Video

Cynthia Erivo to African Women: 'You Have to Know That You Are Enough'

Tony & Grammy Award winner Cynthia Erivo sits down with OkayAfrica to tell us about her experiences as an black woman in theater.

Cynthia Erivo wants to create more spaces for young black girls.


The British-Nigerian actress, who won a Tony and Grammy Award this season for her leading role in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple, sat down with OkayAfrica to tell us about her experiences as a black woman in theater.

During our chat, Erivo dropped some gems about balancing her identity as both an African and British woman, being true to herself, and preparing to play Harriet Tubman in the upcoming biopic.

Erivo also talks about her love for Nigeria and never letting her London upbringing dilute her background.

Her most important advice for African and black women:

"You have to know that you are enough. The strength comes from within you, and when you allow that to come through, nobody can tell you anything. That is the power that we hold, when we're able to be strong in ourselves, look someone in the eye and let them know that we're great."

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Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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