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This Yoruba Meets Hip-Hop Ballet Set to Ibeyi is Everything

Watch footage from famed Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti's new ballet set to the music of Ibeyi.

As if the music of Ibeyi could get any prettier, someone went and made an entire ballet inspired by the Yoruba sounds of the Diaz sisters. That someone is the famed Italian choreographer, Mauro Bigonzetti.


Bigonzetti returned to New York’s legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater this June to create Deep, a piece that sets African and hip-hop dance to eight songs––“Eleggua (Intro),” “Oya,” “River,” “Think of You,” “Mama Says,” “Behind the Curtain,” “Ibeyi (Outro),” “Exhibit Diaz”––from Ibeyi’s self-titled debut album.

Deep comes from the body. The looking can be deep, the touch can be deep, the sense of the life can be deep, the roots can be deep,” Bigonzetti explained in a behind-the-scenes video.

Going off this recently-surfaced footage, the collaboration was one of the most exquisite mashups of contrasting music and dance forms since last year’s brilliant South African pantsula meets afrofuturistic jazz video.

“We are deeply honored and happy to be musically part of DEEP,” Ibeyi said in an Instagram post.

The 29-minute show debuted last month at Alvin Ailey. Watch highlights from DEEP in the video below.

Interview
Photo: Jolaoso Adebayo.

Crayon Is Nigeria's Prince of Bright Pop Melodies

Since emerging on the scene over two years ago, Crayon has carved a unique path with his catchy songs.

During the 2010s, the young musician Charles Chibuezechukwu made several failed attempts to get into a Nigerian university. On the day of his fifth attempt, while waiting for the exam's commencement, he thought of what he really wanted out of life. To the surprise of the thousands present, he stood up and left the centre, having chosen music. "Nobody knew I didn't write the exam," Charles, who's now known to afro pop lovers as Crayon, tells OkayAfrica over a Zoom call from a Lagos studio. "I had to lie to my parents that I wrote it and didn't pass. But before then, I had already met Don Jazzy and Baby Fresh [my label superiors], so I knew I was headed somewhere."

His assessment is spot on. Over the past two years Crayon's high-powered records have earned him a unique space within Nigeria's pop market. On his 2019 debut EP, the cheekily-titled Cray Cray, the musician shines over cohesive, bright production where he revels in finding pockets of joy in seemingly everyday material. His breakout record "So Fine" is built around the adorable promises of a lover to his woman. It's a fairly trite theme, but the 21-year-old musician's endearing voice strikes the beat in perfect form, and when the hook "call my number, I go respond, oh eh" rolls in, the mastery of space and time is at a level usually attributed to the icons of Afropop: Wizkid, P-Square, Wande Coal.

"My dad used to sell CDs back in the day, in Victoria Island [in Lagos]," reveals Crayon. "I had access to a lot of music: afrobeat, hip-hop, Westlife, 2Face Idibia, Wizkid, and many others." Crayon also learnt stage craft from his father's side hustle as an MC, who was always "so bold and confident," even in the midst of so much activity. His mother, then a fruit seller, loved Igbo gospel songs; few mornings passed when loud, worship songs weren't blasting from their home. All of these, Crayon says, "are a mix of different sounds and different cultures that shaped my artistry."

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