By Benjamin Njoku, with Agency report
Nigerian Afro-pop singer, Yemi Alade was the cynosure of all eyes last Saturday night, when she stormed 9:30 Club, a popular nightclub in Washington, D.C, to show her fans some love.
According to Washington Post, the Mama Africa singer was the only onstage voice when she played a 70-minute set at the popular nightclub and for more than once she turned the audience into her duet partner.
The sizable but devoted crowd proved capable of singing large chunks of Alade’s tunes without any help from the singer or her tight three-piece band.
Alade’s music draws from many African styles, but it takes more from hip-hop, dancehall reggae and digital-age rhythm and blues. Unlike the previous generation of international Afro-pop stars, the 32-year-old performer doesn’t employ any traditional instruments or front a large band with multiple percussionists; most of her songs are built atop spare synth-beats that include tones both rubbery and metallic.
At 9:30, she was backed by a bassist, keyboardist and drummer, their default modes set to 1970s jazz-rock. Alade’s songs tend to be short, and in concert, they were sometimes fragmented. The multilingual singer interrupted several tunes to chat mostly in English and didn’t always return to them.
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Her 2014 breakthrough hit, the saga of a runaway lover called “Johnny,” was teased but never performed in its entirety. Musically, the most satisfying numbers were the ones with the most pronounced West African lilt, such as “Tumbum” and “Africa.”
The latter was typical of Alade’s approach, which mixes cultural pride with winking eroticism. “Nowhere be like Africa,” she boasted in her penetrating alto, only to switch to flirting: “My African hands them gon’ love you / My African lips them gon’ kiss you.” Such playful come-ons were underscored by Alade’s bumps, dips and shimmies in her one-sleeved mini-dress moves that were emulated by two dancers with white bodysuits.
She turned another love song, “How I Feel,” into an ode to the audience, which enthusiastically sang the refrain. Alade ended by posing for a selfie with the crowd and leading a chant of “D.C.!” Then, like the elusive Johnny, she was gone.
The outing at 9.30 Club was part of her month-long Empress Tour of some cities in the United States. She began the tour on September 9, 2021 which ends tomorrow in New York, performing in Berkeley, California, Las Vegas, Nevada; North Adams, Washington DC among other cities.
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