses the artiste’s raw emotions. From ruminating on post-breakup feelings in “In the Moment” to struggling to understand her place in an unrequited relationship in “ALL4U”, Phiwo gives words to feelings that listeners have difficulties identifying. With her pen, she can convey her emotions and those of her listeners. A promising act, Phiwo’s songs are sure to pull listeners into emotions they can’t name. 

Teledalase

Teledalese - Afrocritik
Teledalese

If Teledalase’s music aims to transport listeners to another dimension, then she is doing a great job. It almost feels like an out-of-body experience listening to the fiery strings and her ethereal vocals littered all over her debut project, The Ones Who Didn’t Die Pt.1, or the sonorous rendition by the artiste on the soundtrack of Kunle Afolayan’s Anikulapo: Rise of the Sceptre. As the records blend into one another, they create an undeniable transcendental listening experience across the project’s 16 tracks. 

Across Teledalase’s discography, she taps her Yoruba heritage to deliver a series of ethereal songs that hold sombre meanings. There’s a very African essence at the core of Teledalase’s music which is both enthralling and greatly entertaining. For any homebred Yoruba native/folk music fans, Teledalase’s songs should take a top spot on their playlist. The artiste oozes supreme confidence and knowledge; most songs under her belt are delivered with an infectious casualness that also emphasises her talent as a storyteller. Her music is reminiscent of soundtracks of old African folklore. You might not be able to decipher the majority of what she says, still, Teledalase’s music is a treat to the ears and food for the soul. 

DOTTi The Deity

DOTTi the Deity | Afrocritik
DOTTi the Deity

Before winning the maiden edition of the Y’ello Star music competition, Nigerian singer and songwriter,  DOTTi The Deity already built a small following with his 2019 debut song “Jolly Christmas”. Shortly after, he released his debut EP, Songs in Isolation, a concise snapshot of the artiste’s experience with love, motherly love, and the 2020 lockdown. Drawing from his musical influences, DOTTi released his sophomore project, For You Knew Me, a 6-track project that captures his ability to tell a love story that transcends from a happy relationship to a lost affair from his experience and those around him. 

The artiste’s music can be easily associated with a long line of live performing artistes like Beautiful Nubia, Asa, Lagbaja, and King Sunny Ade, who have infused live music into their recorded songs. On his sophomore project, DOTTi is more sharpened and you can hear it in his choice of instrumentals, the background vocals, and his lively vocals. Despite DOTTi’s slim discography, he continues to push his music by organising live performances across Lagos. So if you don’t hear a new DOTTi The Deity record soon, you can catch him live at any of his shows and treat yourself to good music. As he continues to build his career, it’s clear that his journey to the top is an exciting must-watch. 

Winny

Winny - Afrocritik
Winny

 

Winifred Ohili Adanu, popularly known as Winny, knows about the pressures of the music industry and the extra pressure that is mounted on new artistes, yet she holds her head high as she delivers riveting tracks that express her sense of individuality and expression. Winny began to draw the attention of music enthusiasts in 2022, but if you search deeper you’ll find song covers and her debut single “Toluwani” from 2018. 

The attention she is getting now is no surprise as her unique blend of R&B/Soul and Reggae makes her music interesting to listen to. Her Dancehall-esque patois delivery on her debut EP, Winny placed her on most lists of artistes to watch out for. While the Benue state indigene is still new to the music scene, her artistry, eye-catching music videos, and unique fashion style aren’t hard to miss. The singer has concocted a sound that bridges a myriad of genres, offering an undeniably raw and expressive musical landscape in her music. With clever songwriting and a powerful voice, Winny is earmarking herself as one of the most exciting acts today. 

Kaestyle

Kaestyle Lyrics, Biography and Albums | AfrikaLyrics

Kelvin Ibinabo Oriye, professionally known as Kaestyle, falls in line with some of the great artistes who emerged from Port-Harcourt, a city famed for grooming the best artistes in Nigeria. 

Kaestudy’s debut project, Kae’s Study displays the artiste’s ability to adapt to different music genres and paint vivid pictures with his lyrics. Across the 6-track project, Kaestyle is armed with bold confessions of love, sex, and life, delivered effortlessly in Pidgin and English. 

The artiste’s dexterity in songwriting might seem easy to listeners because of the ease Kaestyle expresses himself, but if you pay close attention to the lyrics you will realise the level of precision that goes into each line. Last year, Kaestyle collaborated with Nigerian producer LeriQ on Asylum, a 5-track EP that combined the lyrical brilliance and production prowess of both collaborators. The synergy between LeriQ and Kaestyle is propelled by the latter’s melodies, range, and deft lyrics, and the former’s ability to create a diverse soundscape. Between these two EPs, it is clear that Kaestyle is working his way into being a well-rounded artiste. 

