Top 5

23 – 07 – 2021

The rise of Afro Pop

With the music industry at large finally taking notice of African artists, here's a rundown of five of the most exciting acts from across the continent. Plus, we take a look into some of the key tastemakers, microgenres, and digital trends that set African music apart from the rest.

“Afro-pop is poised for a global music breakthrough that could soon mirror K-Pop in it’s widespread reach”.

This quote comes from the latest MRC report, a bi-annually published breakdown of the biggest trends and sales data in the music industry. Among interesting stats like the fastest growing global streaming markets and biggest tracks of the year, MRC profiled the rise of Afro-Pop as one of their key trends going into the second half of 2021.

We’ve seen this first-hand in our data; back in March, when we first published our pop chart, afro-fusion artists from across the continent made prominent appearances week after week. African artists have also been a regular fixture of our Hot Artist Alerts, with Gyakie - one of the first Hot Artists we profiled - eventually signing a major label deal with RCA.

With industry bodies now taking note thanks to the mainstream success of WizKid and Burna Boy, we’ve uncovered five hidden gems from our tech.

Kamo Mphela

With millions of views across her music videos on YouTube and huge playlist spots from Spotify, South African vocalist/dancer Kamo Mphela is fast becoming one of the country’s breakout stars. While Spotify is still gaining popularity throughout Africa, three of Mphela’s tracks are featured in the 140k follower AmaPiano Grooves playlist.

AmaPiano is a style of house music native to South Africa, characterised by heavy use of synths atop traditional Zulu instrumentation. This perfectly describes Kamo Mphela’s music, which blends modern dance groves with huge percussion sections for a style completely unique to Western audiences.

In the last 30 days alone, Kamo Mphela has grown her YouTube subscriber base by 12k - a 6.7% increase - and driven over 1.4m total views. Her latest EP ‘Nkulunkulu’, released earlier this year, has already racked-up 1.5m Spotify streams, as well as 6.3m YouTube views on the music video for the title track.

Buju

Nigerian singer-songwriter Buju has had a busy 2021, featuring on and releasing six singles, including ‘Feeling’ with LADIPOE, which was added to Spotify’s massive African Heat playlist shortly after its release. That playlist has proven crucial to breaking new African talent, with several of the artists from our first two Pop Charts seeing accelerated Spotify follower growth after being added.

In addition to African Heat, Buju’s tracks find themselves in We Everywhere and Afropop. With 3 million cumulative Spotify playlist followers, Buju’s following on the platform has grown by 30% in the month of July alone. Combine that with millions of views on YouTube and a rapidly growing Instagram following (270% growth since the start of May) and Buju is might well be the breakout Nigerian artist of the year.

Acebergtm

Making music since he was 15, Lagos, Nigeria native AcebergTM has seen exceptional Spotify growth since releasing his single ‘Danca’ in April. Signing to SJW Entertainment - the home of Burna Boy - Aceberg’s Spotify following has increased by over 2000% since the start of April despite little playlisting attention from the streaming platform.

Instead, ‘Danca’ has become a hit on short-form video app Triller. Whereas TikTok has become a huge platform for mainstream pop releases, Triller has proven to be a hotbed of exciting talent within the Afropop and Dancehall genres, as well as rap and hip-hop. ‘Danca’ has 2.4 million views on Triller, which has driven growth elsewhere, with the music video now approaching 1 million YouTube views.

While the number of monthly active users on Triller is contested, they themselves claim it to be in the region of 65 million. The company have recently sponsored several high-profile boxing matches involving huge influencers, and are leaning further into their huge rap and afropop audience, with ArrDee and Burna Boy among the artists promoted on the app’s discover tab.

Lojay

Fellow Nigerian artist Lojay incorporates elements of traditional Yoruba music into his unique afropop sound, attracting attention from WizKid producer Sarz for his latest EP ‘LV N ATTN’. With 500% Spotify follower growth and placements in Spotify’s 1.6m follower R&B playlist Channel X as well as a number of big afrobeats lists.

With WizKid himself featuring on the EP, Lojay has seen a massive bump in exposure recently, posting a frankly absurd 2,500% Instagram follower growth since the EP dropped. While Nigerian music continues to pick up steam in the mainstream, already massive artists like WizKid and Burna Boy are proving important tastemakers in the genre. As Aceberg and Loyja prove, a feature - or even just a shoutout - can drastically alter the course of an artists’ career.

Kelvyn Boy

Speaking to Billboard Magazine in 2020 after the release of his latest album ‘Blackstar’, afro-fusion artist Kelvyn Boy made his mission clear: “I want to take Ghana to the Grammys”. Steadily growing his audience since he started releasing music in 2017, the Ghanain prodigy is a staple of Spotify’s African music editorial playlists, with over 1.6m total playlist followers and tracks in African Heat, Afropop, Afro Party Anthems and Tantalizers, among others.

With his track ‘Tele’ feat. Crayon (who we’ve also covered as a Hot Streak artist) crossing 2 million Spotify streams, 1.5 million followers on Instagram and a further half a million on Twitter, Kelvyn Boy’s once lofty goal of bringing Ghana to the Grammy’s may not be that lofty afterall. With Burna Boy waving the flag for Nigerian afrobeats at this year’s ceremony, picking up the trophy for Best Global Music Album, there’s no reason Kelvyn Boy couldn’t do the same for Ghana in years to come.


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Further reading

Hot Artist Alert

28 – 04 – 2021

Rethabile Khumalo

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Hot Artist Alert

27 – 04 – 2021

Hot Streak: Crayon

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Hot Artist Alert

14 – 05 – 2021

Hot Streak: Projexx

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