Feature: Wiyaala Is The Next Big International Act To Emerge From Ghana

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain” (Bob Marley).

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy” (Ludwig Van Beethoven).

“Music is a spiritual thing. You don’t play with music. You play with music you die young. See, because when the higher forces give you gift of music…musicianship, it must be well used for the good of humanity. If you use it for your own self by deceiving the people, you die young…Music is the weapon of the future. Music is the weapon of the progressives. Music is the weapon of the givers of life (Fela Anikulapo Kuti).

WHAT WIYAALA IS YET TO BECOME IF SHE DOES THE RIGHT THINGS

Wiyaala may also require the expert services of an artistic director, choreographer and a talent management team to help her improve upon and expand her kinesthetic and terpsichorean repertoires.

We intend for this recommendation to be understood in the light of her music (song) videos, particularly, and live performances, since dance is a major component of concert tours given the kind of music she makes, and from which [concert tours] artistes derive substantial earnings.

On the other hand, she may not necessarily have to acquire all the repertoire of choreographic techniques including, but not limited to, the split, camel walk, mashed potato, funky chicken, and boogaloo of James Brown, “the Founding Father of Funk Music” and the “the Godfather of Soul,” even so of MC Hammer too.

Of course, we have watched her perform “the split” with her dancers during a live performance (Youtube).

But physical acquisition of all the dance forms, including the split, mentioned above, requires expert execution of a network of intense squiggly legwork/footwork which, in turn, also requires a strong, healthy system of bones or skeletons, powerful muscles and joints, and finally, constant practice, imagination, confidence, proper dieting based on a formulaic high-calcium/vitamin D intake, rest as well as emotional and physical and physiological stamina (see calisthenics).

We allude to a strong, healthy system of bones or skeletons and the implied articulation of this system by way of a parallel system of healthy ligaments because tarsal and carpal tunnel syndromes, for instance, are enemies of dance. They render the limbs almost kinesthetically unwieldy. Here, almost immediately the so-called pointe technique and pirouetting come to mind.

Wiyaala performs at +233 Jazz Bar & Grill

Wiyaala performs at +233 Jazz Bar & Grill

Unfortunately, many musicians have had to take, and eventually become addicted to, pain killers merely for executing these extremely complex, physically taxing dance forms over and over and over.

Orthopedic surgery is the other medical procedure some of these musicians have had to undergo in order to correct some of their musculoskeletal injuries (Note: The split if not properly done can lead to serious pelvic pain and injuries).

In both cases, the late Prince happened to be the latest casualty. What is the option then for these artistes?

A viable alternative is for her artistic director(s), choreographers, and music videographers to employ special effects techniques to mask her physical deficits in any complicated dance moves.

The other alternative is her management contracting or hiring a lookalike to perform stunts in her stead, especially for her video choreographies. Unfortunately, unlike her, Jackie Chan does his own stunts. This is the more reason why we had always wished Wiyaala were Jackie Chan but, alas, yet understandably, both talented characters belong to different genres of the performance arts.

Wiyaala performs old classics at 233 Jazz Bar & Grill

And serious injuries, even death and/or lifetime paralysis, have sometimes accompanied certain stunts that went unpredictably wrong for whatever reason (s).

Equally true is the fact that, the type of choreography or dance formats she adopts for a particular song and its accompanying music sheet and music choreography and live performances, may largely depend on instrumentation tempo and boisterousness of that piece of music sheet in question.

Street dance techniques such as b-boying (breakdancing) on the one hand and ballet/waltz and Adowa on the other hand respond to, or are, for the most part, treated to different forms of music forms of which the concept “tempo” plays a major evaluation role. What are we saying here?

We are saying that it is almost inconceivable to waltz or do Adowa in the presence of a fast-tempo music genre such as “jungle” or “oldschool jungle.” The movie “You Got Served” exemplifies our theory.

Wiyaala performs at 233 Jazz Bar & Grill

Then also, less physically and emotionally taxing Ghanaian and African dance styles may equally be incorporated into her video choreographies, to avoid or minimize the physical and musculoskeletal strains that usually come with complicated kinesthetic and terpsichorean moves, such as the split, for instance.