Kemuel

Kemuel jpg
Kemuel

In 2022, Kemuel — real name Kemuel Emmanuel — made his debut in the Nigerian music industry with “Champagne Girl”, a sultry R&B record that paved the way for his debut EP, Escape. The 6-track project devoid of features boasts of Kemuel’s smooth vocals and relatable lyrics. The project is evident that music producers can create good music. 

As a child, Kemuel played instruments in church, enabling a grasp on the basics of sound. In 2021, his production for Sukah’s “Spotlight” showcased the Afropop elements he’s now immersed in. Last year, Kemuel was found at the helm of one of the 2023 hit songs, “Bunda”. Beyond industry collaborations, Kemuel has made his 2024 debut with songs like “Polo” and “Stay”. 

Lony Bway

Lony bway / Afrocritik
Lony Bway

One of the most striking qualities of Tanzanian artiste, Lony Bway, is his voice; it bears emotion and even when you can’t understand the words he speaks, the easiness with which he approaches his songs is relaxing to listen to. With records like “Wewe Hapo”, “Nakukumbuka”, “Falling”, and “Why”, Lony Bway has successfully created heartwarming melodies that allow his listeners to relax in his world. 

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Lony Bway walks on a path trodden by the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Zuchu, Rayvanny, Ali Kiba, and Nandy, artistes who have brought the Tanzanian music industry to the limelight. The release of the hit song “Wewe Hapo” also marked a great moment for Lony in 2023. TikTok did its thing and “Wewe Hapo” became one of the trending songs out of Tanzania. Lony Bway’s small but mighty catalogue is enough to keep an ear out for.

Bowman Aremwaki

Bowman Aremwaki - Afrocritik
Bowman Aremwaki

After making his mark as one of the members of the musical trio, Shwento, Bowman Aremwaki, is stretching his musical tentacles with the release of his solo debut project, Public Notice. The 5-track project, which is a fascinating blend of Afrobeats, R&B, and Dancehall, provides proof of Bowman’s ability to create music independently.

For an artiste who has built an impressive discography with a musical group, it’s obvious that Bowman is taking time to figure out the intricacies of his style. Up next is the part where he elbows his way into wider attention.

Kinoti

Kinoti jpg
Kinoti

Kinoti’s music accommodates so much emotion and soul. Since releasing his debut EP, Heart to Hurt, the Kenyan songwriter, singer, and music producer, has devoted his time to making music about love and heartbreak stories. In his sophomore project, Green Room, Kinoti dug into his romantic and life experiences for an R&B/Soul affair with soft vocals and emotive songwriting that may pierce the soul of anyone who listens. 

Regardless of the genre Kinoti settles for, he always bares his soul before his audience. Through his outstanding talent, charm, and attitude, Kinoti has been able to carve a niche for himself as a young Kenyan artiste with an artistic depth that shows he is aiming for the stars. In his latest body of work, Little Messages, he carefully creates a world where love-birds can soar freely while also crafting heartfelt messages for his love interest. Across Kinoti’s music catalogue, he swiftly displays emotional maturity through his message and confident delivery, taking us along his journey of love.

Theecember

Theecember - Afrocritik
Theecember – Afrocritik

In 2022, Theecember made a cover of Pheelz’s “Finesse” and it caught the attention of the artiste who immediately recruited Theecember for an East African “Finesse” remix. Theecember’s decision to put out a cover of the hit song showed clean rhymes and deft songwriting. Fairly recently, the artiste appeared on the Colors Show and premiered his song Permission”, his first single of 2024. 

While it might seem Theecember appeared out of nowhere, the young artiste has been prepping for the global stage. The artiste has been performing in music talent shows since 2015. Three years later, Theecember was ushered into the world of music production and worked with Burundian producer, KDagreat. With production credits on Ish Kevin’s mixtape and a sprouting discography, Theecember has all the tools to ensure that his budding stardom grows into conversations of greatness.

