Desire Marea. Picture: Instagram
Desire Marea. Picture: Instagram

7 African queer artists you should know

By Jamal Grootboom Time of article published Oct 30, 2020

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Music is an integral part of many African nations with various genres having gained global popularity including Afrobeats from Nigeria and gqom from South Africa.

And while many artists from the continent have gone on to receive global recognition, when it comes to queer representation there still a lot of room for some queers in this house.

To help you, we've compiled a list of seven queer music artists who you need to know.

DESIRE MAREA

One of half queer supergroup FAKA, Desire has been an unmistakeably queer artist who has travelled the world because of their unique outlook of queerness with a very in your face approach in the visuals both live and in their music.

With FAKA's music even being the inspiration for Versace's S/S 2019 collocation landing them and fellow bandmate Fela Gucci to be front row at the show but also having the world take note.

Recently they dropped their first solo album, “Desire”, which saw the artist push boundaries thematically with regards to queer expression and sonically playing with various genres including gqom and various club infused subgenres.

They are a voice that had changed the queer scene for both South Africa and the continent.

TROYE SIVAN

While Troye Sivan started his journey as the lead actor in the “Spud” movies he later gained popularity on YouTube and spun that off into a highly successful singing career.

When Troy came out in 2013 it was a big moment since he was the lead in a highly successful film series.

His debut album “Blue Neighbourhood” explored the trials and tribulations of queer adolescence.

And for the time having an openly gay man making music that focused on queer love opened lots of people, especially his young audience at the time, to the normalcy of it.

Although he is Australian, Troye was born in Johannesburg before his parents moved Down Under when he was 2 years old.

And still today his music is unabashedly queer with him dropping his latest EP “In a Dream” in August.

LELO WHATSGOOD

As one of the premier DJs in the country, Lelo is not only getting the party started but is also using his platform as an activist for the queer community.

Having played at fire sets at Boiler Room X Ballantine's, Afropunk South Africa and an impromptu set at Rocking The Daisies, Lelo is one of very few DJs in the country that isn't confined to one genre.

He is also the head honcho behind Vogue Nights Jozi, which was the first ballroom-based event in South Africa since the ballroom scene has found popularity again in the modern age, mostly due to the popularity of “Pose” on FX which has also led to the competition show Legendary airing on HBO.

DUA SALEH

Sudanese-American poet Dua Saleh is one of the newest queer musicians to be making waves in the music scene.

Having started writing poetry from a young age, they recorded their song “First Take” in 2017 followed by their debut EP Nūr last year.

Having gained overwhelmingly positive reviews with Pitchfork calling the EP "sophisticated, warm but industrial".

They dropped their second EP “Rosetta” in June which also received stellar reviews from music critics with Medium calling it "clean-cut and layered as it feels more substantial and complete" compared to their debut ER Dua is also set to appear on the third season of the Netflix series “Sex Education” as a non-binary student.

ANGEL-HO

Cape Town rapper Angel-Ho has been a prolific musician when it comes to her music.

Being a Black trans pioneer in music, Angel-Ho has made waves both on the continent for her gripping visuals and is one of the best experimental artists with her sound.

With her album “Death Becomes Her” being hailed by Pitchfork as one of the Best Experimental Albums of last year.

This year she dropped her EP “Alla Prima” which she describes as "hip hop haute couture" and also used her queerness as the jumping point to express her art. Whether it be in songs, music videos or live performances.

She's been one of the biggest trans musicians to have come out of the continent.

MX BLOUSE

When it comes to hip-hop whether it be on the continent or globally, queer bodies rarely get the same space or opportunity to shine.

Johannesburg based rapper Mx Blouse is making waves for fusing kwaito, hip-hop and electronic music into an explosive sound.

While they got their start in journalism in South African media, when they moved to Joburg from Cape Town music was calling.

Having dropped their debut EP “Re: Mx” last year, they released their first full album “Elementality” this year which received a positive response from fans and critics.

DOPE SAINT JUDE

Capetonian rapper Dope Saint Jude has been a queer voice in South Africa that's been able to make her voice even through adversity.

As a black queer ciswoman from the Cape Flats, she offers a unique outlook on the queer experience.

And while hip-hop in Cape Town is popular, when it comes to queer bodies there is still pushback when it comes to breaking it in the very cis-het male-dominated space.

Dope Saint Jude dropped her EP “Resilient” in 2018 and after taking a bit of a break made her return this year with her single and music video “Go High Go Low” earlier this year, where she again used her outlook at a coloured queer woman from the Cape Flats as the centre point of the visual.

The rapper resides in London where she is busy working on new music.

Check out the latest issue of Queer+ Magazine here.

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