Yemi Alade Music For All – Creating Music For An International Audience
Yemi Eberechi Alade is more than the typical Igbo-Yoruba girl; she has taken her passion for language and infused it into her music. The international smash hit Johnnydominated music charts in Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Liberia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the United Kingdom, among others. Currently, her music is being translated in French in many Francophone countries. More than a head for music, Yemi Alade is creating music in the way we know it, as a sound that break barriers, a harmony for the soul to be understood by all.
My name is Yemi Alade and I’m just having fun, I’m an artist, music is what I do.
You had a rocky start as an artist; what kept you going?
There were many times the pocket was empty, the stomach was empty, inspiration was on a low, and doubts were high. One thing that definitely kept me going for sure was the passion.
You have created a niche for yourself in the English and French-speaking market; how did you come up with that idea?
I am not very good at strategizing, I can plan, I can build plans and work towards them, set goals and make sure I try to achieve them but the French thing was not a plan. It just came as a result of me having fun. I love French and it is a language I can comfortably speak 50%. I was just having fun and me doing what I know how to do best, which is touching peoples’ lives with my music.
Your audience love your vibrant personality! What don’t we know about you?
Of all the things I can do perfectly well, I cannot ride a bicycle.
Which of your songs would you say you pushed yourself to the limit creating?
As far as audio is concerned, Johnny is one song that up to date, I have not done what I did for that song. I don’t record late at night because I love my beauty sleep and it is hard for me to get inspiration when I work late into the night, but I recorded Johnny on a Nationwide tour. I was in Enugu at the time, the song was recorded against all odds with us trying to make do of the little time we had, which is why I recorded Johnny overnight. I had a flight to catch the next day by noon, so I went all the way for that particular song. I pushed myself for some songs, but you know the first time, you cannot forget the first time.
Some Nigerians call your music ‘jollof music’. Care to define your music style?
I have no idea what jollof music is like, but I do know what jollof rice tastes like. My music is best described as Afropolitan which is a merge of Afrobeat, highlife, pop and R &B. That is my genre.
What is your favorite song in your upcoming album?
I have two favourites at the moment, my favourites keep changing. I am digging Nakupenda and Africa at the moment.
Why Mama Africa? Are you concerned it might conflict with the nickname of the South African singer Miriam Makeba?
I am definitely blessed to be nicknamed after her because for a long time my fans and producers call me Mama Africa. I was in need of an album name and I said why not Mama Africa.The name came about when people realized I was always in one African country or the other, like I didn’t live in Nigeria anymore, it was actually more like a tease that became a nickname. I am grateful to share a nickname with the great Miriam.
What inspires the songs you have written so far?
Everything is inspiring right now. Most of the things that have inspired me have been personal experiences, third party experiences, some of them are based on fiction because I can create a situation in my head and I just go with the flow. Anything can inspire me, even hunger!
Your music is considered international; what are your hopes and aspirations for the future?
Music is a language of the soul, it is like soul food. I’d agree that my music is international. Being considered as an artist with international music, having your songs translated into many version is amazing, from French and recently the Swahili version of Na Go De. I recently got a video of some people who took a hike in Tanzania to Mountain Kilimanjaro and in the video they were singing and dancing to the translated version Na Go De at the peak of the mountain and talking about how the song has inspired them. That right there is the definition of international music that actually has impact. That impact is what I want to continue to achieve.
The music industry is growing in Nigeria and gaining international recognition, what are your hopes for the Nigerian music industry as a whole?
The Nigerian music industry isa finance intensive industry. It is a very wealthy one, and there is a bulk of cash to be harvested. It has come to a point that we need more than the money, we need a working system, and we need structure that can work for us and generations yet unborn. When I talk about structure, I mean royalties – giving unto Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser. The music industry is like the football industry in the sense that there is a certain age, referred to as your peak years, in which you would earn more than you ever will. After your peak years comes old age and everybody knows old age comes with a lot of care and where there is no financial assistance to take care of these musicians what becomes of them?
I don’t think I have heard of many artists that are 40 and above that are doing well. I am sure that there are some musicians that are living under the bridges and we do not know about them, people are really suffering in the industry. I pray that we would be able to build a structure that works for us and for future generations.
You recently launched a collection with an accessory line in Nigeria, any other ventures to look out for?
100 percent. The Yemi Alade Collection features about 5 different pieces that represent something. I did that in collaboration with Band 2 Glamand I definitely intend to do other fashion pieces. At the moment, we have expanded and we are now shipping to the US and London. It is a beautiful feeling to know that people are willing to buy Nigerian brands. People are not worried and we made sure that the quality was 100 percent. I thank God that people are enjoying it. So definitely I would be going into other fashion ventures, I mean what is music without fashion?
In 5 words, describe Yemi Alade?
African. Strong. Original. Beautiful and God fearing
Would you say you have reached the peak of your career?
TufiakwaI haven’t reached the peak of my career. We are just getting started.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
So far, it would be making up my mind to drop my second album ‘Mama Africa’ a year after King Of Queens my debut album was dropped. It is definitely a huge achievement for me, I see it as a huge stepping stone for my career
Words of advice to upcoming musicians.
I would say whatever it is you do put God first, because in times of trouble, when you are alone it is only God that would be with you. Secondly, do not try to be a photocopy of anyone or a Yemi Alade, because those people are already taken, who is going to be you?
Mantra or words you live by?
What do I always say? I always say, in all things thank God. He always has the power.
This is international women’s month, any words of advice or support to the average Nigerian woman?
First of all, as a woman other than being a career lady, I am also part of the ONE.org which focuses a lot on women and children. We are trying to encourage the government to pass certain bills that would favour the women and children.Once you prosper a woman you have prospered a generation, a family, it is like a chain reaction. Other than that I would tell the average woman in Nigeria, to look around her and she would notice that in Nigeria, despite the factors that go against us, we seem to always blossom when we push.We are already favoured, so no circumstances holding them back should hold them back actually. All challenges that come your way are there for you to overcome, none of them is there to bring you down.