By Music in Africa
At the end of every year, Music In Africa’s editors take stock of the biggest releases of the past 12 months by compiling our eagerly anticipated pan-African playlist. This selection of music, divided into six continental regions, is available here.
We also make a point to follow the artists behind Africa’s big releases and track their careers with great pride and eager interest. Below are African artists who made an impression on our editorial team in 2022.
Zakes Bantwini (South Africa)
Zakes Bantwini made a significant impact in 2022 with his Ghetto King album. With its mixture of EDM and tribal house, the album spawned the hit single ‘Osama’, which peaked at No 1 on the Radiomonitor SA charts. The project earned Bantwini an Apple Music feature as Isgubhu cover star in February. He was also among the big winners at the 2022 South African Music Awards (SAMAs), with two trophies for Best Collaboration and SAMRO Highest Radio Airplay Composer. His song ‘Bayethe’ with collaborators Wouter Kellerman and Nomcebo Zikode was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Global Music Performance category. And this wasn’t all. The producer added to his growing trophy cabinet when he was crowned Musician of the Year at GQ’s Men of the Year Awards in December.
Sha Sha (Zimbabwe/South Africa)
The Zimbabwean singer continued to be a major force in the Southern African music industry in 2022. In June, Sha Sha signed a management deal with Black Major, before she released her ‘iPiano’ video featuring Kamo Mphela and Felo Le Tee. This was followed by a few new singles that led up to the August release of her album I’m Alive, which boasts collaborations with top local artists including Focalistic, DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small, Mellow & Sleazy, Ami Faku, Blxckie, Rowlene and A-Reece. In October, the 28-year-old musician was featured on a massive Spotify billboard in New York City’s Times Square, cementing her place among today’s most exciting young African artists.
Nomfundo Moh (South Africa)
Having launched her career in 2020, 22-year-old Nomfundo Moh has already set herself up as an established artist. Following the release of her debut album Amagama(link is external), Nomfundo Moh was featured on Apple Music’s Africa Rising programme where she enjoyed editorial support from the streaming platform. This was followed by the release of Amagama Deluxe in August, with guest features from Kwesta, Shekhinah and Sjava. Featuring 13 tracks, Amagama won the Best Afropop Album Award at the 2022 SAMAs. It also secured nominations for TRecord of the Year, Music Video of the Year and TikTok Most Viral Song of the Year. Nomfundo Moh also received nominations at the inaugural Basadi Music Awards and at the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMAs).
Kabza De Small (South Africa)
With KOA II Part 1’s popularity and being South Africa’s most streamed artist on Spotify, Kabza De Small had another successful year. The aforementioned title topped the charts for the most streamed South African album in 2022. The producer was also the most streamed South African artist at home followed by DJ Maphorisa, his long-time collaborator, and was the most streamed South African artist globally. In June, the ‘Asibe Happy’ hitmaker was featured on a Times Square billboard in New York. In addition, he was the cover artist for Spotify’s global mint playlist(link is external), which features some of the biggest global dance hits and enjoys a following of almost 6 million users.
Makhadzi (South Africa)
Makhadzi’s star continues to shine following the successful release of two projects this year: Pain Ya Jealous and African Queen 2.0. The former, a 10-track EP with guest appearances from Master KG, Rude Kid Venda and Mr. Brown, was certified gold in South Africa. She has also enjoyed success with a sold-out show at Makhuvha Stadium in Limpopo province, followed by another show where she filled up the 10 000 capacity Royal Aria Stadium in Tlokweng, Botswana. On the awards side, Makhadzi won the Music Video of the Year Award at the SAMAs and the Artist of the Year Award at the Basadi Music Awards.
Anglophone West Africa
In 2020, Tems shot to international fame when she appeared on Wizkid’s chart-topping single ‘Essence’. Her success since then has made her the golden voice of Afrobeats. This year, she accepted numerous international accolades, including a BET award and a BMI trophy, and surpassed 1 billion streams on Spotify across all credits. She is up for multiple Grammy awards next year for her songwriting contributions on Beyoncé’s Renaissance album and Drake’s ‘WAIT FOR U’ track.
Black Sherif (Ghana)
Black Sherif, Ghana’s biggest breakout star of 2021, has also become one of West Africa’s most dominant artists of the past year, particularly due to his single ‘Kwaku the Traveller’ and debut album The Villain I Never Was. Among the notable milestones for the artist in 2022 are his wins at the 2022 3Music Awards and the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards, reaching 100 million streams on Boomplay, which made him the first Ghanaian artist to do so, and his inclusion on Spotify’s global RADAR programme while emerging as the most streamed Ghanaian musician on the streaming platform.
