Introducing Yemi Alade: Afro-Pop Queen

yemi alade afropop queen
Yemi Alade

Every once in a while I give thought to the benefits of publishing a weekly commentary about popular music. Of course, my first reason at the start was to voice an unbiased opinion about musical artists and their work. After some time I realized I could offer a different viewpoint, from a personal perspective. I enjoy meeting people and hearing about their life and experiences. Musicians are people who are affected by their surroundings the same as everyone else, regardless of employment. I find great enjoyment in meeting and featuring artists from other countries outside the U.S. This week, I hope all of you enjoy meeting a wonderful artist from Nigeria, Yemi Alade.

Yemi Alade is the third female artist from Nigeria featured in Weekly Music Commentary. She follows two successful Mavin Records singers Tiwa Savage and Di’ja. Each young woman has a different approach musically which is why they need individual introductions. In the case of Yemi Alade, her genre of choice is Afro-Pop.

Afro-Pop is a term sometimes used to refer to contemporary African pop music. The term does not refer to a specific style or sound, but is used as a general term for African popular music. Miriam Makeba, one of the famous singers to emerge from the African continent, is often credited with being instrumental to Afro-pop music’s rapid growth, particularly during the 1960s. Most of her songs revolved around the notions of freedom and equality. William Ruhlmann of AllMusic, while reviewing Makeba’s début eponymous album, described her as a “black singer with an exotic, folk-based repertoire who could translate her music into a new club act.” Her first major breakthrough in the United States came in 1967, when “Pata Pata” reached No. 12 on the U.S. Billboard charts. She has been identified as “the Empress of African Song”, “Mama Africa” and “the Mother of Afro-pop”.

I, like many music fans around the world, was a big fan of Miriam Makeba. She was a true trailblazer in introducing African music to the rest of the world. Today, a group of new artists are successfully bridging the gap between the two continents. Alade is one of the brightest of these stars.

Yemi Alade was born March 13, 1989 in Abia State, Nigeria, to Helen Alade (nee Uzoma), a business woman, and James Alade, a retired Police Commissioner. She grew up listening to popular music of the late eighties and early nineties and singers like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Etta James and Aretha Franklin. The captivating vocal ability she possessed placed her in the church adult choir at the age of twelve and was known to have made melodies from everyday conversations. In her words; “I’ve practically lived my life on stage”, Yemi was exposed to singing and dancing competitions as a child. Yemi Alade was educated at Saint Saviors’ British Primary School, Lagos and then Victory Grammar School, Lagos, before proceeding to the University of Lagos where she majored and graduated with a B.Sc in Geography in 2010.

Yemi Alade began making music professionally in 2005 when she was the lead of a girl group called Noty Spices managed by Storm Management. Afterwards she entered the maiden edition of the Peak Talent Show in 2009 and went on to win the competition based on her talent as a singer and performer under the supervision of Bayo Omisore. Her début single “Fimisile” featuring eLDee became a radio hit accompanied with an engaging music video which introduced her officially as a musical force and gained her fans across the continent.

In 2012, she signed onto the music label, Effyzzie Music Group, and released her single “Ghen Ghen Love”. In July 2013, Alade released the video for her romantic afro-R&B song “Bamboo”, produced by Fliptyce. “Bamboo” went on to be a moderate hit and a popular wedding song. In the last quarter of 2013, she broke records when her most recent hit single, “Johnny”, produced by Selebobo, was leaked on the internet. The song became an international smash hit as it dominated music charts in Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Liberia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and the United Kingdom, among others. It has been listed as one of the best songs of 2013, despite the fact that it was released towards the end of the year and without a music video.

Earlier this year Alade released her second studio album titled Mama Africa. The album is the follow-up to her début album, King of Queens. The album has gotten mostly positive reviews from the critics, Chiagoziem Onyekwena of Filter Free awarded the album 7.8/10 adding, “Yemi has managed to craft a collection of songs that have the potential to appeal to fans in every African country close to the equator.”

I think that overall Yemi Alade’s music might reach far past the African continent. I recently listened to an interview with the Nigerian music star. After she defined Afro-Pop music as a mixture of music from Africa and Pop music of the U.S., it is understandable that Yemi Alade potentially could find much more success. Most likely in the U.S.

Of course, when you see Yemi Alade perform on stage or music video, there is no doubt about her talent level. The West African star seems poised to follow legendary Miriam Makeba to worldwide fame. Alade understands well what she is doing musically. She explains the genre well and knows where she fits Afro-Pop now and in the future. Ultimately, Yemi Alade is a student of languages and yearns to reach larger audiences of fans by delivering music in various tongues.

I hope I have prepared you folks an electrifying, brilliant artist whom I’m sure you will appreciate. Even at the young age of twenty-seven, Yemi Alade is performing at the top of her field.

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