Ghanaian pop goddess Noella Wiyaala–aka the Young Lioness of Africa–is known for crafting beat-perfect pop in the Sissala and Waale dialects, winning awards at the All Africa Music Awards for her first single Rock My Body, as well as promoting the rights of women and children in her music and activism.
She’ll be inspiring young aspiring musicians at the IMPACT Music Conference to be held in Accra, Ghana, on April 26 and 27 (more info here). In preparation for the event, she tells us why conferences like these are so important and the pitfalls women have to avoid when venturing into the music industry.
Why do you think it’s important to talk at events like IMPACT and inspire young people?
Young people need access to information about everything that interests them. For those interested in music, the chance to listen to someone like me talk face to face about what it’s like to be a professional musician can be either inspiring, or a reality check.
Many young girls are married off as child brides and cannot expect to have a career of any sort, let alone as a musician.
Yes, it is indeed possible to have a career in music, but don’t expect to be an overnight success. I have spent years on my career and you need more than talent to succeed.
How has being a woman helped or hindered you in music?
I grew up in a village in the north of Ghana and it’s unusual for a female to be encouraged to do music. I was lucky because my mother was musical. But it’s a fact that many young girls are married off as child brides and cannot expect to have a career of any sort, let alone as a musician.
— LionessofAfrica (@Wiyaala) April 15, 2017
That’s just the beginning because when you progress into the mainstream music industry you will find it is dominated by men, both in the business of music and amongst the artistes.
However, there are fewer women in the industry competing and it is possibly easier to get noticed if you have a unique identity.
What advice would you give to young women in music?
You have to be realistic about your talent. What is it that you can do? Are you a songwriter? A live performer, or are you more comfortable as a recording artiste? If you have all three talents, you are blessed and then you can work on your ‘brand’. Have the confidence to be who you are.
Don’t fall for the guys in the industry who promise shows, recording contracts and other inducements in exchange for sex.
Many ‘experts’ on music will advise you to do this or that. Listen by all means, but follow your instincts because the ‘live’ audience in front of you will soon make it clear what they like about you. To find that out, you need to perform as often and wherever you can. And that will mean often for free at the beginning of your career.
And don’t fall for the guys in the industry who promise shows, recording contracts and other inducements in exchange for sex. It doesn’t work and the chances are you will be abused. Believe in yourself and exercise judgment. There are also some great guys in the industry. Keep going and if your talent and hard work is there, you will find them.
Best thing about being a woman?
You get to be the ‘mother’ of all men.
Favourite inspirational women musicians?
My mother. She was a church chorister and she told me stories of village life which influence many of my songs today. As a child, I adored the fantasy world of Madonna in videos like Take A Bow.
Later the stories of women like Brenda Fassie, Miriam Makeba, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston have become more influential.
What’s next for Wiyaala?
My second album is due out this year. It’s an alchemy of my Ghananian roots and contemporary world pop. I’ll be touring and promoting the album in Europe and towards the end of the year I will return to Ghana where I am planning my album launch concert in Accra.
I will also organise the second annual edition of the Djimba World Music Festival in Wa.
I’m also working on a project to collaborate with some of the local musicians in my region to promote the great music and culture we have in the Upper West. You can also expect a collaboration with King Ayisoba towards the end of 2017.
Find out more about the IMPACT Music Conference