Burna Boy (Nigeria)
Grammy-winning artist Burna Boy continues to be a strong ambassador for African music, filling up arenas around the world and releasing global hits, most notably ‘Last Last’ and ‘It’s Plenty’. Spotify’s Wrapped report, which spotlights the top Nigerian artists and songs of 2022, saw the singer round up the year as the country’s biggest artist. He will now be looking towards next year’s Grammys for his second big win.
Nigeria’s biggest breakout star of 2022, Asake, boasts a unique sound that sits at the intersection of Afrobeats and amapiano. His debut LP Mr Money With The Vibe was released to instant critical and commercial acclaim, even earning him an endorsement deal with sports betting company Parimatch. Signed to YBNL Nation/EMPIRE, Asake has not only maintained a continual presence on the charts with multiple hits but also given the Midas touch by featuring on songs by the likes of Fireboy DML and Tiwa Savage. In November, Asake, who emerged as Artist of the Year at the 2022 African Muzik Magazine Awards (AFRIMMAs), was named in the YouTube Black Voices Fund Music Class of 2023. In December, streaming platform Audiomack announced Asake as its Artist of the Year for 2022.
Francophone West Africa
Viviane Chidid (Senegal)
Viviane Chidid continues to shine as the years pass. In 2022, the singer was featured on the hit ‘Reguine Tass’ by Wally B. Seck, who organised a grand gala in October to pay tribute to her 22-year career. At the 2022 Raaya Music Awards, Viviane received a distinction for her single ‘Yeuk Yeuk’, which, with 9 million views in three months, won song of the year. She was also nominated at this year’s AFRIMAs in the Best Artist, Duo or Group in African Contemporary category.
KS Bloom (Ivory Coast)
KS Bloom dazzled Côte de Ivoire’s music scene in 2022. His hits ‘C’est Dieu’ and ‘C’est Dieu Remix’ featuring Nigeria’s Chidinma made a strong impression on social media and streaming platforms. This saw him receiving an Primud d’Or award for Best Ivorian Artist of the Year.
Baaba Maal (Senegal)
Sometimes symbolic accomplishments can be more valuable than awards and decorations, such as the participation of Senegalese singer Baaba Maal on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s soundtrack. You may recall that the music legend appeared on the first soundtrack of the film franchise, which won a Grammy in 2019. As a result of this valuable achievement in the popularisation of African music around the world, Baaba Maal deserves to be included in this list.
Roseline Layo (Ivory Coast)
Roseline Layo blew everyone away this year, rising to the top of Ivorian Afropop music. And it was her stirring rendition of ‘C’est la même phase’ that caught the attention of the public. Her efforts resulted in her winning the 2022 Primud d’Or for Best Variety/Urban Artist.
Azaya had a successful 2022 with his hit single ‘Trône Tigui’. Known for his captivating voice and hypnotising charisma, he received the Primud d’Or for Best West African Artist. Azaya is also nominated in the Best Duo or Group of Traditional Music at the upcoming AFRIMAs.
Abigail Chams (Tanzania)
Abigail Chams made waves in 2022 after signing her first major record deal with Sony Music Entertainment Africa in June. Aged just 19, the artist possesses the X factor and has the ability to become one of Africa’s top popstars. Her first single under Sony offers a glimpse of what is to be expected of the young talent. The single, titled ‘Closer’, featuring bongo flava star Harmonize, is Abigail Chams unleashed. Here, she has embraced the bad girl pop persona, ready to claim her rightful place in stardom.
Eddy Kenzo (Uganda)
Eddy Kenzo became Ugandan pop royalty in 2022 after earning a Grammy nomination for the 2023 edition of the awards. This larger-than-life artist, who clinched the Viewer’s Choice Best New International Artist gong at the 2015 BET Awards, also showed his business acumen after his Kenzo Festival held in Kampala in November attracted close to 100 000 partygoers. He is also one of the most sought-after artists for collaborations in the region.
Ariel Wayz (Rwanda)
Ariel Wayz has ‘superstar’ written all over her. The Rwandan R&B sensation continued to impress in 2022 with her melodious and sometimes provocative hits. Her second EP TTS (Touch the Sky) released in September cemented her credentials as one of the top singers in the region.
Bien-Aime Baraza (Kenya)
One artist who doesn’t rest on his laurels is Sauti Sol’s frontman Bien-Aime Baraza. His solo projects, in 2022 and 2021, have shown us what a versatile musician he is – perhaps the reason every Kenyan artist seems to be lining up for a collabo with him. His latest offering ‘Inauma’ has become a collective earworm, a favourite of everyone from preschool kids to senior citizens.
