Birth of a New Sound: Alté music in Africa
Africa is a land of talents. She houses potentials and established acts that have over time come to gain international recognition for their prowess in various aspects of pop culture. Nigeria happens to be the most populated nation in the continent and is home to a good number of African entertainment sensations.
Movies, music, fashion, tourism, hospitality, business – Africa adds her own spice of nativity to each sector, creating an irresistible and spicy niche for herself. Of all, her music is most celebrated.
People often say that a good percentage of music genres have their roots in African music. These music styles – most of which are Afrobeat(s) – come from the ancient struggle of early Africans, birthed from activities like war, hunting and festivity. Some of these genres include earth music, ponpon, Afrobeat, highlife, juju, Fuji, afrofusion, banku and Alkebulan music.
However, a fusion of two or more of these genres leads to the birth of another and this makes sure that there’s no end to the number of African music genres possible to spring forth. The latest of these mergers which has come to steal the African music market lately is the one called Alté music.
Definition of Alté
Alté (short for ‘alternative’) music is a blend of different African subgenres. According to DJ Booth, The term “alternative” takes on different turns depending on your vantage point. For young Nigerian artistes, it denotes bravery and breaking free from the molds placed before them. Alté is a youthful sub-genre that tackles preconceptions of what African music is and can be.
For young African music creatives, Alté music is their platform to remold the legacies of legendary acts like Fela Kuti and Amakye Dede by making their vintage music fit into the twenty-first century world.
It is a spiritual groove that blends with subtle percussions which creates an oomph melody as it rests on the ear of the listener. Most of the time, there is an underlying highlife movement which moves in sync with muted horns in an upbeat timing.
The name ‘Alté’ originally means a group of young Nigerians in Lagos who think out of the regular and dress in new fashion, most times referred to as the “new school”. A handful of artists have managed to plunge into this train and make name for themselves. At the center of it is Santi.
Santi (formerly known as Ozzy B) is known popularly to be the head of a group of young artistes called the Alté Movement. He began his career in 2017 and has ever since not ceased to wow the market with beautiful Alté sound. Some of his works include Gangsta Fear, Rapid Fire and projects including his debut EP; Birth of Santi.
Odunsi (The Engine)
His nominations at the Headies only prove how much work he is putting into his music and promoting this Alté sound. Odunsi’s Rare is a perfect description of resplendent. Apart from the music, Odunsi is also Alté in his fashion. We can say he eats, drinks and breathes Alté.
After she dropped Mr. Rebel, she became everyone’s favourite. Her Aux video trended on social media and each ear that processed her sound literally fell in love with her. She was nominated for best female vocalist in the 2019 Headies Awards but Teni Makanaki got the award. However, Tems is one Alté artiste to look out for, especially because of her vocal dexterity.
Lady Donli is a storyteller. She paints scenarios with Alté and she has as well – through her music – painted a beautiful career for herself in the industry. The cash-addict tells stories about the struggle of entrepreneurs in Lagos and does so with the spirit of Fela Kuti. Her music has jazz, neo-soul and blues as its foundation. Donli is regarded as the queen of the Alté Movement.
Although he is a music producer, Sarz has featured top Alté guys like Odunsi, Wurld and Oxlade in award winning masterpieces. It would be totally wrong of us to exclude him from prominent names in the movement.
He bagged Headies’ Male Vocalist of the Year in 2019 for his song, Wishes and Butterflies. The American-Nigerian singer pours in his entire soul when he writes/sings a song. Real name Sadiq Onifade, the artiste who is signed to Universal Music poses to be the future of Afrobeats and e is gaining more acceptance than anyone else in the Alté Movement.
Of course, this promising movement faced a sort of resistance in 2018 when the sound had just begun to become more popular. The term ‘Alté’ was misinterpreted to be a nickname for spoilt children in Lagos. A Twitter user posted:
“I won’t even lie; my beef with Alté is the fakeness. You wan hard synthetic. Synthetic no be way. No dey form men if you no be men. Relax.”
“A bunch of Lagos kids who wear ugly glasses and oversized jeans with ugly ass t-shirts all the time all in the name of being different. They also wear dirty sneakers that make them look like miscreants. They listen to weird music and try to be edgy but they end up being stupid.”
However, over time, the Alté sound has come to be widely accepted. And because the sound is still developing, there is still room for change, adaptation and improvement in the sound and the lifestyle that comes with it. I’m not sure about how long this sound will stay, but one thing I know is that Alté is on its way to becoming the biggest thing in Afrobeats; even beyond the shores of Lagos and Nigeria.
Guest Writer – Itoho Okim