Music is one of life’s gifts that keep giving. Just when you think you’ve heard the best songs, there will always be a better and bigger one that will leave you more impressed than last time. As Patoranking and Mix Master Garzy did it again with “Suh Different”, Naira Marley, Olamide and Lil Kesh gave us the perfect banger for the World Cup fever with “Issa Goal”, giving way for Banku Music Producer Guiltybeatz in his first solo track: “Akwaaba” alongside Mr Eazi, Patapaa and Pappy Kojo.
Here’s a look back at some of the biggest songs of 2018 that made my year worth rewinding! List comes in no particular order.
1. Motigbana – Olamide (Nigeria)
Olamide is Nigeria’s King of the streets when it comes to bangers. He remains the most versatile of the few acts of his caliber. That’s why King Baddo is probably the only Nigerian act delivering straight bangers, whether they come in Afro beats, Hip Hop or even the Ragga-infused “Motigbana”–which literally means I am on fire. You don’t need to understand the language to bop to the catchy tune and Olamide’s bravado tone paired with his delivery. In 2018 Olamide delivered big bangers like “Kana” and “Science Student” but it was “Motigbana” that became his biggest Pan African banger yet!
2. Very Well – King Stuart & DJ Roja feat. King Saha (Uganda)
Ugandan music industry suffered a big blow in 2018 when legendary act Radio passed on. “Very Well” didn’t only come at the right time but sounded just exactly like what Ugandans wanted to hear. King Saha’s voice is quite similar to Radio’s and listening to “Very Well”, most times felt like a reminisce of Radio’s legacy and distinct voice. With a memorable hook and a slightly faster pace to normal Ugandan Dancehall/Ragga tracks—“Very Well” was yet another fresh sound from the steady growing duo.
3. Gbona – Burna Boy (Nigeria)
2018 was the year of Burna Boy. Even though “Sekkle Down”, “Heavens Gate”, “Rock Your Body” and “Streets of Africa” off the album: Outside enjoyed massive success, it was “Gbona” that took lead of his slew of hits. From the time he goes, Enter body, whether you were in the club or listening to the radio throughout 2018—you would stop what you’re doing to dance or sing along. Gbona is rich in genres. Beneath the Afro beats and Dancehall I can hear underlying elements of Cameroonian Makossa music in the song that also borrows from Fela Kuti sounds, complete with the trumpets. This is when good music makes it to the top.
4. Lamba Lolo – Ethic (Kenya)
Rekles, Seska, Swat and Zilla—all known as Ethic, came together in 2018 to drop the music video of “Lamba Lolo” that went viral. At the moment it’s clocked over 2 Million Views on YouTube. Tagged on their page as “a hot local tune”, the song went on to become a national hit and cross over track, making West African stars like Krizbeatz, Mr. Eazi and Skales all express interest in working with them. Produced by SuperNova by HYPE, “Lamba Lolo” is an effortless street anthem bouncing off elements of bass paired with that siren-esque production sound, that triggered the Odi Dance all year round. “Lamba Lolo” which literally means sucking a lollypop or colloquial for ‘missing out on something’ or ‘giving head’–became one of the most popular Kenyan Sheng’ words of 2018.
5. Djadja – Aya Nakamura (France/Mali)
I had heard “Djadja” like twice on Apple Music African A-List Playlist not knowing who the deep voiced singer was. It was from my trip to Amsterdam Oct 2018 that I had to check out the singer because “Djadja” was literally playing off every single radio, taxi and club I entered. Aya is a French R&B singer of Malian origin and France’s 2018 queen of pop music, with her album “Nakamura” already certified gold in France. Okayafrica wrote that, Aya is the first French singer to have a number one album in the Netherlands since Edith Piaf in 1961. Francophone music meets Soul / R&B as Aya sings about telling off a man who claimed that he slept with her yet he was acting like a brother to her and never really had sex with her. Typical story but with over 264 Million Views on YouTube since April 2018, Aya represents African talent and black women in music and the reality that you can keep it real and still blow from wherever you’re based.
6. Kwangwaru – Harmonize feat. Diamond (Tanzania)
I hated this song until I had to love it! There wasn’t one place in East Africa that “Kwangwaru” wasn’t playing. From the club, weddings to parties, it was a favourite for many, thanks to its seductive and poetic lyrics and groovy flow. Bongo flava musicians are known for the prowess in penning love songs. The song brings this out and the stark similarity between the voices of Harmonize and Diamond. It was smart of them to borrow a few Pidgin words in the song like Ololufe– this drew the attention of a West African audience. Harmonize was the first signing of all WCB acts and the success of “Kwangwaru” is a testimony of his coming of age.
7. Soco – StarBoy Entertainment Worldwide (Nigeria)
When you have too many artists in one song, the biggest of the lot often wants to be prominent but in “Soco” Wizkid only takes a short verse/chorus then lets his artists shine all through. While Spotless and Ceeza Milli hold their own, Terri in the first verse really sounds like Wizkid. The StarBoy crew deliver a feel-good banger that had the whole of Africa doing the Shoki all year, unveiling Wizkid’s biggest solo yet non-solo project in recent years. The catchy tune with word play and a rhyming scheme like no other 2018 banger, got us bouncing along while wondering … What if Wizkid took a year off music? I think the StarBoy crew has what it takes to engineer the next bangers coming from Nigeria.
8. Ninogeshe – Nandy (Tanzania)
“Ninogeshe” is a story of a lover’s sweet surrender to their partner. In a time when many traditional genres simply dissolve into Pan African and global sounds, Nandy keeps it real going back to the roots of Taarab music in this classical Swahili tune. “Ninogeshe” stands tall as the best of bongo flava’s new age R&B-Taarab influenced songs. It’s another show off at the Tanzanian flair in writing love songs, and Nandy’s boldness at her style of choice. Can’t forget how Nandy’s honey-voice intertwine with the melodies in the chorus—just outstanding!
9. Huku – Sho Madjozi (South Africa)
Breaking into South Africa’s local music scene in 2017, by 2018 Sho Madjozi had established herself as one of the fastest rising South African acts, thanks to her unique style and sound. Her rap style and performance borrows a lot from her Tsonga heritage. She dazzles in this 2018 Gqom Swahili track that captivated audiences all the way from South Africa to East Africa, and beyond. It’s a song about an unhappy woman asking their partner why they never declared their love before; so don’t be jealous now. From its hard hitting beats, how fearless she takes on Swahili language to her confidence and colourful style—what’s not to love about Sho?
10. African Beauty – Diamond Platnumz feat. Omarion
“African Beauty” is hands down among the top most played African tunes on African radio in 2018. I love its concept. It’s a celebration of African Beauty and as Omarion sings about finding love [the world] in Africa, Diamond goes on to make Omarion sing about popular Bongo culture; from Instagram stunts to the mythical romance of the Tanga culture. It’s some deep Tanzanian Lingo that even Kenyans can’t understand. I had to get my TZ connect Msigwa to translate for me the Swahili parts. “African Beauty” was first dropped from Kenya at the launch of his “A Boy From Tandale” album and it was something like a movie when Omarion jumped onto the stage to join Diamond in their first performance of the song. Of course I was there sitting at the front row!
BONUS: You might also like to glimpse at the past: