I often find myself trying to fit music into categories. I’m not interested in boxing artists into my narrow perception of their work; but as a DJ, i like to group my music based on genres and sounds so that i’m always ready for my next gig and internet mixes
. However, some artists refuse to fit within the boundaries that We attempt to create. Iyadede
is one such artist.In many ways, i appreciate such an un-box-in-able person, because she reminds me that nothing in life, especially not creative humane expression, is stagnant. To paraphrase Octavia Butler
and Frantz Fanon
, change is inevitable and culture is dynamic. After moving from Rwanda to Belgium, then to New York City, Iyadede makes it clear that she is no stranger to the unsteady pace of life and living. Her album, Talking to God, transports listeners from a critique of imperialism in Africa (“Burnstone and Fire) to finding strength within one’s own self in times of struggle (“When I Was a Kid”), and trying to understand and embrace the amorphous nature of love (“The Love Mantra”).Sonically, Iyadede vibrates comfortably between electro pop and alternative, though with a certain folk energy that i tend to get from some of my favorite African artists
, and that soulful feel that talented musicians use to translate struggle into beauty. I told Iyadede that her music reminds me of a mix of Zap Mama (for whom she sang backup!), Muhsinah, Just A Band, Kenna, Van Hunt, Res, Santigold, and a few others. Yet, with songs like, “Imfura Yangye,” “Girl Who Fell From Earth,” and “A Tree” (one of my favorites), she definitely maintains her distinction and uniqueness as an artist. Her response:
Music to me was never about a particular school or genre to belong to, but just a soundtrack to your days you know. Some days are disco, some days are hard rock, some days are [rhythm] and blues, some days and classical symphony that is all. Now the goals is put all of that in one cohesive album and I think that is where the little magic comes in handy. It happens or it doesn’t. Music is definitely a mystical art that I respect very much.
To Iyadede, this mystical art is one of her tools to discuss political and economic issues that African people continue struggling to overcome. Among her experiences was escaping Rwanda during a genocidal assault that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and scores more living with the effects of that horrible situation. “Although sometimes I wish I could be focused on happier circumstances only, it wouldn’t be honest of me to do that considering where I came from and what I have experienced.” But, Iyadede does sing about other aspects of life and she uses a variety of mediums to express herself, including drawing and painting, creating jewelry (her line is called Bowbi Ladawa, which means “cute medicine”), and producing illustrations. “Sometimes you don’t have the possibility to create through one medium so you try another. When I don’t write, I draw for example… Its all a phase.”
Iyadede’s current phase includes completing her “next Opus,” a project that she promises will be happy, fun, and as eclectic as her personality. This phase also includes putting performances on hold while she finishes her album. Iyadede will begin making her new music available to fans on her website in January 2012, and she will begin performing again in March at South By Southwest in Austin, TX. Until then, you can purchase Talking to God on iTunes and stream and/or download “The Demo” at Iyadede’s bandcamp.
- Brotha Onaci