Sep 03, 2019 | By Jane Boddy
West Africa has always been rich in commodities and traditions, but a new wave of artists is making it equally rich in talent and creativity. Massive artistic potential coupled with the most youthful population on the planet is fueling a cultural and social revolution of creatives yearning to depict the authentic African story. It’s something that subscribers can check out in our report Trend Insights: West Africa. Simisola Ogunleye, known affectionately as Simi, is championing the new sound waves of Africa.
Simi has flown under the radar of many for some time but now her momentum is almost undeniable.
The Nigerian trailblazer broke into the mainstream recognition over the few months with her sophomore “Simisola” E.P. that effortlessly fused that sounds of her native land with that of funk, R&B and even pop influences. Her project even broke into the Billboard “World Albums” charts this past September upon its release.
Equipped with a style that exudes Nigerian tradition and modern sensibility, Simi knowns the importance of expressing herself through her style. In today’s saturated market, musicians are increasingly pressured to be multi-faceted creators while maintaining a sharpened look & heightened brand. As a true artist, Simi works diligently as a producer and engineer as well.
Armed with a passion for new sounds and modern, Simi is gracefully changing stereotypical narratives of African artists, African women and their continent. We were able to catch up with the African songstress to get her thoughts on the New Africa.
We are definitely seeing a fresh crop of fashion designers coming out of Nigeria now. There are amazing designers like Keexs, Mr Garbe, Lisa Folawiyo, Ejiro Amos Tafiri, and April by Kunbi. Sometimes I see their designs and I’m blown away. They’re making stuff that people wear out of the country- it’s really exciting to see people outside of our culture embrace it so warmly.
One of the biggest reasons we’ve seen such a boom in creative expression is the recession Nigeria has been hit with. We all had to look within over here- we didn’t have a choice. The youth had to build from the ground up and that’s what the new wave we are seeing is all about.
The image as a whole is always very important. I’m not very trendy and I’m pretty minimal for the most part but like every artist, my style (and art) evolves. I’m always learning and finding myself more and more and my style reflects that.
Absolutely. Being a woman in the industry can feel like doing double the work for half the results. We still have a long way to go. As a female artist or industry professional, you have to be especially good at what you’re doing and overly committed because people will hold you to a much higher standard – some of them reasonable, some unreasonable.
It’s a societal thing where we as women just have to fight harder for things. I decided early on that I would not let that be an excuse for me. Women are taking charge and making more progress to change the status quo daily.
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