Following our East African Records Takeover on Maracuya Soundsystem, we will be bringing a series of articles about the distribution service and studio based in Kampala, Uganda which is aiming to bring the best in East African music to the world.
First up, we have highlighted our personal picks from a wealth of music that EAR have helped to release or distribute, featuring some of the most exciting and promising artists from the region. If you enjoy the list, there is more music on an East African Records playlist to check out via Spotify, where label founder David Cecil from EAR has picked his own personal selection of tracks.
Elle Bero – TOPOWA
MC Yallah began her ascent to greatness from East African Records, so could rising Ugandan musician Elle Bero be the next? She shares the same energy and positivity with bright and fun track TOPOWA providing a necessary positive push during times of crisis.
“This was the best time to release the song – people need hope for a better tomorrow.” Elle, the self-made entrepreneurial musician told us. “They can change their situations, they don’t have to lack in life. The second verse is all about when times get tough, I get tougher”.
Faizal Mostrixx and Susan Kerunen – The Thi
A lot of music was released in the crazy last few months we’ve had but one release from ‘Ebikokyo’ from Ugandan “tribal electronics” maestro Faizal Mostrixx, pop/folk singer Suzan Kerunen & instrumentalist Aloysius Migadde has slipped under everyone’s radars.
We could have picked any track from the EP, but The Thi holds a special atmosphere to it as The Suzan’s echoey voice breathing life combined with a flowing flute, gives a traditionally African vibe that feels modern and fresh.
Dimitri and the Scarecrow – Jigsaw African
Dimitri and the Scarecrow was created by Zimbabwean artist Dimitri D. Kwenda and Crass Roots Raps, released earlier this year on EAR is a deep, introspective and powerful release, that has gained more traction since the growing BLM movement.
Jigsaw African highlights the overarching themes of the album, ‘addressing African matters as an observer, victim, idealist, realist, critic & the privileged’. The track deals with the duality and self-analysis of being within a privilege position in a country and continent with huge class and social divide.
Often time a difficult and raw listen, but you will struggle to find a rapper in Africa challenging the social norms in such a way.
Control – Ecko Bazz, Blessed San and Black Badana
Kampala meets New York in this bouncy track featuring some of the biggest names associated with EAR, whilst production comes from the founder of the label David Cecil.
The video takes the viewer on a trip around the streets of Kampala surrounding Boutiq Studios, which each rapper taking their tune to spit their verse, reminiscent of classic Wu Tang Clan songs. Maybe this super group can return for more tracks in the future, but as an experimental one off it’s one of the most addictively brilliant tracks from EAR.
Byg Ben Sukula – Ba Kuka (For the Ancestors)
Ugandan hip hop artist Byg Ben Sukuya launched his debut album ‘Imbuka Eyi’Yange (This Is My Time)’ back in 2018. The album is a perfect slice of Kidandali, meaning “local party” or “celebration” and that’s what that track Ba Kuka (For the Ancestors) is about.
This track is made for the dance floor, with an up-tempo, impossible not to shake along rhythm. The only break you get is a bridge where Byg Ben shows off his impressive vocal flow, before the party starts back up again. Listen here if you need a good pick me up.
MC Yallah – Ting Badi Malo
Over the last few months, you can’t go anywhere without seeing MC Yallah. Resident Advisor, Wire Magazine & 6 music are raving about the prolific Ugandan MC . However she’s been perfecting her craft for 20 years now and East African Records were one of the first to promote her music, with ‘Ting Badi Malo’ releasing back in 2018.
You could argue this was where the seeds were sown for the MC Yallah of today through this track, spoken in her Luo (her native language) flow, with a call for unity in the midst of crisis. A year after when Kubali with Debmaster was released, arguably sending MC Yallah into the stratosphere but Ting Badi Malo was the Launchpad for that success.
[MONRHEA] – I & [I]
[MONRHEA] was one of the first East African artists that we featured on our show back in early 2019 and her long awaited debut album has finally arrived on Youth Sounds records. Her [ART] sees [MONRHEA] divulging into the dark corners of techno and bass, in vast contrast to a lot of the party style music often seen from her East African contemporaries.
Stand out track I & [I] builds a sonic range of heavy bass, clattering kicks and alien instrumentation, making us long for a return to the dark night club floors that have been shuttered since March. African techno has a bright future.
Blaq Bandana – Kikubamutwe
Blaq Bandana’s first solo project ‘Motoka Yange’ was premiered on our Maracuya Soundsystem East African Records takeover show and is out this Friday 31st July.
Taking the reins in co-production is Kenyan super producer Slikback, who worked with Blaq Bandana on previous track Kikubamutwe. Slikback’s music always captures a warped style of tradition and futuristic and with Blaq Bandana’s vocals on top, brings a new and formidable duo that could soon shake up the African underground hip hop scene.
“He reads his mind and I read his too,” he told us about the musical process the pair share. “He makes a beat that defines a real Blaq Bandana”.
Listen to our East African Records takeover on Maracuya Soundsystem: