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Yemi Alade.

7 Reasons Why Yemi Alade Is A Music Video Icon

Here are the reasons why Yemi Alade is the Nigerian queen of music videos.

Never less than impressive, Yemi Alade's videos are frequently a visual feast of enviably agile dancing, burlesqued acting, inventive costuming and full-on pizazz. The Nigerian singer has a magnetic presence, seen video after video, and rivaled by few in a very competitive afropop sphere.

Here are seven reasons that prove that the self titled Mama Africa is the most iconic video artist, yet.


1. The Numbers

Released in March 2014, the video for "Johnny" (Dir. Clarence Peters) is approaching 90 million views on Youtube, the highest yet by any Nigerian artist and only trailed by "Personally" by P-Square (85 million views, at the time of going to print).

2. The Costumes

Costumed dancers are de rigueur in music videos affording them an eye-pleasing uniformity even when in uninspired attires. The choice of clothing in Alade's videos are frequently impressive, as are many afropop videos frankly, but specific items and combinations bring distinct glamour to her videos which you don't find in many others.

The coral-coloured evening dress she wears in "Heart Robber" (Dir. Clarence Peters) is delightfully regal, but more interesting is the band of men and women in white turbans and print-heavy trousers & waistcoats which offers an Arab-African vision that makes one seriously consider an alternate reality of cultural cohesion, beyond the already fantasised world of music videos.

3. The Choreography

Tightly sequenced choreography is by now a given in a Yemi Alade video, each one just as flawlessly nimble as the next. As if with more than enough dance moves to spare, "Pose " (Dir. Paul Gambit) with R2Bees comes in a pair, one of which (with Mugeez) has a dizzying array of moves, each one describing a lyric or emphasizing a word and beat loop on the song. "Kofi Annan" (Paul Gambit) is a most arresting parade of in-trend dance sequences, largely of Ghanaian origins. It starts with Alade's purposeful sashay into a warehouse after which she throws off her shirt and joins a ready-team of dancers for a tour de force of fly moves that brim with zest and the contagious joy of dancing, making time for a dab and an apt Michael Jackson reference.


4. The Theatricality

"Ferrari" (Dir. Clarence Peters) is coherent assembly of over the top acting, beautifully agile dance sequences, efficient storytelling—an improvement on the rustic romance of "Johnny", helped by ace highlife production by DJ Coublon, whose use of live instrumentation is Alade's strongest suit, even when she sings well enough in different traditions.


5. The Cultural Blends

Yemi Alade has been very astute in siphoning from other dominant afropop markets, most convincingly with the release of Mama Afrique (2017), largely a reworking of hit songs from her third album Mama Africa (2017), this time in French and Portuguese, two of the continent's other dominant lingua franca. On "Kissing" with Marvin (Dir. Ovie), she damn near out sings the French-Ivorian singer, while "Na Gode" has confident versions in Portuguese and Swahili, as well as French. She goes a step further on "Kofi Annan" which she sings in a faux-Ghanaian accent and even includes a Sarkodie reference that by all rights should be corny or desperate, but is in fact apt.

6. The Badassery

This quality can be vague or specific, imposing or fleeting. It is evident in how spryly she gyrates in most of her videos despite, most notably in "Sugar"(Dir. Paul Gambit) in which she's paired with a furiously athletic dancer. It is also in the menacing manner she holds a bat in "Kofi Annan," the sexually charged way she mimics stirring soup in "Ferrari," the glamour and grandeur of the mock live performance in "Heart Robber," and is right there in the mere eye-twinkle in the beginning of "Pose."

7. The (Upstaging of) Collaborators

Even the ever ebullient Flavour is subdued by Alade's effervescence in the video for "Kom Kom" (Dir. Clarence Peters), as is Phyno in "Taking Over You" (Dir. Taiye Aliyu & Justin Campos). Both Flavour and Phyno, more than her other collaborators, have distinct screen personalities. Other male models fare worse, unable to match her in stature or pizazz, often looking like boy toys or kept men, rather than worthy spouses, with two exceptions in the unflappable Falz and Alex Ekubo—the Nollywood actor and model who, since "Johnny," has featured in "Tangerine" and "Marry Me."







Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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