Ess Thee Legend

Essilfie jpg
Ess Thee Legend

For anyone paying attention to the emerging artistes in Ghana, Essilfie, also known as Ess Thee Legend, doesn’t stray far from the conversation. While she can be categorised as a Pop/R&B artiste, her discography, which includes three EPs, firmly places her as a rapper. In her debut, Tori’s Lounge, a 5-track project, the artiste explores various types of disappointments that can result from feelings of love and heartbreak. For her debut project, Essilfie sticks with the familiar genre of R&B and Pop, but in the collaborative project, Luv Lyf, with music producer DredW, she slides over varying upbeat and gloomy productions that create her soulful, heartwarming renditions across the 5-track EP. In both projects, Essilfie reveals her lover-girl mode and gets in touch with her sensual side, showing listeners how she can fit into multiple personalities and different genres like Amapiano and Dance music. For her latest offering, You Will Know My Name, Essilfie is more confident and effortlessly holds her own across the conspicuous beats so much so that her fleeting vocals and rap lines leave an impact beyond their presence. 

Beyond her bubbling discography, Essilfie has also been a recipient of multiple music residencies. In November 2023, Essilfie was among nine young West African musicians selected for the maiden OneBeat Ghana residency for socially engaged artist-entrepreneurs from Ghana, Nigeria, and the US aged 19 to 35. A year before, she was awarded a grant by the British Council in Accra, as part of the maiden Creative Enterprise Support Programme. Earlier this year, Essilfie was announced as the winner of the 2023 AfroFuture Rising Star Challenge

Joshua Baraka

Joshua Baraka - Afrocritik
Joshua Baraka

Joshua Baraka was exposed to music at an early age. His mother was in the choir and he started singing when he was 6. Determined not to let their social status hold back their son from having a bright future, Baraka’s parents enrolled him in a music school. Later on, he paused his plans to become a doctor and went into music full-time. Taking definitive steps to actualise the ambitions he’d been harbouring for years, he started writing and recording demo tracks during the coronavirus-induced lockdown of 2020. Those efforts led to the creation of his 2021 debut EP, Baby Steps. The demand for his music and the excellent performance of his debut EP led to the creation of his sophomore EP, Watershed

Baraka is consistent. From a young age, he has been dedicated to improving his skills as an artiste and performer, and all this hard work paid off when he released “Nana”, a song that catapulted the artiste’s career to the next level. The upbeat Dancehall song earmarked Baraka as an artiste to watch out for and had him topping music charts in Uganda and East Africa. He further spread his talent to Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, when he recruited Nigerian artiste, Joeboy, Kenyan artiste, Bien, and Ghana’s King Promise, for a remix of “Nana”. For his 2024 debut, Baraka released another of “Dalilah”, a record from his 2023 EP Growing Pains. On the latest version, he featured Nigerian artistes Simi and Qing Madi. While he has yet to release a long project, Baraka has proven with his EPs that his talent is on the rise and deserves every attention and respect it receives.

RayTheBoffin

RayTheBoffin
RayTheBoffin

Joseph Chikak, popularly known as RayTheBoffin, is a Nigerian music producer and singer who has fused genres like R&B, Rap, Afrobeats, Soul and Rock on his various projects. The artiste is constantly exploring the boundaries of sound and genre fusion whilst inserting relatable stories onto those rhythms. He made his debut in 2019 alongside his teammate, Iver Rivers. As a music group, they made their mark with projects like 2019’s Riverays, 2020’s Peek, 2021’s A Riverays Two-Pack, and 2023’s Peek 2

After establishing his presence in the music industry, RayTheBoffin bagged a record deal with Outer South and branched out as a solo act. For his solo debut, the artiste released a 9-track project tagged Run Boy, Run, then followed it up with Freckles, a 6-track project that explored the experiences of RayTheboffin and his friends after they had to leave Russia because of the Russo-Ukrainian war. On his latest project, Purple Lens, he continues to make music driven by his personal experiences as well as those around him. 

Ema Onigah

Ema Onigah - Afrocritik
Ema Onigah

Lagos-based, Cross River sensation, Ema Onigah, is also a remarkable addition to this roster of talents. Renowned for his distinctive sing-rap flow and delivery, this multifaceted artiste excels as a singer, songwriter, and producer, steadily carving out his niche in the music scene even as an independent talent. 

His 2023 debut EP, DUST OFF, is a testament to his prowess, showcasing his unique blend of rap-infused melodies while delving into themes of love, personal struggles, and everything in between. His songwriting credits are evident on Tekno’s 2023 album, The More The Better, and his talents have earned him a spot on Ejoya’s prestigious Class of ‘23: Soundtrack To Our Future EP and the Class of ‘23 album, cementing his status as one of the continent’s most promising artistes.

Hope Ibiale is a writer and journalist. She has a keen interest in music, film, and literature. You can connect with Hope on X @hopeibiale and via email: hopeibiale@afrocritik.com.

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