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Ondi is a Kenyan artist who considers her poetry as important as her music. Her voice is reminiscent of the soft, husky haze we attribute to classic blues legends like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, and although Ondi looks young enough to be a high school student she performs with a soberly mannered, delicate movements of someone twice her age. While she is considered a cultural outlier, moving indiscreetly through the shadows of the alternative scene since parting creative paths Nairobi based funk/soul band Yellow Light Machine some years back, she has continued to influence the city’s collective growth in independent artistry through self-released music, pop-up art installations and impactful community-focused events that challenge traditional societal norms through musical gatherings. Her forthcoming crowd-sourced album is composed mostly on the ukulele, featuring stripped down compositions of bare instruments and vocals, much like the spacious atmosphere of her beloved song ‘Empty Pages’.
Aditi Ramesh quit her job as a corporate lawyer and set forth on pursuing a career as a full-time musician. An exemplary vocalist with a herculean voice complemented by a range of techniques and tonal modulations; her inspiration stems from blues, jazz and traditional Carnatic music in which she trained in her childhood. A remarkable rise in her career was instigated with the launch of this year’s EP ‘Autocorrect’, demonstrating her true calibre as a composer, showcasing her classical training and strong musical sensibilities. The EP’s strongest track ‘Efflux of Time’ is a masterful exercise in building looping melodies, and contains one of the most deliciously unexpected vocal transitions; conveying a message of time being the healer of all wounds.
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Botswana born singer-songwriter Mpho Sebina incorporates hip-hop, soul, jazz, traditional Setswana music and folklore into her sound. Authentic and experimental, the self-taught musician has built a loyal audience through her signature a cappella mash-ups including Brenda Fassie with the The Fugees and Boom Shaka with Erykah Badu. She’s performed in venues across Botswana and South Africa, as well as hosting a monthly live music co-operative ‘NakedSoul Sessions’, curating a performance line-up of yet to be discovered local music and merchandisers.
Sebina released her debut EP titled Neo in October 2017 with the first single ‘Black Butterfly’ a soulful hip-hop track with sonic facets of the new generation of melancholic trap-soul. “My music is autobiographical; the stuff I’ve written is self-reflection time for me,” she says. “As a 28-year-old African woman my music is about the journey to discovering one’s self through this world. I would like to stir up that quest for self, to bring about a healing type of vibe. It’s a lot about overcoming and focusing on the personal stuff. Sometimes we get wrapped in anxiety, myself included. My music is about providing an outlet for listeners to forget.”
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- The Norwegian creative comet Lil Halima makes alternative pop evoking melancholic feelings. The 19 year old popstar writes, produces and makes her own cover-art. Lil Halima ́s short videos of herself playing and singing on Instagram have attracted a significant following and led to her signing with Def Jam Norway last year. Her new single Train blends crunchy, electronic elements with a smooth soulful groove, adding an airy, easygoing pop-song to her catalogue before her debut EP drops in October this year.
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Polo Reyes, frequently known as Mellow Fellow, is an independent dream-pop artist based in the Philippines. Describing his music career as a “project to release sad shit,” he already has three albums under his belt and is in the process of producing a fourth; on his latest single, ‘Don’t You Dare’, the singer explores the feeling of mistrust in relationships. He has also collaborated with foreign acts such as Clairo and Floor Cry, reflecting his status as a promising act with a growing profile in the international music scene.
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Sincerity thickens when a veteran rapper confesses his deepest feelings. Born and raised in Busan, South Korea, Simon Dominic was a former member of hip-hop duo ‘Supreme Team’; now joint-CEO of independent record label AOMG, he returns with new album ‘DARKROOM : roommates only’ three years on from the release of his last project ‘₩ & Only’.
On his past records, Dominic was known for embodying various characters and aliases; however, this time around he narrates candid conversations without any guest features, channelling all of his struggles into a melancholic album with the smooth power of his delivery, tackling themes such as the pressures of his environment and his fear of being left behind. On ‘Jung Jin Chul’, he broods over loss of his uncle who disappeared when he was a child, weaves remembrance, yearning, and his distress at reality together through his lyricism.
However, this story of the grief of separation had a remarkable happy ending; two weeks after the album’s release, Dominic shared a picture on Instagram of his father side by side with Jung Jin Chul himself, announcing that they had found and reunited with the long-lost uncle.
