AUSTRALIAN AFROBEAT ARTISTS YOU NEED ON YOUR RADAR
Constructed upon the fundamental pillars of West African music by founding father Fela Kuti, Afrobeats has emerged as a prominent force in the global music scene. Its infectious rhythms and polyrhythmic percussions, drawing influences from Fuji music and highlife, mixed in with American jazz and funk, has soared to become one of the most prevailing musical styles worldwide.
Celebrated household names such as Burna Boy, WizKid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, and numerous others have played a pivotal role in pioneering and propelling Afrobeats to unprecedented heights year after year and the sound it is today. From Rema’s unforgettable ‘Calm Down’ to CKAY’s lo-fi, resonant hit ‘Love Nwantiti’ which was the first African song to go 4x platinum in the USA. It even reached the far corners down under with being certified platinum in Australia with over 70,000 units sold in the country.
It’s clear that Afrobeats is picking up momentum as the genre continues to collect global success and recognition, but what about its place within the ever-expanding society of Australian pop culture? Of course, honourable mentions have to be made for local pioneer Sampa The Great and rising star Big Skeez, two artists who have pushed the sound in Australia for years now. It’s time to shine the spotlight on local African diaspora artists you might not know, who are expanding the Afrobeats’ footprint down under.
Starting with the west side of Australia, from the city socially dubbed ‘the most isolated city in the world’, Boorloo/Perth, comes HV. Serving as an acronym for their group manifesto of ‘High Vision’, and the driving force behind the group, it is a reminder for the Perth-based artists Mornz, Luwii and Rzy that the sky’s the limit when pursuing their goals as visionaries. Despite the group’s sound historically being bass-led Hip-hop production, the trio solidified their versatility as artists in 2022 with the release of their 5-track debut EP Far From Home. The project pays homage to their African roots (Ghanaian, Zambian and Ethiopian) across Afrobeats and hip-hop sonics and is inspired by their successful supporting slots alongside international superstars Rema, KiDi, and Diamondz Platnium. Their lead single ‘Keeper’, racking up over 40,000 streams and its accompanying visuals, is closely connected to the Afro-pop sound sweeping across the globe and serves as a prime example of their effortless chemistry and dreamy Afro-pop appeal. It’s safe to say the road ahead looks golden for the Perth-based trio, guided by a higher vision.
The west side continues to deliver with the likes of Adrian Dzvuke. Having previously mentioned facing the struggle of placing his sound within the Australian music scene, it’s clear Dzvuke is forging his own lane with his melodic and soulful Afro-R&B sonics. The WAM-nominated artist has performed sell-out headline shows, a string of festivals including currently being on his own national tour, and support slots for Omah Lay, Spacey Jane, San Cisco & more. As one of Boorloo/Perth’s breakout artists, his latest upbeat melodic Afro-pop single ‘Enjoy’ adds to the excitement ahead of the deluxe version of his EP Don’t Worry Bout It Sweetheart scheduled for later this month. The EP is an upbeat collection of dancefloor-ready tracks, and sees Adrian bring his trademark Afrobeat flavour to the worlds of R&B and Pop. He explains that there are so many “exciting sub-genres coming out of the sound as well and this project was about exploring those different sonics within Afrobeats.” Having grown up around these sounds all his life, it’s clear that this music feels very natural to the Perth-based artist. His latest single ‘Enjoy’ infers a feeling of joy and groove with its contagious sound being akin to Burna Boy’s ‘It’s Plenty’ in calling people to feel good about themselves by having fun no matter what they are going through. His scintillating vocals carry the powerful message in highlighting one’s heritage and cultural identity through the expression of art.
“The African Australian identity is still a developing concept and it’s important to showcase our culture through the art as we find our bearings in this society. I’m inspired by artists such as Sampa The Great & Genesis Owusu who have managed to do it in such an authentic way.”– Adrian Dzvuke (2023).
Jumping over to the East Coast, Meanjin/Queensland-based artist Craig Isto is not one to be missed. The Zimbabwean-born artist described his sound as ‘sui generis’, meaning of its own kind in Latin. Isto mainly dabbles in Afrobeats and Hip-hop, but explores a range and mix of different elements that conform to no standard. This is evident through the global success of one of his latest singles ‘Can’t Get Enough’ racking up over 200,000 streams. Within the first 5 seconds of hearing the track you want to get up and dance, its euphonious beat and vocals transcend you to the feeling of when you’re enjoying a good night out with good vibes. Isto does not disappoint with his latest single and first delivery of 2023 ‘Low Low’. The upbeat tempo and catchy chorus of “when the music comes on you know you feel the vibe”, will definitely be a summer favourite for 2023. His background in dance expands his charm, being comparable to the likes of Ruger with his smooth moves to never miss the beat and add to his effortless and dreamy appeal. Craig Isto really is someone you soon can’t get enough of.
Already having received international acclaim, Ghanaian artist, Mike Akox lives up to his nickname of ‘The Show Man’. Having come to Australia at 16-years-old, the Eora/Sydney-based musician is passionate about highlighting the vibrant musical culture within Africa and paying it forward within the Australian music landscape. Akox has delivered on that front with his latest EP The Show Man. The feel-good tracks are a culmination of previously released songs that he intentionally selected to motivate people through tough times and uplift their spirits within the likes of old-school Afrobeats, Pop, Highlife, Jazz and so much more. Akox’s high vibration personality and tenacious work ethic shines with unique melodies and energetic beats. Being heavily inspired by his humanitarian work, the project holds a special place in his heart as he resonates with what the people in his community go through every single day. The Sydney-based artist’s talents come from a longline of stardom, with his uncle Papa Shee being a music legend within the Highlife & Hiplife music genres a part of Ghana’s urban music scene. His other releases have hit new heights with the infectious lead single ‘Spectacular’ having surpassed 600,000 streams, and the massive ‘Super Mario‘ featuring Ghanaian superstar Stonebwoy. For those wanting to see African Australian artists collaborate with international African artists, making a track with BET-awarded artist Stonebwoy is no small feat. The Show Man has already set the pace in pushing Australian Afrobeats to the world with an upcoming performance at the effervescent festival Promiseland where we will see the likes of Davido, Tems, Fireboy DML and many more.
