I’m a DJ. So it’s only right I give you ten songs that filled up my crates in 2011 to play out the year. No rankings, just the first 10 club friendly Afropop tracks I could think of:

When Benjamin Lebrave passed me Sarkodie and E.L.’s “U Go Kill Me” in Accra this summer, I knew that with the Ska piano skank, winding synth, minimal funky drum pattern, catchy chorus, and rapid fire verses, it would be high on my list for club tunes in 2011. Even better, it has become an anthem for the Asamoah Gyan inspired Azonto Dance.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTJ3bwDIyWc&w=250&h=25]

DJ Arafat seems to come up with a new name/persona for every song. After I asked the Ivorian owner of a tape shop in Harlem for some new Coupe Decale, he played the intro for “Frapper Baboula Tala” about ten times in a row. I sometimes do the same thing when I’m alone in the house.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DnXMIfUu5w&w=250&h=25t=11s]

The Sahel Sounds blog brought my attention to some of my favorite music in 2011. After learning about Iba One, and subsequently obsessing over what else might be out there, I went on a Skyrock hunt for some of the latest Malian tunes. There I came across Kaba Blon’s “Moribiyassa” a song from the amazing Balani Show scene in Bamako. The song recently became available for purchase internationally on Sahel Sound’s Songs from Saharan Cellphones compilation, and the Masalacism label just released a full Décaler Balani compilation this week!

[bandcamp track=2884660575 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=short]

I learned about London based Nigerian girl pop group Shiikane via This is Africa. The Afropop remix of their cover of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s “I Wonder if I Take You Home” channels the Francophone club style so well that I think the Parisian take on Coupe Decale/Logobi might finally be ready for the Anglophone mainstream.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foRRqJP_3pI&w=250&h=25]

I heard Atumpan’s “The Thing” everywhere in Ghana and Liberia. My favorite part about hearing it in the club was seeing people sing mockingly to the closest person of the opposite sex, “I am teaching you the thing.” It features Stone from the Bradez.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9z4VrDu_ZYw&w=250&h=25]

Out of M.I.’s Chocolate City camp, Ice Prince’s debut single “Oleku” was the summer jam in 2011, and my favorite tune out of Nigeria. The double time piano line echoes another summer jam from the year before, but the minimal drum beat keeps a tension driven frenzy underneath the whole thing. When this would come on in the club everybody would move in slow exaggerated unison, and then explode into enthusiastic singing when Brymo’s chorus dropped.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A576XVrgD4&w=250&h=25]

I don’t think I’ve ever seen one song dominate a nation’s psyche like Junior Freeman and African Soldier’s “Dumyarea” did in Liberia this summer. Maybe it was because it was an election season, and all the politicians co-opted the song for their own campaigns, but you could not go anywhere and not hear this populist anthem.

[bandcamp track=845589801 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=short]

PepeSoup’s output has been astonishing in 2011. The “Pump Tire” single is one amongst a host of projects that the Italy based Liberian-Italian duo has put out on their Soupu Music label. Their sound takes influences from the vast range of House styles coming out of Europe, but mostly UK Funky which has been inserting a West African sensibility into its scene from the beginning.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOq_6aVOqPI&w=250&h=25]

So D’Banj singed with Kanye. I don’t know what that means, cause I’ve been waiting to hear anything from Sarkodie on Konvict for over a year now. Regardless, Oliver is a nice club tune, and I’m excited for the video to drop. Don Jazzy again!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PsEpYG_nAg&w=250&h=25]

Cabo Snoop and his genius producer I.V.M. Beats broke a more Kuduro influenced House sound into the Afropop mainstream in 2010. Unfortunately, I.V.M. Beats passed away in a tragic car crash early in 2011. Still, now that South African House has firmly made it to the electronic music mainstream, it’s Angola’s turn to shine. DJ X Trio is helping make sure that happens by remixing South African songs like Professor’s “Jezebel”. This tune was a staple in my sets this year. Check out Benjamin Lebrave’s write up on it at The Fader.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/30707931″]

Happy New Year. See you on January 5, 2011.

Further Reading