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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.
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.
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Mumbai-born singer-songwriter Nikhil has travelled far, wide and within, the better to write his songs and give voice to his innermost feelings. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Jeff Buckley and Ray LaMontagne, he also incorporates a range of Indian instrumental influences to create heartfelt, irresistibly melodic compositions, some excavated during his adventures and honed over time, some with the paint still wet. His romantic lyricism and the crisp folk-soul versatility of his voice has taken him all over the world, from Singapore to the United States to London, England, where he is currently based. His album ‘Silver & Gold’, which includes the single ‘Love is a Liar’, focuses on the difficulty of sustaining modern day relationships; a hopeful ode to falling and staying in love, and a tribute to the ones who have made it last over the years.
Born into a Christian family in Makwarela, a small town in the northern region of South Africa, Unarine Rambani learned how to produce music, play the drums and piano at a church founded by his parents. Dubbed “The Venda Pop Star” by his growing fan base, the 22-year-old producer/songwriter/vocalist recently dropped a 6 track EP ‘Wavy Baby’, his second commercially released project.
The first track, entitled ‘Good Intentions’ (featuring songstress Thabsie), gently lures the audience into his world, offering a melodic fusion of genres from reggae, soul and trap. This is evident in stand-out track “Murder” which features Nigerian-based singer and songwriter Shayee-Shay and co-producer C-Tea. Una Rams describes the EP as “a love story about a boy and a mermaid. And I know it’s the craziest thing to say to anyone but it’s because a lot of people get into relationships when they are both from 2 different worlds, things fall through the cracks because you don’t understand each well enough, so this EP takes you through the different stages of the relationship, and unfortunately it’s not a happy ending.”
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In Andean culture the most important festivity in the calendar corresponds to the summer solstice of June 21st, and it was on this day that Ecuadorian singer Huaira chose to release her first solo EP ‘Ñuka Shunku’ (“I am pure heart”). From the centre of the planet Quito on the day dedicated to the sun, Huaira (meaning “wind” in the Quechua language), the project opens with ‘Semilla Solar’ (“Solar Seed”), a song loaded with timeless Andean elements and beautiful vocals that seems to bring a message from the earth itself.
Last year, Buenos Aires psychedelic rock/blues band Los Espíritus released their third album ‘Agua Ardiente’. A few months later, while still touring the album, they released a three track EP called ‘Guayabo de Agua Ardiente’. The group describes this extension as containing the songs that were “too spaced out to be inserted in the official album but also too good not to be shared”. This EP ends with the aching guitars and deep, rasping vocals of ‘Ruso Blanco’.
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Wanja Wohoro and Jinku’s DUST EP is a Nu-Nairobi gem. With melancholic yet inspirational songwriting, the soulful combination of Wohoro’s sultry vocals against the canvas of Jinku’s delicate production is shifting the perspective of contemporary Kenyan audiences. Where the acoustic and electronic scenes once remained intensely separated, such collaborations are a testament to the scope for these two styles to fuse seamlessly. Underground singer/songwriters and bedroom producers have been experimenting with genre-bending ideas for some time, and the results are beginning to pierce the veil of the mainstream. Following in the footsteps of pioneering Kenyan artists who have stepped out before into the global spotlight such as Karun Mungai and Blinky Bill, Wohoro is on a mission to overcome these barriers, taking the stage beside Jinku, who is perhaps best-known beyond the African continent for his collaborations with globetrotting artists like Jojo Abot.
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Born in Mussoorie India, with roots in New Zealand and South Africa, multi-cultural acoustic singer Jordan Johnson moved to New Delhi at the age of 8. He began experimenting with open chords, tunings and eventually started writing his own songs; fast forward to 2018, and the 23 year old has recently been voted one of the top five acoustic acts in the city. A year of self and musical exploration resulted in a 4 track EP titled ‘Afterglow’ which was released in March this year; single ‘Superman’ was written in the months before he got married, when he found himself at the crossroad of family and self expectations, with the soul-bearing sound of his haunting melodies creating a somber, melancholic vibe. The artist also performs live as the ‘Jordan Johnson Trio’ alongside Akshay Deokuliar (drums) and Harshit Misra (bass) who add different elements and explore more of what the music has to offer.
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Though perhaps better known in Brazil as a producer and composer for new MPB indie artists such as Céu and Lucas Santtana, Gui Amabis is no newcomer to the microphone himself. His latest album, ‘Miopia’, is the fourth in a series which began back in 2011 with ‘Memórias Luso-Africanas’, followed by 2012’s ‘Trabalhos Carnívoros’ and ‘Ruivo em Sangue’ in 2015. ‘Contravento’ is actually a song that was originally recorded by Céu on her album ‘Caravana Sereia Bloom’, but here Amabis crafts a new version that completely reworks the genre and mood of the song: where before there were notes of tropical cumbia, Amabis spins a smooth, melancholic take, adding a philosophical and reflective depth to the lyrics. Amabis handles vocal duties, enlisting instrumental assistance from a band of four; Dustan Gallas (electric guitar), Regis Damasceno (bass), Samuel Fraga (drums) and Richard Ribeiro (vibraphone).
