First held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2017, ACCES has become arguably the most important music trade show on the African continent. This year, the fourth edition of the pan-African music conference will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the first time and is gearing up to be an unforgettable one.
ACCES, which is organised by the Music In Africa Foundation, has programmed an eclectic line-up of showcasing artists from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia, Lesotho, eSwatini, Tanzania and South Africa, who will get perform for fans and music industry professionals such as festival bookers, event organisers and label executives. The conference has partnered with Reeperbahn Festival – one of the most important meeting places for the music industry worldwide and Europe’s largest club festival based in Hamburg, Germany – to bring artists from the African diaspora to Johannesburg. ACCES has also partnered with Bassline Fest’s I AM HERE concert on 27 November where a number of ACCES showcasing artists will take the stage. You can now buy tickets to the I AM HERE concert via Howler(link is external) and Computicket(link is external).
To give you a taste of the ACCES showcase programme, we present a playlist featuring our pan-African roster of performers.
Sampa the Great (Zambia)
Sampa the Great is a rapper like no other. Fearless and self-assured, the Zambian-born musician constantly draws comparisons with classic hip hop giants like Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott for her intellectual take on everything from girl power to politics. She is behind acclaimed mixtapes such as The Great and Birds and the BEE9, which won the Australian Music Prize for Best Album in 2017. Her debut LP The Return was released in 2019. Sampa the Great’s performance at ACCES is presented by Reeperbahn Festival.
Dendri Stambeli Movement (Tunisia)
Dendri Stambeli Movement, which was formed in 2015, is an exemplar of the thriving fusion scene in North Africa by combining rock, jazz and traditional music. The band’s unique sonic imprint excellently straddles the tightrope of preserving ancestral Tunisian and North African music while striking up fresh creations. Pathfinders with a purpose, the collective advocates against normative and stereotypical vision of black music and its associated history. The band’s debut album Bori was recorded in 2020.
Diamond Thug (South Africa)
Since coming into sharp focus with its 2018 debut album Apastron, Diamond Thug has rapidly bloomed into one of South Africa’s most prominent indie acts. Its self-styled ‘space-age folk-rock’ combines the best attributes of alternative, electronica and folk. Diamond Thug’s submissions are characterised by passion and propped on time-honoured grooves. Also behind the Gaiafy EP, the band boasts a fearless and constant evolution in its quest for authentic sounds.
Tommy WÁ (Nigeria)
Nigeria-born Tommy WÁ’s sound unravels as an introspective blend of Afro-indie-folk interwoven with spoken word. Founded on folkloric native wisdoms, his ambient offerings draw from the works of alt-J, Twenty One Pilots and Bon Iver. He is behind releases such as his 2016 debut EP Me in Me, 2019’s Afro-folk opera track ‘Come and Go’, and Operation Guitar Boy, a compilation released last year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tommy WÁ’s free-spirited experimentations set him out on a solo living-room tour, which has seen him perform in more than 30 homes around the world.
Wamwiduka Band (Tanzania)
Wamwiduka Band is a traditional music group from Mbeya, Tanzania. Founded in 2012, the band’s singular sound is built on stripped-down strings and percussion, nostalgic storytelling and powerful ancestral harmonies. Their music emphasises cultural pride and simple joys.
Yugen Blakrok (South Africa)
Yugen Blakrok has shared the stage with some of the most dominant voices in hip hop: MC Lyte, GZA and Public Enemy, among others. Behind two acclaimed albums (2013’s Return of the Astro-Goth and 2019’s Anima Mysterium), she was noticed globally for her credits on the soundtrack for blockbuster film Black Panther alongside Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples. A conscious rapper whose voice finds a home in everything from traditional hip hop to acid jazz, the musician’s multi-layered creations spell journeys of discovery and reach new depths with each listen. Yugen Blakrok’s performance at ACCES is presented by Reeperbahn Festival.
Morena Leraba (Lesotho)
Lesotho-born Morena Leraba marries homegrown, famo-inspired vocals with electronic music, dub and echoes of hip hop, to create an ever-evolving psychedelic vibe. This is best experienced with songs like ‘Mpuli’ and ‘Impepho’. His creative process, he says, stems from his days as a shepherd. “Being alone in the mountains, you create your own stories every day, and I developed an awesome communication with nature and animals.”