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Celebrating 10 years deep into her music career, Bárbara Eugenia’s fourth album is imminent. Over the last decade the Rio de Janeiro-born singer has explored several musical styles, although always retained a consistent Tropicalia flavor throughout. With such local, nostalgic energy so well established in her music, the artist decided to join forces with Felipe Cordeiro, one of the most prominent names within the new wave of Guitarrada, the genre from the northern state of Pará where guitars and percussion combine to make a sound resembling a mix of Afro-Caribbean Calypso infused with a tropical flavour unique to Brazil’s north. Together the pair created ‘Confusão’, an irresistible tune that invites the listener a hot summer’s night of dirty dancing.
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Omar Banos, better known as Cuco, is a teenage prodigy. In May, the 19-year-old chicano producer already delivered his third album: ‘Chiquito’, a record that floats through the movements of summer love. With uniquely calibrated synths and lyrics sung in both English and Spanish, his deft mixture of R&B, hip-hop and psychedelic pop has won him the support of Kali Uchis, Kevin Abstract and Steve Lacy, not to mention his loyal band of fans known as “Cuco Puffs”, who have turned him into something of a modern day dream-pop icon.
East London-based, Danish-born singer/producer and Wu-Tang collaborator Mont Jake 5-track EP2 fuses a diverse range of music cultures to create a fresh and original sound. On standout track ‘Come Closer’ the artist (born Jacob Hammershøj) collaborates with saxophonist Leland Whitty of Badbadnotgood and rapper Gene Fisher, showcasing Jake’s innate ability to absorb a broad range of influences and bring them into his sultry and soulful world. A triple-threat, Jake writes, produces and records his own music which has led him from his home in Copenhagen to sign with Island Records in the UK.
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Following up from the release of his breakout debut album ‘Milly Rocking to the Wrong Things‘ back in March, Virgil Hawkins returns to link up with NOTAROLEMODEL’s CWBY once again for a fresh new two-track release. ‘The 5eason’ is a slick, uplifting trap anthem, as Hawkins’ trademark woozy melodies are complemented by a powerful verse from CWBY over production from Yxng Jynn, before the pair up the energy levels on the barnstorming ‘Planet Pod’, going back-to-back as they exchange charged-up verses over a high-octane beat produced by CWBY himself. Irresistible raw chemistry from two of London’s most exciting young talents.
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In the midst of territorial conflicts, making protest music in Central America can be a dangerous game, but Guatemalan sociologist, poet, actress, rapper and activist Rebeca Lane has stood strong against oppression as a passionate supporter of women’s rights and the preservation of Latin American heritage and natural resources. In the Mayan worldview, Obsidian – the precious stone that gives its name to her most recent album – represents the protective energy that helps to cut the negative and unveil mysteries. It is a stone used for healing, but also for war. This new album blends powerful rhythms and traditional instruments with powerful lyrics and the essence of boom-bap.
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Pounding palms against African drums while simultaneously performing live beatbox patterns with seasoned vocal versatility, poet & hip-hop artist Checkmate Mido splits his verses between slang Swahili-English and an intricately crafted, multi-cultural rap language all of his own. Channeling a fearless MC’s cadence akin to the legends of the London underground, Mido is a Kenyan artist who, whilst known in the old school hip-hop circles of Nairobi, has made a conscious effort to collaborate with the city’s nu wave of artists and producers such as Ukweli and Nu Fvnk of EA Wave, who worked with Mido to create the haunting blend of electronic and organic sounds and styles featured in “Maria Salaam.” Renowned for his intensely energetic shows, he released a studio EP “Box Of Beats” in 2016 that expressed the artistry beyond his stirring live performances.
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Muddy Monk’s music is driven by poetic nostalgia, romantic torment and a need to escape, whether through long motorcycle rides or by traveling within through his soul and thoughts. Using his voice as an elegant melancholic instrument, the Swiss artist offers ‘Ocean’, a mermaid’s song that hypnotizes and immerses the audience into mellow waves made of sliding laments and celestial synths.