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Jorja Smith’s rise over the last couple of years has been meteoric. From the success of breakout hit Blue Lights, the Walsall-born singer-songwriter’s emergence as one of music’s most exciting new talents has transferred into real star power as she’s scored global successes with singles ‘Teenage Fantasy’ and ‘On Your Mind’, working with US rap royalty and receiving critical acclaim along the way. She’s consolidated this ascendance in her debut album ‘Lost & Found’, capturing the moment perfectly as her silky smooth vocals glide over warm soulful production from the likes of Charlie Perry, Cadenza, Tom Misch and Felix, showcasing her songwriting ability with a grace and maturity that belies her youthful 21 years.
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As his name suggests, Jamaica’s Alexx A–Game never comes with anything less than 100%. His own smooth brand of dancehall is infused with influences of classic RnB and hip-hop, creating a slick, soulful sound that allows him to showcase the strength of his sweet vocals and motivational lyricism. After three successful releases on UK-based label Swing Ting including last year’s standout Braver, he returns with his first release of the year ‘Go Harda’, a steady groove with an uplifting message.
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Over the last few years Parisian artist Myth Syzer has built a reputation as one of France’s finest hip-hop producers . On his debut album ‘Bisous’ he rises to the challenge of using his own voice on his beats for the first time, creating a melancholic yet sensual style inspired by 90s French pop and using the music as a therapeutic means to move on from a painful break-up. On Full Metal, the beatmaker links up with Aja of rock band La Femme to deliver a smooth, passionate lullaby, imploring a lover not to leave.
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Ethiopian-American artist Kelela’s first entrance came in 2013 with her mixtape ‘Cut 4 Me’; since then, hundreds of thousands of listeners have gravitated towards her masterful ability to fuse pop and RnB with elements of modern cinematic sounds and neo-soul. Take Me Apart, her 2017 debut studio album, received critical acclaim for its original sound and refreshing energy; standout track ‘Frontline’ demonstrates the breadth of Kelela’s range, with choppy raps acting as a powerful contrast amongst airy, effortless vocals. Since her youth, Kelela’s Ethiopian roots and perspective on music and freedom of movement has influenced her nomadic style and unique approach.
Born and raised in Nairobi, RU.BY has been singing professionally since 2016. Few young artists in the city are able to say that their first release was the result of a collaboration with one of Kenya’s most well known artists and a highly respected pioneer of East Africa’s alternative/indie music scene, but the co-sign of Blinky Bill comes as little surprise given her confident delivery and natural knack for melody and playful rhythms. She cites the overwhelmingly positive reception of that debut song as the reason she was encouraged to keep creating, inspired by the “amazing journey of self discovery and mind blowing interactions with people” provided by her new path in the music industry.
With ‘Rival’, Sudanese artist Hiba Elgizouli has proven herself to be one of 2018’s most exciting talents to watch. The track seamlessly transfuses the classic neo-soul sound with distinctly Sudanese intonations and patterns, as Hiba’s ethereal incantations coming from all directions illustrating an internal conflict and conversation. This style is hugely reminiscent of classic Sudanese music, which makes heavy use of responses from a choir to the lead singer. The track’s stunning accompanying visuals boast the art direction and cinematic directing talents of Hiba’s sisters, May and Sally Elgizouli, adding an entirely new dimension to the song and revealing the beauty of Sudanese culture and tradition.
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Paris neo-pop group Isaac Delusion pay tribute to French rock legend Eddy Mitchell with a stirring version of 80s classic ‘Couleur Menthe À L’Eau’. The mysterious quintet inject a new elegant electronic ambience to the original track, which tells the tale of a shy man intimidated by the charms of a mint-eyed woman being carried away by the Hollywood dream.
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Kenyan musician Kato Change’s distinctive sound is the product of a unique combination of influences. While his nuanced guitar licks and elaborate playing style indicate a jazz background, he often strays into rock territory and flirts with classic hip hop and R&B grooves. His signature sound is marked by his own, original hybrid guitar tuning, drawing from traditional African instruments, blues scales and elements inspired by his time touring in Brazil.
‘Mr. Music Man’ features trumpet player Owuor Arunga and singer Lisa Oduor-Noah (whom Kato cites as “his favorite Kenyan vocalist”), and gives a perfect example of Kato’s adventurous collaborations, pairing his instrumentalism with vocalists and artists who stretch across various styles. The track provides a snapshot of how musical worlds collide in the contemporary Kenyan scene, where gifted artists from different disciplines come together to produce fascinating original music.
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Grammy-nominated producer Gwen Bunn takes an official step out all on her own with her debut solo project ‘Safe Travels’. Incorporating rich jazz and funk influences, ‘Yours’ is the the stand out track on the eight-track EP, a soulful affair filled with sultry vocal tenderness exploring themes of desire and commitment.
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LVRN/Interscope’s newest R&B starlet, Summer Walker, dazzles with her earworm of a debut, ‘CPR’. With classic instrumentation, smooth production and her own raw approach towards songwriting, the Atlanta native is creating music that captivates listeners with her sultry vocals and alluring melodies.