What do you do when you’re a musician who needs some inspiration or perhaps a way to get new listeners?
Do a cover of a more famous artist of course. We’ve all heard of the Biebers of the world making it big after uploading a cover on YouTube. Here’s some brilliant African and African-American artists doing the same.
South Africa’s Zoë Modiga has the entire country in the palm of her hand. During her cover of Jill Scott’s Golden, one could close their eyes and picture a seasoned jazz singer. However, this soulful songstress is barely in her twenties. She’s only 21.
Having studied classical piano, clarinet and singing in Johannesburg, she moved on to major in jazz vocals at the South African music college at the University of Cape Town. Always pitch perfect, Zoë slayed at Mother City Live in Cape Town just a few weeks ago. She is a regular performer in the South African jazz scene, and has graced many a noteworthy stage, including the Cape Town International Jazz Festival and the Artscape Youth Jazz Festival. Here’s to a healthy musical career for this rare flower.
Malawian singer-songwriter George Kalukusha’s music is unabashedly personal. His guitar fits snugly under his arm beneath a smoky vocal laced with an autumnal and balmy richness.
Having grown up in the UK, his style has taken on an Paolo Nutini-esque sincerity, lending his delicate qualities to Amos Lee’s Arms of a Woman and even more recently, Drake’s Hotline Bling. His strength comes to the fore in 2015 as we take a comforting stroll through his latest EP, Growing Pains. If you’re in need of a soul-soothing getaway, catch him live at Mufasa’s Eco Lodge in Malawi on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Taking on an Adele ballad is not for the faint of heart. To try and emulate such a world-class talent opens yourself up to a lot of critique but Taps bulldozes through his rendition of the British woman-of-the-moment’s material, not once, but twice, with Make You Feel My Love and her latest, Hello.
The same track that has every musician in their right mind postponing their releases gave Zimbabwean Taps Mugadza the opportunity to resurrect Seal’s husky and heartfelt tone in a tender, yet gut-wrenching acoustic gem that stands on its own at two-million YouTube views.
Recognised by Billboard, Taps has found solace in his art after growing up as an orphan in Zimbabwe and moving to LA.
‘The songs that you will soon hear are a perfect representation of the permanent scars that my past has forged on to my heart. But there are also songs that you will hear that are a reminder to me that not all of my life was doom and gloom.’ We look forward to it.
The UK-based bloke with the Midas touch at just 26, Shakka has had one hell of a career, even if it is just the beginning. Making a startling sweep at the MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards this year, he gave an earth-shattering performance of his latest banger Say Nada, and justifiably snatched Best RnB/Soul act right up from underneath a list of formidable competitors including Kwabs, Joss Stone, Lianne La Havas and Andreya Triana.
Shakka loves to perform. Donning a disarming smile, it shows in his immeasurable skill at creating genre-defying tracks by using everything from beatboxing and rap throughout along with his astounding vocal range. Word is he’s set to lay down a track with Idris Elba soon – we wait in anticipation. In the meantime brush up on his various ‘Shakkapellas’, including artists such as Gotye and Usher, Ten Walls, Stromae and Nico and Vinz and even Drake and Wizkid… and then, grab his debut EP of equally luscious originals The Lost Boys, out now on iTunes. That, friends, is money well-spent.
The seed of the Fresh Prince himself and his lovely wife Jada Pinkett Smith one would expect 15-year-old Willow Smith to be a lacklustre rendition of her parents, piggybacking on the residual fame of the two trailblazers. This could not be farther from the truth.
Willow is an equally creative, cool and conscious performer in her own right. She has a uniqueness that is a refreshing addition to a saturated industry. Having left behind her youth and whip-my-hair aesthetic for a well rounded, spirited electric sound, she effortlessly tackles Björk’s Human Behaviour with an unparalleled gentle grip accompanied by guitarist James The Atlantean. Let this young woman’s piercing eyes peer into your soon-to-be-stolen souls with the video for her latest, Why Don’t You Cry? And she’s just dropped a surprise debut album Ardipithecus.
Not only are her voice and oh-so-easy-on-the-eye smile charming as hell but UK vocalist Lianne La Havas creates such atmosphere and grace wherever she goes. With illuminating vocals and guitar work that will instantly turn first-time listeners into lifetime fans.
For the In the Woods Barnyard Session in 2013, she stole Yukimi Nagano’s shine on her cover of Swedish group Little Dragon’s enthralling Twice. Able to shift between a tempered acoustic setup and just as effortlessly sinking into an electronic club staple, it seems there is nowhere Ms La Havas cannot go.
Kenya is on fire as usual, and we see another cover of Adele’s Hello coming from fierce young performer Dela and her friends Fancy Fingers, Webi and Andrew Ngati. An activist with war in her heart; not only can she bust a move and belt a tune but she enjoys writing songs about the political and social ills plaguing many African communities. So much that the UN approached her to join the ranks of their cause Messengers of Truth, which took her on an inspirational tour of Istanbul.
Dela has put a magical Kenyan spin on the emotive track with verses completely translated to Swahili. With swirling backing vocals layered with guitars and drums, Dela has given the track a life of its own. Check out her dance-worthy single Ma Feelings accompanied by a video highlighting toxic friendships and relationships finessed by Nigerian director Clarence Peters.
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