John Frog (South Sudan)
John Frog’s claim to fame may be his 2022 hit ‘Action ‘n’ Energy’, but make no mistake, he is a solid artist who has been perfecting his craft for years. He is currently South Sudan’s biggest music export and should continue as such for many more years to come.
Fally Ipupa (DRC)
In 2022, the National Syndicate of Phonographic Publishing (SNEP) in France officially certified Fally Ipupa’s album Tokoss gold, five years after its release. The Congolese superstar was inducted as Prince of Ekonda Culture by the Anamongo people of the DRC and won the Best Francophone Artist Award at the 2022 AFRIMMAs. His recent performance on the Colors platform also added to his achievements in 2022, although his sold-out concert at Kinshasa’s 80 000-capacity Martyrs stadium in late October was marred by a stampede that left 11 dead. Despite this terrible tragedy, Fally Ipupa is regarded as a national treasure in his native DRC.
Roga Roga (Congo-Brazzaville)
Roga Roga took home the Best Artist of Central Africa at the seventh edition of the International Prize of Urban Music and Coupé-decalé (PRIMUD) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in October. A number of big names in music competed against him, including Fally Ipupa, Innoss’B, Locko, Ko-C and Blanche Bailly. His band Extra Musica helped him establish himself as one of the most popular singers of his generation in both Congo and the US.
There is no denying the meteoric rise of Congolese singer Innoss’b. He won the best Central African Artist Award at the 15th edition of The Headies in the US, beating his compatriots Fally Ipupa and Dadju. A number of hit songs were also written by him with artists such as Cameroon’s Ko-C and producer Djizzo.
Having been nominated at the 2022 PRIMUD awards, the 2022 Balafon Music Awards and the 2022 MTN Zik Awards, Locko knows how to make a splash. During the Balafon Music Awards, he took home two major awards: Best Album of the Year for his album Era and Best Artist Award for 2013-22, a decade in which he won the most awards at the Balafon Music Awards.
Ko-C is another Cameroonian artist who needs to be on our 2022 list. He was nominated at the PRIMUD awards and then in four categories at the 2022 Balafon Music Awards. Not surprisingly, the singer won the Best Musical Collaboration and Artist of the Year awards at the Balafons. His numerous successful collaborations have made him a leading artist not only in Cameroon but in the whole Central African region.
DJ Snake (Algeria)
The year 2022 is undoubtedly the year of William Sami Grigahcine, aka DJ Snake. With his ‘Disco Maghreb’ hit, the Franco-Algerian captivated his fans on YouTube, where more than 100 million views were generated. The song pays tribute to Algerian pop culture. Besides being ranked 44th on the Top DJs 2022 chart, DJ Snake also received a nomination for Best Electro Artist at the 29th edition of the MTV Music Awards this year. He is also nominated for Best African Video and Best Song of the Year at the 2022 AFIRMAs, which will be held in Dakar, Senegal, from 12 to 15 January.
Soolking is the embodiment of an Algerian success story. After settling in France in 2014, the 33-year-old artist continues to make the headlines. As the new voice of the Algerian diaspora, he quickly established himself with his 2018 hit ‘Guerilla’. His cover of Elvis Crespo’s ‘Suavemente’, released in February 2022, won the prestigious Best Cover Song of the Year Award at the 2022 NRJ Music Awards. French charts ranked the song at No 18. He is nominated in the Best Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Male Artist from North Africa, Best Video and Best African Act in the Diaspora categories at the 2022 AFRIMAs.
Balti is without competition in the Tunisian hip hop scene. He established himself as the most popular Tunisian rapper of his generation after the release of ‘Ya Lili’ in 2017, which has amassed more than 750 million views on YouTube since then. In January 2022, he joined Spotify’s RADAR programme with ‘Ghareeb Alay’ featuring Palestinian artist Elyanna.
In the past couple of years, ElGrandeToto has made a name for himself as one of the most streamed artists in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region on Spotify due to hits like ‘Silhoutte’, ‘Gueule tapée’ and ‘Salade Coco’. His biggest success in 2022 came from collaborations with Nigerian artists like CKay on the North African remix of ‘Love Nwantiti’ and Ayra Starr on ‘Comforter’, proving that pan-African collaborations are what fans want to hear.
Mohamed Ramadan (Egypt)
Mohammed Ramadan is one of Egypt’s most prolific artists. He was the first Egyptian artist to receive the Diamond Creator Award from YouTube in 2020, and remains the highest-paid actor in Egypt. In 2022, his hits ‘Dawsha’, ‘Tanteet’, ‘Boss’ and the more recent ‘Law Naseen’ featuring Shahinaz exploded in popularity. The 2022 Big Apple Music Awards nominated Ramadan in the Best Arabic Male Act category.