Wiyaala is still relatively young with strong bones, from the point of view of her stage-managed boisterous kinesthetic moves, including the reference to “the split.” Even so her lean, athletic and muscular physique coupled with regular physical exercises, mostly calisthenics, and proper dieting routines, can neutralize any psycho-emotional drain on her kinesthetic tonality and also streamline any package of physical imperatives which may potentially threaten her terpsichorean agility.

Perhaps, and more generally, this may be why knowledge of eurhythmics will be such an important asset to her rising career. Perhaps this is also why we need to teach music education, critical musicology, music psychology, ethnomusicology, music theory, organology, and vocal pedagogy (singing and vocal techniques) in the broader context of the sociology of knowledge.

Still, she can learn a whole lot from the eclectic choreographic repertoires of Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Adjetey Sowah, Beyonce, MC Hammer, Mya, James Brown, Missy Elliot, Michael Jackson, Ciara, Usher, Eryka Badu, Gregory Hines, Debbie Allen, Slim Buster, Angelique Kidjo, Profs. Kariamu Welsh (ex-wife of Dr. Molefi Kete Asante; see her books “Umfundalai: An African Dance” and “Zimbabwe Dance”) Francis Nii-Yartey and A.M. Opoku and Nii Armah Sowah…

She may also have to simultaneously incorporate the rich tapestries of her ethnic and cultural dance forms (as well as other dance techniques from other parts of Ghana and across Africa), to create a unique blend of dance artistry as a powerful definition and statement of the emerging character of her newly acquired choreographic profile, a view we cannot simply overemphasize.

Even so, if we may also add, her studying the African-inspired capoeira of Afro-Brazillians should not be seen as being beyond her aesthetic purview and kinesthetic aptitude insofar as the aesthetic philosophy of choreography.

Finally, and this is extremely important, we do not think Wiyaala should raise any serious objections to our recommendations because she was originally a dancer before she became a singer.

SOME IMPORTANT RECCOMENTDATIONS

Granted, Wiyaala’s backup dancers also need to learn to maintain a sturdy focus of visual and kinesthetic symphony among themselves during their staged choreographies. This is because we have watched some of her live performances, where some of her backup dancers were clearly seen staring at each other and laughing when, in our opinion, that was absolutely unnecessary, and rightly so, because in the end they lost any touch or sense of professional focus and how that lost, overall, undermined the concept of choreographic symphony on stage with a rapt audience looking on.

More significantly, perhaps, the apparent loss of focused rhythmic lockstep in choreographic symphony tends to neutralize the focused balance between the singing done by the lead vocalist, what should otherwise have been choreographic symphony among dancers, and audience focus or concentration. The net result, as we implied in the penultimate paragraph, is a serious perturbation in the focused rhythmicity of kinesthetic and terpsichorean articulation. This is clear enough.

We are hereby referring to sustained pursuit of symphonic rhythmicity in the dancers’ bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, namely synchronous gyrations of waists and other body parts in certain choreographic settings.

In the final analysis, it really does matter greatly that musical-rhythmic and harmonic on the one hand and on the other hand, bodily-kinesthetic get recognized among development psychologist Howard Gardner’s “intelligence modalities,” a concept developed under his theory of “multiple intelligences,” even though the former idea [musical-rhythmic and harmonic] implies some knowledge technical sophistication in formal and non-formal appreciation of music theory [insofar as musical aptitude].

These submissions and other sensuous choreographic formulas, twerking for instance, should be clearly communicated to audiences without so much as needless interventions of exegetical ambiguity on the part of audiences.

These ideas eloquently underlie a number of sensational tracks and creative concepts that define mainstream raunchy music videos, such as Wyclef Jean/Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass,” Sisqo’s “Thong Song,” Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” Sir Mix- A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker,” Juvenile’s “Back That Ass Up,” French Montana’s “Pop That”…

Of course, there is no need covering the entire landscape of the music videos of “the 2 Live Crew,” a highly controversial rap group based on Florida. The sexual explicitness of their music videos is proverbial and led to a litany of lawsuits and social-moral-political agitations against the group.

