Video

This Beautiful Cover Of Nina Simone Is An Ode To The ‘Misunderstood’ African Woman

Nigerian afro-soul singer Olayinka shares a striking cover of the Nina Simone classic.


“I think in my world, the most misunderstood woman is the evolving African Woman.” That quote kicks off Nigerian-born, New York City-based singer Olayinkas striking cover of Nina Simone's classic “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

Olayinka’s cover is meant to highlight contemporary society’s adverse reaction to a strong and opinionated modern African woman.

“I grew up watching a lot of women not have a voice because of many different reasons but the main one being because they did not think anyone else will listen or even understand,” writes the afro-soul singer.

“What I see in our world now, is the Modern African woman who is opinionated and not afraid to share her opinions and her views. I also see the backlash aspect of things, which would be others hearing what she has to say and feeling intimidated, surprised and confused by this new woman.”

In her cover Olayinka takes Nina Simone’s song to current soundscapes, showcasing her powerful voice over a rattling bass, minimalist beat work and sparse saxophone lines.

Watch the video, shot by Gordon S Fischer, below.

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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