Yemi Alade, a diva at the Olympia – Jeune Afrique

Yemi Alade, a diva at the Olympia – Jeune Afrique

The nigerian star arrives on the old floor of the Parisian theater, majestic in a jumpsuit in wax studded with several rows of pearls, a headdress of peacock feathers proudly erected on her head. In the room lit by the light of smartphones, Yemi Alade raises her arms solemnly, with a slow movement, to welcome her dancers on the first drumbeats of “My power”, an anthem celebrating the empowerment of the African continent by Beyoncé, to which Yemi Alade contributed on the soundtrack of The Lion King, the gift, in 2019.

A conquering opening which immediately announces the color of the show that the “Mama Africa” ​​is about to deliver to the public, mainly diasporic, who came in large numbers on this Sunday evening in November.

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“France was the first foreign country to welcome my music. I did my first concert in Paris at the Palace, and my last five years ago at the Trianonshe recalls a few days earlier on the roof terrace of a hotel in the periphery Parisian, striking the pose with her legendary playfulness in front of the Sacré-Coeur. Playing at the Olympia while one of my idols Angelique Kidjo did the first part of another legend, Miriam Makeba, in 1989, it’s an honor, ”says the 33-year-old singer and composer, already more than ten years of career to her credit. While a few days before her, another Nigerian star, Rema, also performed there at only 22 years old. “All this proves that we have talent and that the world has fallen in love with Afrobeats,” she says.

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Wakanda imaginary

However, the publicity and media coverage around this concert will not have been up to the height of the phenomenon with 6 million views on YouTube that is the “African baddie”, the name of his new EP released in early November. “A question of image no doubt, slips us a communicator. In France, African artists must correspond to world music or the urban scene, Yemi Alade escapes these two categories”.

A powerful trunk and a full voice, juggling bass to treble, the artist has enough to compete with the greatest African divas. But it is above all an American show, lasting more than two hours, that the marathon runner delivers that evening without ever really catching her breath.

On the giant screen, Disney-like animated sequences and images of the Maasai parade behind the singer, who nevertheless comes from Yoruba and Igbo culture. Yemi Alade frankly taps into tribal iconography and the “wakandafication” conveyed by her inspiration Beyoncé in her film black is king. It is finally when she frees herself from the aesthetics acclaimed by the African-American queen that Yemi Alade can proudly wear her crown as queen of Afropop.

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Change of scenery, costume and register for the Nigerian, who this time tumbles onto the stage in a total leopard look, molded into a cyclist and bundled up in a hooded down jacket. She leaves the high life for the dancehall, the wise dance steps for a lascivious twerk choreography. And assume, far from folklore, on “badass” attitude, black sunglasses at the end of the nose. We are now far from the mischievous young woman who made millions of people dance on “Johnny”, her hit released in 2014.

“I’ve changed, and that’s normal. I also defend a more globalized image, ”admits the pop star, who has also been able to be more committed. Like when she tackled the repertoire of the king of Afrobeat by covering “Lady”. And it is no coincidence that Yemi Alade chose this title praising gender equality and the emancipation of African women.

Tribute to Fela

On stage, she appropriates the piece by whispering in the audience’s ear with sweetness and mischief, surrounded by her armada of jugglers, all fists raised in homage to the Black Panthers. “During his lifetime, nobody really celebrated Fela, he was far too controversial,” said the Nigerian, who took advantage of her Paris stopover to discover the exhibition dedicated to him at the Philharmonie. “People prefer when artists conform. Fela was a rebel. I’m also a rebel, not like him of course, but because I’m not content to be the African woman that people expect me to be, cute and sweet. I am strong”, claims the one for whom emancipation also passes through capitalism, as when she proclaims on the title “Baddie” that she can cover her beloved with gifts without counting the dollars.

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“Money is power,” she says. But the greatest power is knowing who you are”, launches the one who has lived far from her family for years, chaining concerts and stopovers every three days, being able however to count on a solid team so as not “to not get lost. “.

And if, despite niche recognition, the general French public still doesn’t know who she is, it doesn’t matter to her. “I am the African mama, let’s not forget that,” she smiles. And it is in Africa that I will go to play after Canada to defend this new EP”, while waiting for the release of his sixth album. running 2023.

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