A pandemic year proved that creativity and artistic ability only but thrive under irregular conditions. Music has been a window into worlds I have never been. A friend who has been constant in giving words to the complex feelings, thoughts, and cries of the human race. Here are my top 5 records from this year, in no particular order.
This collaborative record is so excellent in how it combines elements of contemporary jazz, hip-hop, and other sounds of what has been historically known as African American music in the US. I have jammed to the record so many times that I know most of the words of the songs (they are not too many, to start off) but if you are looking for something mellow, bouncy, and serene, check this one out. 9th Wonder brings his genius-level hip-hop/DJ production knowledge, while Kamasi brings in the technical excellence and musicianship. Martin and Glasper seem to have been the initial think tanks for the project.
The fire that is produced by these brothers on this record is worth every second of listening to this record. The combination of AfroBeat, rap, and Christian theology is a beautiful and in many ways new sound for many of us who love all three but have never heard them fused until Limoblaze in his previous albums. I particularly enjoyed this album also because of the themes in it — the headstrong African faith in God expressed in 'Sound of Victory", or the way "African Church Boy" literally transported me to an African city. The vibe and the sound of the record is definitely one to blaze as one rides through the streets of Philly or Lagos — Bulawayo or Lusaka. Such a great record!
I think Sun El Musician is underrated, period. The way this man's music makes you feel is honestly not like anything I have personally felt in a long time. His sound is perfect. His themes wide-ranging and relevant. His style is unmistakable. While this album only came out in early December, singles like "Ubom' Abumanga" and "Never Never" had us already hooked. The former, in particular, was such a relevant song in the midst of a global pandemic. "Ubom abumanga" means "life has not stopped" and songbird Msaki pleads with her 'listener' to hold on, dream on, and continue to live. It is a beautiful song with a mid-tempo beat and amazing strings over a catchy bass-line. Oh, and by the way, this is a double album. I haven't listened to a bad song on this record yet. Love it!
This album is what it looks like when popular CCM sounds are infused with hard-thumping hip-hop beats and 808s! KB continues to be one of those rappers who can make anthems that are not just the kind you rap along with, but ones which you actually want to go on your knees and sing sounds of worship and praise unto the Lord. When the single "Armies" came out, I knew we were gonna be in trouble. The song was very relevant to the times in how it reminded us of the goodness of God and his warlike flex — "The power made a point - next slide" — when it comes to how he fights for us. Dark Skin captures the feelings of many black people in the USA, and in the church in particular. The themes are undoubtedly relevant to the times and KB did not hold anything back on this record.
The future will only tell what Azana's music will evolve into. Her Afro-pop sound and lyricism are impeccable for a woman her age. She tells stories so well and evokes a range of emotions from 'seeking a job in Joburg' in 'Egoli' to reminding folks to know remember where they come from in 'Buyela Ekhaya". I love this record a lot and it seems to sound better with each new listen. Highly recommended.
I have many more that I could share. But lets work with those 5. What are your best 5 for the year?