Particularly, also, we should want to make it clear that certain dance forms such as twerking should not be annoyingly overdone to distract male audience members from musical performances.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Advisedly, Wiyaala has to take advantage of her relative youthfulness to acquire a repertoire of kinesthetic and terpsichorean signatures, to accompany her great music, so that somewhere down the road when aging sets in and she can no longer do what she used to do by way of her physical facility for terpsichorean and kinesthetic versatility, she can then finally fall back on the popular mythology building around her as a point of reference to aid her in perpetuating her relevance in the Ghanaian popular culture.

MUSIC VIDEOS

It is, however, interesting to note that we have put a premium on the concept of video choreography or music video in the artistic and conceptual evolution of artistes because it is one way for them to sell their brands as well as reach a wider audience, including their fans and music critics from around the world. In sum, any contemporary artiste who therefore underestimates the potential of music videos to advance his or her music career does so at the risk.

Music videos are great promotional assets in that they showcase the musical talents of artistes, at least for those fans (and music critics) who, for one reason or another, will not otherwise see their favorite artistes perform live. It is also the case that music videos provide visual interpretation of music sheets, more generally chord charts and lead sheets, and more specifically the downbeat, song structure, backmasking, and so on. Thus, in the end a great aesthetically framed music video posted on YouTube, for instance, has a greater probability to reach a broader international audience either by chance (or accident) or upon recommendation (word of mouth).

As an avant-garde artiste in some crucial ways, Wiyaala, together with her management, should find innovative ways of projecting her on the world stage. She and her management could, for instance, embark on a project in the vein of an autobiographical or biographical documentary film, to tell her story to the world, that is, from her humble beginnings and meteoric rise in “World Music,” whatever the term means, to what she hopes to become and achieve in terms of artistic evolution or development and her contributions to the development of music in general.

Notwithstanding all the above, she won the 2014 “The Revelation of the African Continent” and “the Most Promising Artist in Africa.”

The music video for “Africa” won the 2015 Video of the Year,” all at the All Africa Music Awards.

Although awards in and of themselves do not tell the entire story as to the revealing potential of a person’s organic artistry, they do nonetheless provide great insights into aspects of that potential.

Certainly, the kind of music she makes puts her way beyond the one-hit-wonder rubric or categorization. Truly, this is an artiste we should all look out for as a country, as a continent.

SOME ADVICE FOR NOELLA WIYAALA 

There is no need for Wiyaal to abandon her roots. Her meteoric projection on to the stage of “world music” was made possible by the flapping wings of her roots. And she takes her roots and others’ very seriously:

“My name is Noella Wiyaala. I am a Sisala girl from the Upper West. My father is a Sisala and my mother is a Dagarti…But you can’t believe this, I’m a full blooded royal. My mother is a royal and my father’s father was a chief….Angelique Kidjo always rocks as an African and acts African wherever she goes. I love Sherifa Gunu too. She works hard and is a proud northerner. Hardly do you come by such talents, she really is a proud Dagomba and I love that of her.”

Here are a few notable examples for Wiyaala to learn from:

Miriam Makeba used her Swazi-Xhosa roots to carry a Swahili love ballad, “Malaika,” possibly originally composed by Adam Salim, Fadhili William and others, to the world;

Lucky Dube and Alpha Blondy took reggae and made it quintessentially African;

Angelique Kidjo used her Fon-Yoruba roots to carry influences of jazz vocalese, gospel, zouk (Martinique/Guadeloupe), etc., on the flapping wings of the so-called traditional Zilin’s vocal technique (Benin) to the world…even when she covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”:

Bob Marley (and others) took a mosaic of music genres…R&B, calypso, ska, jazz, blues, mento, rocksteady, doo-wop…and turned them into reggae…yet the influence of Kweku Ananse folktales on his intellectual and philosophical and musical outlook is also clear (see Timothy White’s book “Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley”);