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Nego do Borel is a Brazilian funk hit-maker and entertainment prodigy. Born Leno Maycon Viana Gomes in Rio de Janeiro, he adopted his the name of his community, Morro do Borel – a favela home to more than 20.000 inhabitants. He started to gain recognition in 2012, when his track ‘Os caras do momento’ became a hit – the MC then went on to appear in some of Brazil’s most famous soap operas, often in cameos portraying himself. After consolidating on his celebrity status, Nego do Borel started to release a series of singles, collaborated with some of Brazil and Latin America’s most famous singers such as Anitta, Wesley Safadão and Maluma. With his latest single ‘Me Solta’, Borel decided to take on a funk 150bpm rhythm, a high-octane, faster and more aggressive version of the regular funk carioca, enlisting the help of DJ Rennan da Penha, one of the pioneers of this growing sub-genre. The 150bpm style is already taking the underground by storm in funk parties all across the country, but this track could well provide the bridge that enables it to filter into the mainstream.
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Born and raised in Manila, Rome Gomez captivates with his shoegaze R&B sound. In 2017, the singer/producer relocated to the United Kingdom to further progress his career internationally, and soon began working closely with The 1975, with lead singer Matty Healy calling Rome “his muse.” On ‘Seventeen’, taken from his forthcoming EP ‘RIP Indo Hisashi’, Rome delivers enchanting vocals over a dreamlike beat, offering a tantalising taste of whats to come.
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Koreans are becoming increasingly familiar with the phrase; ‘Trust and listen to Jeebanoff’. The 26 year-old singer has gained this faith as his star has risen in recent years, winning ‘Best R&B/Soul song of the year’ at the 2017 Korean Music Awards just a year after releasing his debut single ‘Hide’. Hailing from Ansan, his self-produced songs are mostly nostalgic and down-tempo, but never lacking in energy thanks to his fluid melodies and dynamic usage of percussion. This pacing is balanced by his lilting voice, depicting personal memories of love and everyday life in his songs. Taking another step forward a full-length independent project, he announced his forthcoming album ‘주마등:走馬燈’ (Panorama) with a self-directed trailer with Japanese styling; on pre-released track ‘Good Place’, the artist bears his insecurities about a past relationship over a powerful piano melody.
Dive into the world of Sabina Ddumba. One of the most prominent figures in Sweden’s pop scene, her effortless, natural vocal tone makes her stand out from the crowd. At the age of 16 she joined Stockholm’s prestigious Tensta Gospel Choir (which has produced the likes of Lykke Li and Kristin Amparo), and it was here that she honed her talent and the star we see today was born. With a powerful voice and a charismatic aura, the listener is drawn into Sabina’s universe; her latest single ’Small World’ is a melodic story about finding hope in the commotion of everyday life, making the world seems to be a lot bigger than it really is; ”Maybe it’s a small world? You are not alone.”
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19-year-old Danish artist K-phax released his latest single ‘Punk’ last Friday. K-Phax does everything himself – writing, singing and production – and uses his music as a medium to explore themes of being an outsider, trying to fit in and promoting a message of self-acceptance and being the best version of yourself. In 2016, he won the Danish competition ‘KarriereKanonen’ – Danish national radio DR P3’s music competition for upcoming artists, and has built on this momentum to push the frontiers of hip-hop in Scandinavia; combining elements of hip-hop with alternative rock, he’s one of a new wave of artists bringing a new sound to Denmark.
Born in NYC but of Colombian roots, Crudo Means Raw stands out as one of the most exciting members of the golden generation of Colombian rappers. Both an exceptional MC and producer, Crudo adorns his beats with elements of jazz and soul, spitting raw lyrics that tell stories from the streets of Medellín.
‘Sangre en el Pool Party’ begins with the voices of Tanga, an old friend of Crudo, who one day casually passed by his studio. They left the track rolling, turned on the microphones and started talking, and that’s how this brilliant track was born.
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Sounds drenched in reverb and reversed synth textures echo together to create a dreamy musical backdrop, painted with Jim Chuchu’s intimate lyrics. With vocals seemingly inspired by 70s psychedelic crooners like Robert Plant, Chuchu is part of a new wave of artists transcending the traditional pigeonholes of creative media. Known today as one of Kenya’s bravest contemporary filmmakers – he grabbed attention at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival for his locally-banned, internationally-acclaimed indie film based on true stories of homosexuality in Africa – Chuchu rarely mentions his core musical role in Nairobi’s legendary group, Just A Band. While co-producing the band’s first three studio albums alongside Dan Muli and the renowned “Blinky Bill”, Chuchu also largely drove the group’s visuals, including the beloved music video “Ha-He” – which CNN, Wall Street Journal deemed Kenya’s first viral internet meme. After breaking away from the group to pursue his solo career and co-founding film platform “The Nest Collective”, Chuchu continues to produce and release his own music.