Rwandan/Canadian emcee Shadrach Kabango is a prolific, intelligent wildly talented musician who is probably hip-hop’s best-kept secret. But not for long, I suspect. With two brilliant studio albums under his belt (When This is Over  and The Old Prince , Shad has just completed two tours - one with fellow Canadian afropolitan, K’naan - in support of his latest effort, TSOL.
Without touting himself as a conscious emcee, Shad cautions against conforming to stereotypical images and manages to get across insightful and empowering messages without sounding preachy. He replaces hip-hop’s usual bravado with self-deprecating wit and powerful lyricism, eliciting laughter and provoking thought. As a child or Rwandan parents, brought up in London, Ontario, his music is autobiographical but he doesn’t mythologize his background by purporting to be a graduate of the school of the hard knocks. Rather, he creates music from the perspective of a child from a loving home who has had a small-town, middle-class upbringing and has had to deal with issues that range from race, identity, the shadow of genocide, and social responsibility to girls, basketball, and self-discovery. He is an African emcee who is proud of his heritage and the home in which he was raised.
TSOL has been released internationally and its solid production and tight lyrics have made Shad a force to be reckoned with. Watch this space!
Somi Kakoma is a New York-based Rwandan/Ugandan/America soul-afrobeat-jazz vocalist. From the day I discovered Somi seven years ago, she has been an integral part of my Afropolitan soundtrack. She is a brilliant and breathtaking jazz vocalist who embraces funk and afro-beat and whose stage presence is mesmerizing. With an incredible vocal range and singing in a combination of English, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, and Kinyankole, her music takes you on an intricately woven journey. Her homage to home is a constant thread that runs through all her works, and she consistently embraces her roots while acknowledging all of the other influences that have shaped her into the artist she is today.
Somi has produced three studio albums, Eternal Motive (2003), Red Soil In My Eyes (2007) and If the Rains Come First (2010), each of which navigates subjects ranging from the definition of home, to love, life, faith, and freedom and seamlessly fuses contemporary jazz with bluesy soul and afro-beat. The current album, however, is really special, and on this evidence she is poised to become a formidable musical force.
Out of monumental pain and darkness can emerge exquisite beauty and light. A survivor of Rwanda's 1994 Genocide, Sabrina Iyadede has overcome pain, trauma and incredible loss and emerged with an inspirational strength and spirit. She has recorded and performed with Zap Mama in Belgium, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Her passion and love for her home country and continent is evident in her words and she represents her home with soul, beauty, grace, funk, and fire.
Iyadede’s voice is at once delicate and powerful, but her style defies easy categorisation. Her free spirit and originality offer an alternative sound to that usually expected of pop music. On her first studio album, ‘Talking to God’ (free to DOWNLOAD), an eclectic mix of electronic pop and funkadelic hotness, her sound oscillates between punk-rock, electronica and jungle, with elements of afro-beat and funk. Her personal style is just as unique - recently featured in Essence magazine’s ‘Street Style’, the singer has launched an African-themed line of earrings available HERE.
She is the very picture of resilience and hope and a multi-talented artist whose star is rising. I cannot wait to see what she does next.
Written by Anne Mazimhaka