American singer Norah Jones plays the piano, acoustic guitar, Wurlitzer guitar…yet we also see her father, Ravi Shankar’s Indian-derived sitar in her musical genes (Note: Ravi Shankar was one of the greatest influences on George Harrison, a member, late, of the Beatles);

The list is endless. The lesson here is that Wiyaala should study these men and women and music forms (mariachi music, Rumba, etc) from around the world. She needs to continue doing what she does best which, among other things, includes making socially and politically conscious music in the vein of Fela Kuti, Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, Youssou N’Dour, Lucky Dube…

Let Wiyaala do all that even as she invests in overtone singing, minimizes or avoids sampling, which, for instance, either stifles creativity when overused or feeds creativity when effectively incorporated studio album tracks.

Finally, she must take the business side of the entertainment industry seriously. For this reason, Wiyaala may want to consider pursuing business management, marketing, music business management, business psychology and public relations. These should put her in a better position to understand how the entertainment industry works and how she can manage her own career!

A firm believer in women rights and education, painter Wiyaala has got this to say: “Women must be allowed to do things for themselves and be educated…The kitchen is not for women alone, if that is so, I dare all men who run restaurants to stop it now!…Women must take their schooling seriously so they can be taken serious.”

CONCLUDING REMARKS

A musical force to reckon with, Wiyaala is a game changer, a refreshing voice and face and personality to appear on the contemporary portrait of Ghana’s historical musicology.

She has carved out an enviable niche for herself, for her rich brand, for her eclectic repertoire.

And as well, she is yet to conquer the world and in the process capture a global stature, of the kind of aesthetic respectability we hope to see among teeming fans and respected music critics alike. Only a matter of time.

She is a beautiful woman as well. Her trademark stage gait and general carriage in public are wonderful and gracious, absolutely one of a kind.

Her sometimes rainbow-looking make-ups are aesthetic masterpieces in and of themselves, almost legendary in artistic technical sophistication, as though her exquisitely sculptured facial coordinates are the works of the artistic geniuses of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso on Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. Or even on the glamorous faces of Queen of Sheba, of Queen Anna Nzinga…

In fact her applied lipsticks are colorfully bold and aesthetically eloquent, if not celestially lyrical and musical…jazzy…soulful…funky…angelically and innocently sensuous! Even vaginally provocative!

All of which are set against a glowing complementary Milky Way, a galaxy of shades of dark complexion.

Let us just say Wiyaala, a beautifully assertive woman, is indeed also an exquisite wonder in the lyrical musicality of creation, of nature.

Framed otherwise, Wiyaala is an exquisite artwork in and of itself, her androgyny notwithstanding. And she takes great pride in her beauty regardless of what some of her critics say:

“Before I cut my hair, I knew I would be bombarded with comments like ‘You are ugly o’ and the like but at least I knew it would decrease the number of harassers and chasers and I believe that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. So if someone truly loves me, that person should love me whether people find me attractive or not…”

Meanwhile, her choice of the androgynous image is a personal decision we must all respect and learn to live with.

In fact that choice gives her a palpable presence in the curious eye of the public’s imagination. It also creates a curious mythology, a mystical aura, if you will, about her, about such figures, which in turn helps keep and sustain the nagging curiosity and infatuation of fans, music critics, and the general public with these open yet somewhat reclusive figures.

In other words this mystical aura keeps fans, music critics and the general public tethered to a gripping mode of nagging curiosity and wonderment as to who and what these figures actually are, or might be. This is the kind of mystical aura that Enya, Prince, Michael Jackson, Willie Nelson and others erected around them. Such figures therefore become talk-of-the-town artifacts of overhyped open secrets…open mysteries…open puzzles…with more lumbering questions than answers.

Wiyaala may or may not be heading toward this destination of mystical island. In a nutshell however, these social enigmas become products of someone else’s creation, possibly also of others’ unresolved questions of introspection. This showbiz marketing strategy keeps the public awake and, like Oliver Twist, it asks for more and more until more and more become less and less, or rather until diminishing returns set in. Mystery in showbiz is a prized community. And it no doubt sells.

