You know when you can’t get a song out of your head? Well, we’ve had these six playing in a constant rotation and we keep hitting play. These are the kind of songs we wish we could hear for the first time again:
ASHA – “French Samba”
“French Samba” could be the name of a drink, a blend of tropical flavors with a refined preparation. It’s also, of course, the perfect title for ASHA’s new single, as it starts as a kind of French chanson with a Brazilian beat. But this Moroccan-born singer-songwriter tends to double down, sing in more than one language, or simply tempt the unpredictable. Here, suddenly, the bossa nova cadence comes to the fore, as she switches to Spanish to sing like a new Latin pop diva. The result is a modern song with fresh sounds, but charmingly retro at the same time. A musical cocktail that fueled a colorful video clip with a beach vibe.
At the age of 18, Hajar Sbihi left her native Morocco to move to Segovia, Spain, to study business management. However, she ended up in the world of songwriting, being responsible for hits like “Ya No Quiero Ná” by Lola Índigo, “Oye Pablo” by Danna Paola, and “Booty” by C. Tangana and Becky G. There she understood that music was more than a hobby for her. And she decided that ASHA would be her stage name. The next big turn in her career took place during the pandemic, in mid-2020, when she released her debut single “Bésame”. Other hits followed: “Opina”, “Pasaporte” and, more recently, “Fille D’Afrique”.
Naïka – “Guava”
The vocal melody of “Guava” snakes and captivates like a belly dance. It’s mesmerizing. Naïka carves passionate allusions to this tropical fruit through catchy verses and choruses in English, adding a word or two in Spanish, to finally switch to French just like that, over a deep electro-dance kick. Few singers achieve this mission so naturally. Naïka Richard is one of them. Of course, this cultural mix has its reason: a native of Miami, she carries French and Haitian roots – plus, as a child, she lived everywhere before returning to her hometown.
“Guava” is included in Naïka’s most recent EP Transitions, released just a few weeks ago. Last year we’d already noticed her hit “Sauce” spreading everywhere thanks to its infectious formula – also thanks to the commercial of a well-known mobile phone brand that used it. The smash single was part of Lost in Paradïse, Pt. 2, the second part of her debut EP released in 2020. It was for many a gateway to Naïka’s music, to that sound dimension that embraces R&B sensuality, Caribbean influences, and beats impossible not to dance to.
MONOGEM – “Te Espero Aquí”
“Te Espero Aquí” could be a bolero. In fact, it pretty much is, despite the smooth dancehall beat that takes over the song after the opening verses. This isn’t surprising for Mexican-American singer-songwriter Jennifer Hirsh, better known by her stage name MONOGEM. Just keep checking her bilingual album, 2021’s Gardenia, which also includes a version of “Bésame Mucho”, the Consuelo Velázquez classic that Jen’s grandmother used to play on repeat. So, beyond being considered an acclaimed alt-R&B artist, she definitely brings out the weight of her Latin heritage in her songs.
Originally from California, Jen Hirsh got her start in 2012 when she auditioned for the eleventh season of American Idol in Houston, Texas. The next year, she released her first single “Follow You”. Three EPs followed: 2015’s Monogem, 2017’s 100%, and 2019’s So Many Ways. Titled after her favorite flower, Gardenia is the best representation of MONOGEM’s artistic journey, honoring her family history, and connecting her past, present and future, perfectly paired with the announcement of welcoming her firstborn.
La Cassandra – “La Respuesta”
Cha-cha-chá emerged in Cuba in the early 50s. One of the reasons it became so popular, according to rumors, is that it was much easier to dance to than salsa. This is just one of the Caribbean rhythms that La Cassandra takes and tames to shape her songwriting. So, with that old vibe and without losing focus on Latin pop, the Dominican-American singer polishes “La Respuesta”, a sensual song full of feminine strength. It’s a story of empowerment, well supported by a choir of women. And that story is pretty simple: when a man neglects her, she gets him out of her way by giving her no for an answer.
A New Yorker forever but with strong Dominican roots, Cassandra Nunez grew up listening to boleros, as well as bachata and merengue, from Juan Gabriel to Juan Luis Guerra, from Celia Cruz to Sade and Gloria Estefan. “La Respuesta” is part of the songbook that she recorded a few years ago at the legendary EGREM studios in Havana, Cuba. Its greatest hallmark, beyond the cha-cha-chá swagger and the hot guitar sound, is the always passionate voice of La Cassandra. “We were deeply inspired by Cuban culture at the time,” she said of this song that she co-wrote with producer Victor Rosso.
Lous and the Yakuza – “Hiroshima”
For some time now, Lous and the Yakuza has been making it clear that her thing goes a little beyond hip-hop and trap. In that sense, “Hiroshima” is the most complete proof of this. It’s a pop ballad, a well-rounded song, with a soundtrack that refers to the seventies, or rather to the retro-futurism of the French duo Air. Here the Belgian-Congolese singer devotes herself totally to the energy of a catchy melody, offering a different vibe and some breathing room between her recent releases – especially after the gripping beats of “Kisé” and “Monsters”. This single also anticipates her brand new second album Iota.
This isn’t the first time that Marie-Pierra Kakoma, better known by her stage name Lous and the Yakuza, has surprised us. She’s one of the Belgian artists we recommend keeping on your radar. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she came and went to Brussels, where she finally settled as a teenager. She took her first steps on the scene around 2017, making waves in the city’s underground culture. By 2019, she was already in contact with the Spanish producer El Guincho, who helped her release her first single “Dilemme”. The following year more songs came out, as well as her first album titled Gore.
Marsela – “Dark Days”
“This song is about resilience. Even if the tide is working against you and you find yourself in a shipwreck of your troubles, you can and should pick yourself up every single time. Every day is a new day!” This is how Marsela describes and introduces her song “Dark Days”. Smooth electric piano chords and a subtle bass line help shape a seductive beat, backed by a jazzy R&B beat. A crystal-clear guitar only appears in response to her deep and silky voice. The music track is enough for this talented young singer from London to tell us about her sorrows and her path to perseverance despite everything.
It’s worth clarifying that “Dark Days” isn’t precisely Marsela’s most recent release. In fact, it came out last year. But it’s the song that shows that she’s definitely embodying a new wave of British soul like we haven’t seen in a while. This year, to avoid losing momentum, she released “Unholy War” – another single of exceptional vocal performance, this time with the addition of a saxophone, always well placed, in musical alliance with the rhythmic keys. We’ll surely hear from Marsela again in the near future.
Cover photo via ASHA