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African music never sleeps, and neither does Leonel.

Shaadiya Sharaf – “Hees Cusub”

From Somalia: Somali popular music has a particular sensibility; the fact of being culturally an Arab country links them intimately with the rest of the Arab League and this is evident in the way Shaadiya phrases her melodies, always in the maqam system and with a lot of melismatic richness. However, on a rhythmic level, it aligns with deep East Africa, with a tumpa tumpa beat with sounds more common in Uganda or neighboring Kenya — this does not feel like much of a malfouf. “Hees Cusub” is thus an almost textbook expression of what makes the music of his country so unique. It is that historical cultural confluence, materialized.

Jessy Nunes – “Sigo Plena”

From Angola: I keep completely falling for this kind of atmospheric, nostalgic, late-night kizomba. The way Jessy’s voice blends with the keyboard chords and the careful spacing of the percussion is a feast for the senses.

AfroKillerz x Allis – “Nha Manera”

From Guinea Bissau: And speaking of atmospheric and nocturnal territory, what a great song the Bissau-Guinean duo AfroKillerz has just released. “Nha Manera” is a melodic delight thanks to Allis’s velvety vocals, but what’s most remarkable is the way the producers have incorporated such a dark, trance-like production in the service of the potent afrohouse beat. I take my hat off.

Cysoul – “Je tombe Aussi”

From Cameroon: This exquisite afro-soul piece, anchored by Cysoul’s impressive baritone shows the value of good percussion arrangements. Just listen to that very subtle polyrhythmic bit in the chorus, a bikutsi-indebted flourish that turns this homage to women from great to iconic.

Mike N’tchoula x Ariel Sheney – “Kérébete 5000 voltes”

From Ivory Coast: This is Coupé décalé of the highest order — by now, producers are all trying to one-up each other by doing all kinds of crazy twists and turns in their tracks, but it’s the appearance of Ariel Sheney in the hook that puts this over the edge. Bonus points for the distorted guitars.

Fica Magic – “Nana”

From Rwanda: A quintessential Rwandan tune, Kevin Pro’s tropical production fuses perfectly with Fica’s smoothness, and those string-synth/house-chords combinations hit very deeply.

Alto x Social Mula – “Agasenda”

From Rwanda: I can say pretty much the same here as with the previous tune, except that the addition of Social Mula’s melodies automatically make everything special. One of the true masters at work here.

Danni Gato x Loony Johnson – “Nu Bai”

From Cabo Verde/São Tome & Príncipe: Equally tropical but in a dancier way, this one finds two very talented, charismatic entertainers finding a real balanced Collab, but it’s the painfully Lusophone aspect of the production and arrangements — semba percussion clicks, funaná accordion-like synths — that makes it so interesting, nad most crucially, so fucking fun.

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