Wiyaala’s mystical aura is deeply buried in the multilayered sarcophagi of her yet-untapped reservoir of musical and artistic resourcefulness.

She is a thoughtful woman, a musical genius, if you will, a creative goddess of music whose hard work enormously contributed to her eventually smashing the glass ceiling largely imposed on her and women in general, through the heavy intrusive handedness of custom and tradition, supposedly in and by her phallocentric folk community, in order to become what she is today and if we may extrapolate therefrom, what she has yet to become tomorrow, by relocating to Accra, the capital of Ghana, where she thought, and rightly so, ample opportunities awaited her arrival. Such is an enviable attitude of a creative and resourceful juggernaut. She has explicitly said so herself in some of her high-profile public interviews. Listen to her in her carefully chosen words:

“It’s not even easy to do music as a female. People think you’re going into prostitution and you have a lot of problems with people, even your own family will start criticising until they see something good come out of it. You have to really fight not only in music but in a lot of things…

“I moved to Accra because I wanted to go out there and showcase my talent. I realised staying in Wa was just too small…I think I became a bit bigger than Wa…Accra is the place; it’s like the New York in Ghana. This is where all the business deals, the connections and everything would work for you so I took that opportunity and as soon as I could leave Wa, I run quickly to get here…”

In the final analysis, we will all have to push her until she reaches that climax of global stature, of international stardom. No doubt this woman has Ghana and Africa in her musical bones.

And again, this is not to say everyone should patronize her music and brand if, for any reason(s), one does not feel any need to. It is all a matter of personal preferences and tastes. One man’s trash, they say, is another man’s treasure. Has anyone listened to Paul Simon’s “One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor” yet? In the end what also constitutes “good” or “bad” music boils down to a deep question, which is itself a question of relativity or subjectivity, much like one of our lady friends fundamentally sees any piece of jazz work as a dirge, lullaby, a wasteful sleep-inducing instrumentation of sorts…boring for short.

This is why Dr. Molefi Kete Asante has forcefully made the case that Western classical music is no more “classical” than traditional highlife, say. In other words every society has its own form of “classical music,” in spite of the designation of Western classical music as “erudite music,” as opposed to traditional (folk) music and popular music. Most music forms in Ghana are of the latter two.

That said, Wiyaala is one of a kind in the performance arts in that her postmodernist interpretation of “Ghanaian music” is bound to ruffle some orthodox loyalists of traditional highlife and palm-wine music. This is to be expected as tradition is difficult to break by some.

Wiyaala is a game changer and her momentous appearance on the scene is sure to force out traditional musicians from their comfortable hiatuses and hideouts. It is all good for the industry. We shall sum up the great personality of our sister Wiyaala, the kind of woman Shaggy may have had in mind when he sang the powerful tune “Strength of a Woman,” by quoting an anonymous commentator who made the following remarks in the aftermath of one of Wiyaala’s many interviews (conducted by Amoafowaa; see references):

“It was refreshing to see a woman of tomorrow. It gives hope that we are moving in the right direction.”

REFERENCES 

Ghanagist.com. “Wiyaala And Bro Philemon Win Gold For Ghana At All Africa Music Awards.” December 27, 2014. Retrieved from http://ghanagist.com/wiyaala-and-bro-philemon-win-gold-for-ghana-at-all-africa-music-awards/

Kristen Warnick. (2000, April 1). “Influences on Contemporary Ghanaian Dance: An Exploration of Viewpoint.” Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1071&context=african_diaspora_isp

Ghanaweb. “Ghanaian Afro-pop Star Wiyaala Eyes European Market.” March 5, 2015.

Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia. “Know All About Noella Wiyaala; From Her Naughties To Her Angelics.” December 14, 2014. Retrieved from https://amoafowaa.com/2014/12/17/know-all-about-noella-wiyaala-from-her-naughties-to-her-angelics/

Source: Francis Kwarteng

 

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