5 Rising Afro Nation Performers To Add To Your Playlist Rotation

These are essential artists who’ll take the stage that is poised to make a major impact in 2022 and beyond.

The past few years have been exceptionally well for African artists and music. Established acts like Angelique Kidjo, Femi Kuti, Youssou N’Dour, Ebo Taylor, and others have been able to become immensely world-renowned, while the next-generation talents — such as Yemi Alade, Wizkid, and Burna Boy, have contributed greatly to the exposure of the continent’s diverse sonics.

Furthermore, numerous popular African music genres like Soukous, Afro R&B, Amapiano, Afro House, and Afropop have become important as a bridge between Black Americans, Europeans, Afro-Latinos, and the Motherland. This week promises to bring more excitement to the African music scene as Afro Nation, marking its first U.S. experience in Puerto Rico, takes place from Mar. 24 - Mar. 26.

With performances from the aforementioned trio of Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Yemi Alade, the stage is set for a rising crop of superstars to anoint audiences with their own Afrofuturistic sounds. If you’re not heading down to gwara gwara in person, you should check out these artists who are on the bill who will help make Afro Nation 2022 be an iconic and world-class experience.

  • Omah Lay

    Omah Lay, a native of Ikwerre in Rivers State, has quickly risen from a singer-songwriter under the radar to one of the most impressive artists doing it to date. Born into a musical family, Lay’s 2019 effort “Bad Influence,” a self-produced single, went instantly viral on social media.   

    He has since then displayed his talent on records with Masterkraft (“Peaches”), 6lack (“Damn”), and Olamide (“Infinity” from Carpe Diem). With his stock on the up-and-up, Lay builds upon his five-track debut EP, Get Layd, by collaborating with Justin Bieber on “Attention,” which is already promised to be a must-see moment for Apple Music’s first Africa Rising artist when he hits the Afro Nation stage in Puerto Rico.

  • Focalistic

    Lethabo Sebetso, better known in-and-around South Africa as Focalistic, represents a wave of community-minded artists coming out of Mzansi. A former footballer turned career rapper, released his debut studio album Sgubhu Ses Excellent to strong reviews in 2020. His single “Fak’mali” would go on to place at No. 1 on YFM hip hop music charts.  

    An ambassador for the exciting genre known as Amapiano, Focalistic would receive top billing as his remix to “Ke Star,” which featured Davido and Virgo Deep, charted at No. 16 of Billboard Top Triller Global chart in the U.S. His presence at Afro Nation, amidst a host of other All Africa Music Awards winners and nominees, should make hardcore and new fans alike antsy to hear what 2021’s MTV Europe Music Awards nominee has in store.

  • Ckay

    Ckay (SEE-kay), also known as Chukwuka Ekweani, is a Warner Music South Africa-signed artist who has redefined how diasporic emotions get conveyed thanks to his international hit single, “Love Nwantiti.” Released back in 2019, the song has only grown in scope and scale, spawning remixes featuring Joeboy, Rema, and there’s even a Drill version by Drill Remix Guys.   

    Fluent in a variety of genres including Afrobeats, R&B, and dancehall, the Lagos-backed talent released “Container,” which was influenced by South Africa’s popular gwara gwara dance style, and earned him airplay in West Africa and Europe. Now a member of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, Ckay, who became the first African artist to hit 20 million Spotify Listeners, will be eager to make a major impression as Afro Nation hits Puerto Rico for the first time ever.

  • King Promise

    A born-and-bred chalé from Accra, Ghana, King Promise, also known as Gregory Bortey Promise Newman, has taken the lessons learned from his “musichead” father and re-shaped Afrobeats into a culture-spanning experience. Pulling from boybands to reggae to Ghanaian highlife, Promise envelopes a wide range of sonics and amazingly filters it using his own styles to create a sound that feels at home anywhere on God’s green Earth.  

    “Slow Down,” Promise’s first song for 2022 with Headie One, has already earned love locally and globally. And his 2021 MOBO Awards nomination for Best African Music Act hints at just how infectious King Promise’s music promises to be, which means seeing the singer-songwriter live at this week’s Afro Nation is an opportunity for us to see his star rise even higher.

  • Tekno

    Fresh from Ebonyi State, Tekno, also known by Augustine Miles Kelechi, was born into a family of six and raised in the ways of live instrumentation. Since the age of 8, he learned and mastered playing the piano and guitar, eventually receiving a standing ovation in 2012 after performing a remix of Ice Prince’s “Oleku.”

    The past few years have found Tekno positively received for such singles as “Duro,” produced by DJ Coublon, and “Green Light,” DJ Cuppy’s first official offering which peaked in 2017. His rep as an artist of note was cemented when he was featured on Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack on the song “Don’t Jealous Me,” which, when performed at Afro Nation, will surely raise the FOMO temperature for those not there just a little.

    Kevin L. Clark is a screenwriter and entertainment director for BET Digital, who covers the intersection of music, film, pop culture, and social justice. Follow him on @KevitoClark.

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