15 African Breakout Artists of the Year: Nneka, Ice Prince, Navio, Jojo, Diamond, X.O Senavoe & More!

2010 has been a terrific year for African music and its music industry. As a quick recap, the first World Cup held on African soil put African music center stage in the homes of millions, if not trillions across the globe. Who could forget K’naan’s ‘Wavin’ Flag’ or ‘Time for Africa’ by Shakira featuring South Africa’s Freshly Ground?

If we thought all the buzz about African music was over, we were reminded throughout the year to, “think again.” There were so many brilliant collaborations, award shows (MTV MAMAs, 4Stye, PAM, NMVA, Channel O and Sound City Music Video Awards) and exciting music deals.

But really, where it got even sweeter for Africa and its musicians was an effort by recognizable global brands, after the World Cup, to keep Africa’s music flag flying. Leading the way was the team at BET International, including Michael Armstrong, Ava Lizette Hall and Lilian Blankson. The team helped showcase Africa’s musicians P-Square, Kojo Antwi and M.I at the 2010 BET Awards across the globe: USA, Europe, Middle East and Africa. They took it a step further with a followup at the 2010 BET Hip-hop Awards where they showcased Africa’s finest, BET Ghana Cypher.

What Does the Future Hold for Africa’s Musicians and Music industry?
Our predictions, which you read and heard first on Ladybrillemag.com, include: a) increased collaborations among African artists across the continent; b) increased collaborations with USA artists; c) the growth of e-retail music stores and purchase of digital downloads. Music is the quickest and easiest thing to sell online ; and d) we predict the African musicians that will be able to gain entrance into mainstream Western audiences will be those willing to create a new path when it comes to fusing traditional African music and genres with contemporary ones. Think Nneka, 2Face and Navio as examples.

Ladybrille Magazine’s 15 African Breakout Artists of the Year!
Against this exciting happenings in 2010, here is Ladybrille Magazine’s 15 African Breakout artists of the year. The veterans in music who broke new ground for Africa letting the world see what we are about; and the emerging ones poised to do the same. Enjoy and let us know your own top 15 in the comment section below.

#1 K’naan: (Somalia) A music veteran, K’Naan makes our list as one of the first African musicians to penetrate the homes of citizens worldwide at the first World Cup held on African soil.  ‘Wavin’ flag’ was a great song and proved to help K’Naan have a brilliant year in music. Kudos from us to him!

#2 Freshly Ground: (South Africa) Like K’Naan, Freshly Ground makes our list as one of our breakout artists of the year with ‘Time for Africa’ by Shakira ft. Freshlyground. This song was the third most watched song on Vevo for 2010 and also had the same effect in penetrating the homes of millions if not trillions, worldwide.

#3 Nneka: (Nigeria) After successfully conquering Europe and particularly Germany, Nneka seemed to come out of nowhere in 2010 to take both Africa and the USA by storm. The recipient of numerous prestigious awards and nominations, she organized her first USA tour, appeared and performed on the David Letterman showed, toured with Damian Marley and Nas, performed across Africa and signed with Hennessey as part of Hennessey Artistry Nigeria campaign, all in 2010. She is just getting warmed up.

#4 Emmanuel Jal: (Sudan) Africans have insisted our stories expand beyond the stereotypical poverty, war and HIV/AIDS stories seen in Western media. However, in spotlighting the beauty of Africa, the ugliness is definitely one we cannot ignore. Making sure of that is Sudanese musician Emmanuel Jal. A former child soldier at 11years old, he has caught the attention of the world and American musician Alicia Keys who recently featured in his latest release ‘We Want Peace.’ Expect even more from Jal in 2011.

#5 Iyeoka: (Nigeria) Contemporary African jazz music is really ignored in Africa’s mainstream music. That is one of the major criticisms we have with the current landscape of Africa’s music industry. Nevertheless, we carry on. In carrying on, Iyeoka makes our list. A first generation Nigerian-American, Iyeoka was a practicing pharmacist before she launched her career as a poet and singer. Her style is eclectic, charming, her lyrical content and compositions captivating and powerful. In 2010, Iyeoka’s latest single, ‘The Yellow Brick Road’ received national placement in an episode of the new hit HBO series “How To Make It In America.”

#6 Sonnie Badu: (Ghana) There are so many brilliant African Gospel artists that impressed us this year, but we could only select one. Our crown goes to British based Ghanaian gospel artist Sonnie Badu. Badu has collaborated with both European and African gospel colleagues in bringing African/African-inspired gospel music to the world. This year, he was on fire winning ten (10) awards in addition to the ones he won at the GUBA and African Music Awards.

