Yemi Alade: Unapologetic. African. Taking Over The World

Yemi Alade, known as ‘Mama Africa’ by her fans, is a unique musician who is both royal and down-to-earth. She defies industry rules by staying close to her roots and accessible to her dedicated fanbase despite her global success. She loves Africa and its people and puts her heart and s

Our cover star, Yemi Alade, enters the gallery where we are filming Marie Claire Nigeria's first cover story with calm awe. Her brother and entourage respectfully guide her through the photoshoot and interview. Yemi Alade, known as ‘Mama Africa’ by her admirers, is royal yet grounded, a global phenomenon who has remained accessible to her core audience against all odds. Understanding how Yemi Alade received this title, originally given to Mariam Makeba, helped us comprehend her.

"Mama Africa" is my favorite record and a nickname. During my job, I traveled extensively in Africa, and one day a buddy asked me, ‘Mama Africa, where are you today?’

Yemi Alade is the real 'Mama Africa' as she features Angelique Kidjo |  Pulse Nigeria

That talk started Yemi's movement. It seemed appropriate, but she realized she had to find her purpose to be named ‘Mama Africa’. She realized that her purpose as a performer was to relay Africa's stories via song.

Pursuing that goal has made Yemi Alade a music icon in Nigeria, Africa, and beyond. She is noted for her lively performances, powerful voice, and ability to sing in Yoruba, French, and Swahili. Her music celebrates African culture, empowerment, and self-love with traditional African rhythms and current pop. It took 14 years and a lot of ambition and consistency to become famous.

Yemi isn't your typical pop star. She loves the beauty and magic of African cultures and promotes them via her songs. Despite her 12 years as a recording artist and her success, no big music label has supported her. Effyzie Music Group signed her as independent. Her polyglot skill in Igbo, Yoruba, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and English, with medium proficiency in others, helps. Her music is influenced by languages and has spread throughout Francophone, Lusophone Africa, and Europe.

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“I love languages. My mother is also a language prodigy. I assume she means six or seven; it's DNA. Before traveling, I thought Africans didn't speak French or Portuguese. Language became more of a hurdle than location as I traveled. A Nigerian who doesn't speak French can't enjoy Cameroon. Language is the barrier we must break down.

Yemi started using African languages in her music to break down language barriers and unite Africa. Yemi Alade's collaborations with other African singers reflect her devotion to African unity and cultural variety. Working with Jah Prayzah, Harmonize, Mafikizolo, Awilo Logomba, Bomba Estéreo, Beyonce, Angélique Kidjo, Rick Ross, and Dadju. “It’s a well-known fact that for me to be on a song with anyone, I must first be a fan because it makes the music to be genuine” unites the eclectic list. She works with artists whose collections are sung in their native language or lingua franca. The greatest approach to create a lasting impression with my music is to cooperate with musicians from these nations because I travel a lot.

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She says that partnering consciously lets her explore other parts of Africa like a local, guided by musicians who are beloved in their home countries and enthusiastic about presenting their actual intricacies. Living in African countries like locals improves interactions. Yemi has experienced the continent's most attractive aspects: its people, cultures, and national identities. It has also enhanced her dynamic, contagious live performances.

Yemi works closely with her band and dancers to improve her set before her shows. She also watches her outfit selections to look and feel confident on stage since she must “show up”.

Alade has managed unprecedented celebrity gracefully and with Pan-African beliefs, yet she has frequently battled with harsh responses. Love of African culture influences her music and design. Only some like her viewpoint. However, some have criticized her for unabashedly promoting African culture. The Afro-pop diva was bullied for her appearance and politics.

“I have been called many names, both directly and indirectly, because of my unapologetic love and champion of Africa. My favorite name is ‘international Garri Seller’. I often say garri no dey advertise, but e dey sell market pass. Know what I mean? I have been called names and criticized for being young and projecting an older persona. But that is because I am carrying generations before me and clearing the road for future generations.”

Yemi knows what's at stake as one of the first Nigerian music stars to reject Eurocentric beauty norms and celebrate African beauty and culture. She has focused more on promoting Afrocentric traits and opposing Eurocentric beauty norms with each effort. She follows daring, colorful fashion trends that defy tradition. Her theatrical outfits show her ingenuity, and she works with her designers and stylists to realize her ideas. Yemi is proud to have contributed to this transformation and loves seeing ladies from various backgrounds embrace their natural beauty and cultural heritage.

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In the globe, representation is crucial. I feel the same way when I see a model with my wide forehead and lovely melanin complexion at overseas airports. Even for a moment, seeing these traits makes me feel better. So I take every chance to spread positivity.”

This unique but shared continental vision motivates Yemi's narrative. It inspires her to use her celebrity and power to help others. She hopes her music and voice will improve society by promoting social justice and political activity. She supports Pan-Africanism and has lent her star power to several charity endeavors, including UN campaigns. She contributed money from her critically acclaimed ‘Mama Africa’ record to #FeedAChild and visited Haiti after the rains to help victims.

Yemi Alade has grown musically and personally over the past decade. She has learned to set and maintain work-life limits, even at the expense of money. She is also philanthropic, utilizing her songs to address social concerns that affect her and others. Even though her music and identity are rooted in high life and dance hall, she has experimented with music.

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Jenny Young

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