OkayAfrica's 100 Women

100 Women: Susy Oludele and Alsarah On the Power of Following Your Passion

Nigerian-American hairstylist Susy Oludele and Sudanese-American musician, Alsarah sit down for an enlightening conversation about defying the odds and putting their aspirations first.

Two resilient women from our 2018 list of 100 groundbreaking African Women, Alsarah and Susy Oludele, have an inspirational conversation about their relatable struggles to pursue the career of their dreams.

Susy Oludele is a hair stylist, trendsetter and owner of Hair by Susy, a hair salon in Brooklyn, New York. As a proud Nigerian-American born in the Bronx, she built her brand with the intention to help women of all hair types embrace their natural beauty. Although her shop specializes in natural hair and natural hair extensions, with her magic touch, she speaks life into every hairstyle she creates.


Alsarah also wears many hats by as an ethnomusicologist, activist, singer, songwriter, and leader of the band Alsarah and the Nubatones. Being a product of Sudanese human rights activists, it is no surprise that she often uses music as an outlet to tackle world issues and the plight of Sudanese women.

Susy and Alsarah are transparent in their discussion while sharing testimonies about how they've evolved from once trying to adhere to what society paints as safe and sustainable careers for women, to fully pursuing their passions. Their experiences inspire women to break out of societal boxes and achieve their goals with steadfastness, no matter what obstacles come their way. As Susy puts it, "in the process it was just so stressful, "cause you don't know where you're going and then it's like you don't have that security. Sometimes in life you just gotta go for it."

Watch Alsarah and Susy's full conversation below and see the full list of 2018 honorees here.

This article appears as part of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2018—a project highlighting the impactful work done by African women across the globe. Throughout March, we will be publishing a series of profiles, videos, interviews and feature stories on these inspirational women. Click here to see the entire list of 2018 honorees.

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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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