#7 D-Black: (Ghana) If there is anyone who seems to understand, fundamentally, that music is business, it has to be Ghana’s D-Black and one of Ladybrille’s 2010 Artist to Watch. Never waiting for things to happen to him, he has grabbed the bull by the horns and taken control of his career as a one man shop. The result has been an amazing year for this talent: a feature as part of BET’s Ghana Cypher, several nominations for his work including at the Channel O, MAMAs, 4Syte and Ghana Music Video Awards, a few wins, tour across South Africa during the World Cup with other African musicians, among numerous accomplishments. His talent, tenacity, hunger and drive to succeed is infectious and underscores the old adage of “never giving up” on your passion and dreams. Look out for him in 2011.

#8 Navio: (Uganda) Uganda hip-hop has never looked so good, thanks to rapper Navio, also a Ladybrille Artist to Watch. Like D-Black, Navio is about the business of music. This year, Navio was chosen from Uganda to be a member of the African supergroup ONE8. As part of that group, he featured in ONE8’s ‘Hands Across the World’ hit single featuring the best of Africa’s musician. He was also the recipient of the 2010 Best Hip-Hop Artist of the Year at the Pearl Africa Music Awards (PAM). The best, we believe, is yet to come from Navio.

#9 Tear Gas: (South Africa) ‘Tear Gas’ has been ON FIRE in 2010! Taking South African hip-hop to the masses, the group made up of Ntokozo “K.O,” Mdluli, Ezee “Ma-E” Hanabe and Bantu “Ntukza” Hanabe, use their music to discuss socio-economic ills such as crime, HIV/Aids, poverty. In 2010 they won the Channel O ‘Most Gifted Music Video’ Award and closed out the year as nominees for ‘Best Group’ at the 2010 MTV MAMAs.

#10 Mo’cheddah: (Nigeria) In a country with a large youth population, Mo’Cheddah is the embodiment and definitive youth brand and music personality. She is Nigeria’s leading youth star and has the accolades to prove it including her recent win at the 2010 MTV Awards as ‘Brand New Artist.’ If Nigeria can export its contemporary music to the West, we think this young girl will be an integral part of achieving such success.

#11 Ice Prince: (Nigeria) Signed to Chocolate City Records Nigeria (the same record label as Nigerian rapper M.I), Ice Prince won the Hennessey Artistry in 2009; and like Nneka and Mo’Cheddah was part of the 2010 Hennessey’s Artistry campaign. However, his main accomplishment this year has to be his release of his hit single ‘Oleku.’ The song has literally propelled him to the tongues of millions; and most importantly, for our purposes, has crossed boundaries to artists in other countries who have made remixes of his song.

#12 X.O Senavoe (Ghana): Raise your cyber hands if you know any African artist, like American or Asian ones, that have been discovered, exclusively, through the online community? If you gave me a blank stare and left your hands to your sides, no worries. Just add X.O Senavoe as #1 on your list aka “Lyrical Contortionist.” About July 2010, X.O made his debut on a popular Nigerian music site called Notjustok.com. His potency and delivery caught the attention of many including us at Ladybrille. Since then, he has been featured across the net and beyond. With no album and only four singles to his name, he has managed to grab the attention of radio stations in Nigeria, Ghana and New York; all of which have played his songs to  their wide audiences. The best is yet to come in 2011.

#13 Jojo: (Gabon) Africa has such diversity and we would love to see that really reflected in the many Pan-African music events across the continent. Usually, it appears we get big servings of South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana at these events. This year, while there was still a lot of that, Jojo from Gabon made sure he secured a place for Gabon. Currently fifteen years old, Moussirou Josias Ariel aka Jojo found an affinity for rap at six years old, when he began penning lyrics. He was later discovered at a music show and by twelve, made his debut on various stages in his country, thrilling audiences. Also an actor, he is the recipient of numerous music recognitions and was recently nominated at the 2010 MAMA Awards.

#14 Diamond: (Tanzania) When it comes to fashion, names in Tanzania’s industry such as Supermodel Millen Magese and Fashion designer Mustafa Hassanali are common. Within its music industry, we have not really seen a leading name both on the continent and in the West . . . that is until Diamond. Diamond has put Tanzania on Africa’s music map and intends to continue. His recent nomination at MAMAs makes us believe he will.

#15 Nick Nola: (Uganda) Nick Nola has been singing since he was a child. In 2004, after completing high school, he entered music professionally. A year later he was nominated for an award for having the best ‘Hip-hop Single” of the year. Since then Nick Nola, determined to put Uganda on the map, has collaborated with so many artists and has been releasing hits after hits. We at Ladybrille and the rest of Africa are playing close attention.

~Article by Uduak Oduok
~Copyright 2010, Ladybrille Magazine, All Rights Reserved.

Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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1 Comment

  1. I just saw this Uduak – thank you soo very much for the love and recognition. This is truly such an honor – thank you!

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