Msaki (South Africa)
Msaki is celebrated as the multi-hyphenate creative known for well-remembered collections and passionate activism. Her honeyed harmonies are heard on everything from soothing R&B to dance-ready house grooves. She has collaborated with the likes of Mobi Dixon, Revolution, Black Coffee, Black Motion and Prince Kaybee. Since making her debut in 2013, Msaki has maintained a constant place in the local charts and received multiple accolades for her work. She co-founded the Riversong Collaborative Arts Festival in Hamburg, Eastern Cape. She is also behind ALTBLK, a platform that showcases the diversity and complexity of African and black diaspora music.
Moonga K. (South Africa)
Moonga K. is a Zambian-born and Botswana-raised singer, songwriter and activist. Now based in South Africa, his musical journey resembles that of his own self-discovery. “I’d like to think my music creates safe spaces for marginalised groups of people,” the alternative R&B and soul musician says. “I like to be a voice for people that are afraid to speak out, but more so amplifying their voices.” Moonga aims to provide the soundtrack to our collective journeys of self-acceptance – while tapping more into Afrofuturist tones. This year, he released the CANDID EP, which opens with ‘Rebel Time’ featuring Sampa the Great. Will the two artists deliver the track together at the I AM HERE concert? Be there to find out.
Thandiswa Mazwai (South Africa)
The award-winning Thandiswa Mazwai enjoys a reputation as one of South Africa’s most outstanding contemporary musicians. Since the beginning of her career as a member of the kwaito-spearheading band Jack-Knife, she has not looked back. Also trading by the moniker ‘King Tha’, Mazwai is behind several commercially successful albums – both as a solo act and member of Bongo Maffin. She has also shared stages with everyone from Angelique Kidjo to Stevie Wonder. At ACCES 2021, she will become the latest recipient of the Music In Africa Honorary Award alongside South African legend Vusi Mahlasela.
Stogie T (South Africa)
Pioneering South African rapper, poet and songwriter Stogie T boasts a long career and an expansive catalogue that transcends hip hop fads. He made a mark with the funk-inspired hip hop outfit Tumi and the Volume in 2004 and has remained a relevant voice on the hip hop scene ever since. His works have provided critical insight about socio-political issues and poked fun at various modern realities.
Thobile Makhoyane (eSwatini)
Hailing from the mountainous Kingdom of eSwatini, Thobile Makhoyane’s musical sorcery finds her melding influences from home and abroad under her ‘hypno-rock’ rubric – her imposing vocals floating divinely over acoustic sounds and a live band often comprising a mix of traditional and western instruments. Thobile names golden African voices Jabu Khanyile, Smiles Makama, Busi Mhlongo, Suthukazi Arosi, Youssou N’Dour and Oumou Sangaré among her key influences. Co-founder of the Spirits Indigenous duo and all-female collective SheKings, Thobile has collaborated with several artists across different artisitc disciplines, including theatre, video art, installation art, contemporary dance and poetry. Her highly anticipated debut album is set to be released in the coming months.
Urban Village (South Africa)
South African band Urban Village “are about heritage, union and dreams of a utopic hereafter, a village that is theirs, ours and everybody,” Songlines Magazine says. In a relatively short career, the acclaimed quartet has forged a unique style steeped in a historical consciousness shaped by Soweto while also drawing from rock, jazz and pop.
Ikati Esengxoweni (South Africa)
South African duo Ikati Esengxoweni was founded in 2016. The 2018 winners of the Afropunk Battle of the Bands, the soulful acoustic pair make music across urban, traditional, indie-folk and world music. Ikati Esengxoweni is also known for soundtracking internationally acclaimed film Loving Thokoza and South African drama series Lockdown. The duo has shared the stage with Thundercat, The Internet and Flying Lotus.
Buhlebendalo Mda (South Africa)
This will be the second time that Buhlebendalo, of The Soil fame, will perform on a Music In Africa Foundation platform; in 2020, the vocal powerhouse played at the Vibrations – A Celebration of African Instruments digital concert with an all-female band that stole the show. Buhlebendalo’s live performances are a mixture of traditional theatre and contemporary sounds that evoke a deep sense of identity and belonging.
Laliboi (South Africa)
Rapper and multi-instrumentalist Laliboi employs an innovative fusion of hip hop, jazz and Xhosa roots. His career began in 2000 when he enrolled at the Music Academy of Gauteng where he studied trumpet. Beyond his bouncy vocal technique, Laliboi’s music is dense with heritage and philosophy. He is best known for his 2021 album Siyangaphi.