Video
"Breathe" music video still.

Watch Seinabo Sey's Beautiful Video About Black Womanhood

We talk to the singer-songwriter about her Gambian-shot video for "Breathe."

Swedish-Gambian singer Seinabo Sey writes pop songs about searching for identity.

She's done so through two impressive EPs and a solid 2015 debut album, Pretend, which earned her a Swedish Grammy Award for Best Newcomer and Best Pop.

Seinabo Sey is now returning with the new single, "Breathe," an orchestral string-backed song about self-love and self-acceptance, which the Swedish-based singer wrote while on a trip to Dakar.

She mentions that she felt at ease in Senegal, but couldn't quite pinpoint why until she realized: "I love it here because I don't have to explain myself to people... I realised that as a black woman, so much of our time is spent explaining obvious things about our culture or ourselves, when she would rather just be."


With that in mind, the singer traveled to her father's home country of The Gambia to shoot her new music video, enlisting the help of three childhood friends and their daughters.

Watch the beautiful video, directed by Sheila Johansson and NewLand, below and read ahead for our chat with Seinabo Say about the inspirations behind "Breathe."

How did "Breathe" come about?

I wrote it in Dakar, Senegal. I was just at a point where i didn't know what to write anymore and didn't know what my album was about. So I went by myself on a vacation. Dakar is really different. I was feeling kind of lonely and a little out of place. Everyone speaks French and Wolof there, and I don't. Still i felt like I was supposed to be there. With that in mind took a paper and pen and wrote down exactly why i wanted to be there and why I liked being there and the words just came out in the simplest form.

You use a Kwame Nkrumah quote, "Forward Ever, Backwards Never," what made you add that to the lyrics?

I'd heard my dad say that a lot when I was a kid. Actually Gambia had a dictator [Yahya Jammeh] and when they changed the government [now under Adama Barrow], the Minister of Education position was given to one of my old principals. In one of his speeches, my old principal's last words were "Forward Ever, Backwards Never" so I googled those words and found out it was a quote by Nkrumah.

What's your connection to The Gambia? How has that influenced your music?

I think it's influenced me in ways that I haven't analyzed because it's just natural. The older I get, I understand. If you'd asked me years ago I'd say I loved American hip-hop and things like that. But singers that I love from America sound like West African singers, so the older I get I kind of start singing like my dad in that West African tone to his voice.

Seinabo Sey. Photo: Märta Thisner

Your father was a musician as well...

My father passed away five years ago. He was singer and performer. He tried to have a career in Europe but it was hard. He was really passionate about it.

Tell me about going to The Gambia to shoot this music video.

I thought it was fun, although I think the people that I took there and tried to have schedules thought it was frustrating [laughs] . It was great though. Everyone tried to step up and have organization. It was beautiful and I really wanted to show these images. If all my hard work was a poster it would amount to something like this. It didn't feel like a challenge because of all the fun we had. I had the time of my life. I don't think I've ever been as proud of anything else that I've done as much as this music video.

You chose an all-female cast for this video.

There's so many things that we black women have to go through. Everything in our lives from explaining our hair-dos, to not finding our foundation colors. Its not easy to live, specially in Europe cause we're so far behind, even more so than America. When I go to Africa, I really feel like I can breathe, I can feel the air blowing in my mind. I'm always special when I'm there. But I'm also not from there either, and I get privileges that I'm afforded, I'm aware of them. The music video's meant to represent an abstract place where women can be free to be honest. Therefore we have the big fluffy dresses and we can not care about our looks. It's a mind set.

popular
Photo still via TIFF.

Watch the Striking Trailer for 'Farming'—Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's Directorial Debut

This is a must-watch.

The trailer for Farming, Nigerian-British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's directorial debut, is here.

"Between the 1960s and the 1980s, thousands of Nigerian children were farmed out to white working class families in the UK," the trailer begins. "This is the true story of just one of them."

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Image by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.

#IStandWithIlhan: Supporters Rally Behind Ilhan Omar Following Racist 'Send Her Back' Chant

"I am here where I belong, at the people's house, and you're just going to have to deal,"—Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Social media continues to rally behind Representative Ilhan Omar, following a series of racist remarks targeted at her and several other congresswoman of color by President Donald Trump.

The president doubled down on his racist rhetoric during a re-election rally in North Carolina on Wednesday, attendees began chanting "send her back," referring to Omar—echoing anti-imigrant remarks that the president tweeted last week, in which he wrote that four congresswomen of color: Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib should "go back" to where they came from.

This is far from the first time that Omar has been on the receiving end of racist and Islamophobic attacks and referred to as un-American on account of her Somali heritage.

READ: Op-Ed: In Defense of the Black Boogeyman

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Sir Elvis in "Loving Man" (Youtube)

6 African Country Musicians You Should Check Out

Featuring Sir Elvis, Jess Sah Bi & Peter One, Emma Ogosi and more.

With Lil Nas X's EP going straight to number on the American charts, it seems like country music revival is taking over 2019 and beyond, thanks to its unlikely fusion with trap music. It only makes sense that black people are reclaiming the genre, as country was actually partly created by black American artists and heavily influenced by gospel music.

On top of that, plenty of lesser known black artists and bands are making country, or country-infused, music. This is especially the case in Africa, where the genre has been around for a few decades and an increasing number of musicians are gaining momentum. By gaining popularity in Africa, country is coming back to its roots, as country guitar and the way of playing it was originally inspired by the banjo— an instrument that African slaves brought with them to America.

Country music has a strong appeal across the African continent for several reasons: the similarity with many African instruments and the recurring lyrics and themes about love, heartbreak and "the land." At the heart of it, country music has an appeal to working class people all over the world who feel let down by the people that were supposed to help them.

Country music is played regularly on the radio in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi but yet, the artists featured are overwhelmingly white and American. African country singers do not get the respect they deserve or are seen as anomalies. With the growing number of them making country music, here is a list of the ones you need to listen to right now.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.