5 Black artists you have to hear

The only thing these artists have in common is just how distinct their sounds are.

Discover soulful jazz, abstract R&B, brash hip-hop and upbeat afro-pop

Zamani, seen here in a home studio, can do it all. She is a writer, producer, arranger and vocalist. (Aly Thomson/CBC)

It's always a great time to add some new music to your roster.  Check out these five Black artists who are not only being noticed on the awards scene, but more importantly, carving out their own sound and following. 


Zamani is an 18-year-old triple threat in the form of singer, songwriter and producer from Halifax. Hailing from a musical family, she had her first professional performance at the age of 14. Since then, she has had numerous accolades, such as winning the 2019 International Film Festival for Atlantic Original Score.

She has also been nominated for two awards at the 2022 East Coast Music Awards. For her song Selfish, Zamani  blends soothing vocals and harmonies with a catchy chorus in a song whose lyrics drive home that being egocentric and looking after yourself is a good thing.


Track to try: Outside

Owen (O'Sound) Lee

Owen (O'Sound) Lee of Toronto got his start in singing in church. After studying jazz vocal performance at York University, the vocal arranger, songwriter and producer relocated to Nova Scotia in 2014, according to his bio.

Lee is the program co-ordinator of the African Nova Scotian Music Association. In addition to that, his own talent has garnered him recognition. He was nominated for Music Nova Scotia's 2019 Industry Professional of the Year award, and he won the 2017 African Nova Scotia Music Association's Rising Star Award.

Owen (O'Sound) Lee of the Nova Scotia Mass Choir got his start in singing in church. He has several awards on his resumé, including the African Nova Scotia Music Association's Rising Star Award. (Nova Scotia Mass Choir)

In February 2020, Owen released a single entitled Listen for African Heritage Month. The song is about racial discrimination, highlighting that Black people still triumph and calls for people to step up and be catalysts for change. This song showcases Lee's amazing vocals and his strong religious background.


Track to try: Listen


Founded in 2015, MioKal is a afro-pop, R&B and Zouk band. Médiane Mpunge, Jonathan Mpunge, Passy Grégor Nel, Samy Mpunge, Jean-Michel Dake and Gary Mpunge make up the band and it's a global makeup of sorts, with band members hailing from the Ivory Coast, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Canada.

According to the band's bio, the group's name, MioKal, comes from the union of the name of two villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo — Miole and Kalungu — that were destroyed during the current war.

Last year was a particularly good one for the band, with nominations for the PRIX MNB Awards Breakthrough Artist of the year 2021 and the ECMA's 2021 African Canadian Artist of the year. 

Their song Dancing with the Angels is an emotional one that explores all the feelings that come with losing a loved one — anguish, gratefulness and relief in the hope that your loved one is in a better place. 


Track to try: Dancing with the Angels

Reeny Smith

Since releasing her debut EP in 2015, I Am Reeny, the 25-year-old singer, songwriter and producer from Nova Scotia continues to be one of the East Coast's hottest upcoming artists. She signed with Cymba Music Publishing in 2016 and hasn't looked back since. 

A woman wearing a Dragon Ball Z shirt with crossed arms smiles while looking at the camera.
Reeny Smith won Music Nova Scotia's African Canadian Artist of the Year award in 2016, 2017 and 2018. (Robert Short/CBC)

She went on to win Music Nova Scotia's African Canadian Artist of the Year award three consecutive years from 2016, 2017, and 2018, as well as Best R&B Artist award in The Coast's Best of Halifax awards in back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018. Her breakout single, Good Girl Swag, is an upbeat song that encourages positivity in an increasingly harsh world through its catchy chorus that'll have you singing throughout the day.


Tune to try: Good Girl Swag


BruceM8 is an artist and producer based in Newfoundland and Labrador. Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, he calls himself and his mix of abstract R&B and brash hip hop an "an all-encompassing experience."

Throughout 2019 and 2020, BruceM8 established himself as an in-demand artist, releasing his EPs Stay Awake and Pain Pack to much fanfare. His biggest single so far, Letting Go, a self-produced song that combined his hazy melodies and brash R&B style. That song would later lead to production credits on Canadian rapper Tory Lanez's song A Woman on his 2020 album Daystar.

But if he has to play favourites, BruceM8 would likely give that honour to his single Numb, released in 2021, which according to him is "the greatest song to ever exist, for now."


Track to try: Letting Go


Being Black in Canada

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Ife is a MUN student, musician and a lover of food and adventure. She was born in Nigeria and grew up in South Africa. Farai (aka King Sway or just Sway) is a Zimbabwean musician is a fourth year business student. If he isn't studying, he's spending time with friends or making music.