“The sound (Afrobeats) is getting bigger and bigger, the more artists that come to Australia the more that we move forward. We need the industry to jump on it. More help and attention from the media and the people that have their hands in getting the music out there.”– Mike Akox (2023).
The Show Man promises the show continues with his upcoming project Love and The Universe as well as a national tour to be announced later in the year.
Get out of the way because Queen Achai is here. The multi-talented creative of South Sudanese origins triumphantly draws inspiration from her upbringing, having been surrounded by music throughout her childhood, from Church, ‘Loor’ and most of her family members being musicians. Imagine India Arie but Afro-soul, her debut EP, Malka would serenade any listener with strong and soulful vocals orchestrating a powerful journey of self-love and bold identity in oneself. Malka meaning queen in Hebrew is a declaration of being a strong female who in the face of adversity, digs deep into strength and resilience as she strives to maintain her brilliance. The track ‘Content’ is a female anthem for self-appreciation and embracing identity. This recurring theme is embodied throughout the majestic EP, with ‘Aussie Love’ being a fan favourite and made with the intention to connect Afrobeats to Australia, having done so with being written in Australia and the music video later filmed in Uganda. The Naarm/Melbourne-based artist explains that “becoming a female Afrobeats artist I once thought it’d be challenging as I initially started off with R&B/Soul, but the transition was quite natural.” The music video is a beautiful display of bold colours and art that emulates the confident Malka she is.
“My hope for Afrobeats in Australia is for it to be more common. Would love to hear it on the radio, pubs and at music festivals.”– Achai (2023).
You can look forward to Achai continuing to grace our ears with her sincere and inspiring confident sound in her upcoming project Corners.
Emerging Naarm/Melbourne-based artist Abeba is not shy when it comes to drawing from her personal experiences to construct her music and this was the driving force behind her debut single ‘Ting Fine’. Her first single, produced by Melbourne-based producer Kuda, was inspired by the self-reclaiming of her power from the ongoing betrayal that takes place in the cycle of toxicity throughout a relationship. Abeba is her own woman. Her art is relatable and canorous all the while wrapped in this talent that is still in its infancy. Abeba, meaning ‘flower’ in Amharic and inspired by her Ethiopian heritage, promises that this first Afrobeat track will not be the last we hear as Afrobeats is part of the direction she is looking to take her music in. Abeba endeavours to distinguish herself not only as a female Australian Afrobeats artist, but to strongly represent her East African roots. She aspires to one day collaborate with the likes of Wizkid, Maleek Berry and Ayra Starr which there is no doubt in her doing as she continues to bloom within the Australian Afrobeats landscape.
Dubbing himself Lowkey, there is definitely nothing lowkey about this incredible Melbourne-based artist. The Nigerian/Liberian-born musician is fast becoming a household name among the Afro-Australian wider community well known for his live performance style and having just come off a nationwide tour for his Gudvibes EP, Vol. 1. His raw, contagious energy can be felt throughout his songs especially with hit song ‘Radio’ by himself and Willson Vanilla from the EP. The charming lyrics of “show you how to live life, it’s a good vibe” are no lie when it comes to Lowkey’s music as it is evident through the mesmerising music video that accompanies the track. Since his initial step into the light, Lowkey has graced the stage with some of Africa’s most well-known artists such as Stonebwoy, Korede Bello, and will grace the stages of Melbourne again with a support slot alongside Tanzanian superstar Harmonize later this month. Lowkey may be his name, but his sound definitely isn’t.
Melbourne-based, Nigerian-born artist Joanny is fast emerging on the rapidly growing Afro and R&B scene in Australia. The singer, songwriter and music producer has built national accolades, especially in 2022 being a strong year with the opportunity to be stage support for international acts such as Adekunle Gold on the Australian leg of his ‘Catch Me If You Can’ tour and a successful performance at Promiseland. Joanny’s music is a culmination of Afro-pop, Dancehall, R&B and Reggae. His latest single and first project for 2023 ‘No Nonsense’ highlights his Afro-pop appeal, firstly memorable with the repetition of the phrase ‘no nonsense’ coupled with an irresistible flute sound played in parts throughout the song. Joanny’s genius lyricism of key repetitive catchy phrases and the use of sensual Afro-pop/R&B beats transcends the listener to embrace the emotion packed in every line. He not only delivered with the captivating track, but released a #NoNonsenseChallenge dance that is as catchy and amusing as Davido’s ‘Unavailable’ dance that has taken over TikTok. The versatility of this artist does not stop as he has released acoustic renditions of his other pleasurable projects such as People, Time & Emotions. It is clear Joanny distinguishes himself as an artist who puts feels into words and melodies that are irresistible whether you’re hearing his songs for the first time or are coming back for more.
Afrobeats cannot be classified as one sound, but serves as an umbrella term for a multifaceted enigma branching out in different directions. It continues to cross over into wider pop culture and is here for global consumption and domination, especially within the Australian scene with diasporic creatives, like the ones above and many more being the major forces carving the landscape.