10 UK Artists to Watch in 2017

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It’s safe to say, we’re all glad to see the back of 2016, a year that saw us lose game-changing artists like Prince and Sharon Jones amongst a slew of other tragedies, including the election of a racist, misogynist and unqualified US President. Nonetheless, in such a testing climate music has the ability to question, re-focus and bring up for debate issues affecting us all.The 10 artists in this list are all innovators in their own rights, whether carrying the baton for UK grime, rallying for change, forging their own scenes or paying homage to their African ancestry and the greats that inspired them, we’re sure these acts will be making waves into 2017 and beyond. So get to know them.Ray BLK22-year-old South Londoner Ray BLK embodies an expression of female black Britishness we have been waiting for. In the video for “50/50,” a track calling out time-wasting lovers, she pays homage to the hair shops of South London. Always rooted in her own experience, BLK delivers tales of London life through sultry vocals and finger snapping beats. Her songs are relatable and memorable—the hook for “50/50” stayed well and truly lodged in my brain for days.This year has already provided the singer with an impressive list of accomplishments to put under her belt, she’s collaborated with Stormzy (on track “My Hood”) and supported Kelela at her London show earlier this year. Nonetheless, with her new EP Durt freshly released and a headline show in February, 2017 is set to be a good year.Singing of heartbreak, the trials and tribulations of life in 2016 and odes to the complexity of her hood, Ray BLK offers anthems to the black British experience, which look set to stand the test of time, make sure you lend her your ears if you haven’t already.GaikaGaika has been on our radar ever since his chilling track “Blasphemer.” His special brand of dark dancehall and bashment-infused soundscapes have seen him carve out a space entirely his own. A youtube commenter, described him as “Jamaican Death Grips” and the subtle menace that bubbles beneath his tracks certainly earns him that title.Following a debut EP in 2015, Machine, and an early feature on avant-garde de-colonial label NON Worldwide’s Compilation, the artist recently dropped his latest EP Spaghetto on Warp Records, and headlined London’s XOYO earlier this month. He’s collaborated with Mykki Blanco and is on the experimental edge of sound art, shaping dystopian soundscapes which rub up against what the world expects of a black male artist. Even if you can’t put a name on it, watch out for more sonic innovation from Gaika in 2017.NérijaThey’ve been backed by tastemaker Gilles Peterson, and sold out their self-titled debut EP launch show at this year’s London EFG Jazz Festival. Nérija take their name from the Hebrew word meaning “lamp of god,” and the all-female jazz band are certainly lighting the way.Their seven band members include Shirley Tetteh on guitar, Sheila Maurice Grey on Trumpet and Nubiya Garcia on tenor sax, amongst others who are tearing up the jazz scene on their own terms. They’ve played jazz festivals up and down the UK and are proof that independent artists can make ripples; using crowdfunding to record and release their first EP.Their hard work paid off, earning them a nomination for Breakthrough Act at the Jazz FM Awards, (no small feat with Kamasi Washington and Christian Scott also up for awards). With influences of township music and hip-hop seeping through their compositions, we hope Nérija will be a part of the fabric of the UK’s Jazz scene for a long time yet.ObongjayarObongjayar’s gravelly voice paints melancholy in a new light. You’ll be hard pressed not to stop in your tracks after hearing his debut single “Creeping,” which booms the solitude and struggle of London life through any speakers. This soul-stirring artist, originally from Nigeria, arrived in London aged 17 and has been perfecting his craft, causing ripples in London and Norwich scenes ever since.Spewing confessionals over sparse beats and glitchy soundscapes, Obongjayar’s aesthetic is definitely rooted in the sound of 2016. Yet packed with poetic imagery, visceral delivery and vulnerability, his work is a breath of fresh air. It’ll leave you feeling hopeful about the potential for nuanced representations of masculinity in the music we hear.His debut EP Home has dropped recently, you download it here for a taste of melancholy and grit. Check out the arresting video for “Creeping,” directed by none-other-than Frank Lebon (the equally-talented brother of the man behind Frank Ocean’s stunning “Nikes” visuals). You can expect to see Obongjayar gracing stages around the capital before long, not one to be slept on—for real.Nadia RoseWinner of this year’s MOBO Award for Best Music Video, Nadia Rose is 22-year-old rapper from Croydon, South London unafraid to grab opportunity by the scruff of the neck. Relatively new to the scene, Rose quit her job two years ago to try rapping full time and has

Source: 10 UK Artists to Watch in 2017 OkayAfrica

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