The Story of Noella Wiyaala, The Lioness of Africa

Noella Wiyaala (known under the stage name Wiyaala) was born on December 22, 1986 and is Ghanaian Afro pop singer-songwriter who sings in her native Sissala and Waale dialects and English, often combining all three languages within her songs. Wiyaala means ‘the doer’ in the Sissala dialect. She has attained public renown with her single “Make Me Dance” and her androgynous image. After making her name in reality shows in Accra, she established a solo career in 2013 with the hit single “Rock My Body”, which won her two awards at the 2014 first edition of the All Africa Music Awards, the Most Promising Artiste in Africa and Revelation of The African Continent. Wiyaala is also associated with UNICEF Ghana and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana in campaigns against child marriagechild povertyhealth and sanitation.She headlined the 15th London African Music Festival in London.

Noella Wiyaala was born in WaUpper West Ghana as one of four sisters and grew up in Funsi and Tumu. She got first singing lessons from her mother, a choir singer in the local church, and she has performed ever since she was 5 years old. Her surname, which she picked for a stage name, means “the doer” in her native Sisaala language. During her late teenage years, she played football as a midfielder. She attended Kansec Secondary School and later Kanton Secondary High in Tumu, where she acquired a reputation for being a tom-boy, playing football and was in demand as a dancer and entertainer in school productions. She also attended Takoradi Polytechnic on an art and design course.

 

Wiyaala recently disclosed in an interview with Becky on the E with Becks show on Joy Prime that she has been married for four years but would not disclose the name of her husband. Only four people were present at her wedding; a lawyer, a judge and her mum and dad.

 

 

Musical career

In 2009 she recorded her first album “Tuma” (“Work”) in the Sissala language at Echo Soundz Studios in WaUpper West Ghana

 

From early childhood in the Upper West Region of Ghana, Wiyaala was active as an entertainer, earning her first income as a performer in a local bar in Tamale. After attending Kansec Secondary High School, Wiyaala’s musical career began in earnest when she joined the local music scene in Wa which centered around Echo Soundz Recording Studios. She performed at local events and recorded as a usually unpaid session singer for artists in the Upper West Region.

In 2009 she recorded her first album “Tuma” (“Work”) in the Sissala language at Echo Soundz Studios in WaUpper West Ghana. Songs like “Dannu” and “Dirik…” soon became local hits.

Looking to establish a national career, she made the journey to Accra to audition for Ghana’s own “Stars of the Future”. At the third attempt in 2011 she earned her way into the finals, winning two Golden Moments awards. Won the 2012 Vodafone ICONS Mixed Edition contest hosted by fellow Ghanaian DJ “Benny Blanco”, as part of the Ghanaian band Black N Peach, while singing Tina Turner‘s “Simply The Best”.

She left the Black N Peach band during April 2013, after having released one single (“Wonkoa”), to pursue a solo career with Djimba World Records. Her first release was “Make Me Dance” which featured Ghana’s first ever underwater scenes in a music video,[19] and soon afterwards the single “Rock My Body”, which quickly became a hit and won her two awards at the 2014 edition of the All Africa Music Awards.

In November 2014 Wiyaala released her “official” debut album, the eponymously titled “Wiyaala” which was nominated for album of the year at the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards 2015 and the All Africa Music Awards 2015.

Wiyaala is a brand ambassador for PepsiCo in West Africa, alongside Nigerian singer Tiwa Savage, promoting Pepsi throughout Ghana as the brand looks to grab a larger share of the soft drinks market. She is also the Converse All Stars ambassador for Ghana since 2014.

 

Activism

Wiyaala is outspoken on the male-dominated culture and polygyny of some African countries and to stand up for women’s rights and against family violence in her native Ghana. Her song “Tinambayai” in Sisaala language has been regarded as a protest against the exploitation of women in Africa. Wiyaala has featured on BBC talking about early child marriage and has expressed sympathy for feminism as a mean to encourage young girls into completing their education so that they themselves can be the ones that make the choices in their lives and also declared her success would serve as an example to her community that there was a future for young women beyond an early forced marriage. “Make Me Dance” has been included in the top of feminist songs for the 2013 winter by Bitch feminist magazine.

Wiyaala has also partnered with Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana’s government and UNICEF on a number of projects to help protect the rights of children and public health issues.

Musical style

Wiyaala sings both in English and her native Sisaala. She writes her songs herself. She has earned praise for her bold and powerful voice and distinguished timbre.  Given MadonnaMichael JacksonWhitney Houston and Tina Turner as role models and inspiration. She had often been called “man-woman” by the boys in grade school[11] and nowadays she cultivates an androgynous image of herself, for which she had been compared to Grace Jones. Also she has expressed admiration for African artists like Angelique KidjoMiriam Makeba and Brenda Fassie. Her song “Africa” has been inspired by Sherifa Gunu.

Her music style has been described as Afro-pop or Afro-rock with elements of tribal folk music while the latest single “Rock My Body”, released in June 2013 together with Ghanaian reggae singer Jupitar leans more towards reggae and dancehall. Wiyaala cited as an inspiration the 1969 song “Wreck A Buddy” by Nora Dean and The Soul Sisters. She did also perform in the opening of the 2014 Stanbic Ghana jazz festival.

The single “Go Go Black Stars…Goal!”, released in April 2014, on the Djimba World Records label, sung in English and Ghanaian languages, also features tribal drums and stadium choruses. The same song had been picked up as the unofficial hymn of the national football team of Ghana for the 2014 World Cup.

Wiyaala got nominated as Best Sporting Artist in Ghana Sports Excellence Awards 2014.

Wiyaala’s first release after the breakup with Black N Peach was the single “Make Me Dance”. Originally produced by “Genius Selection” in Ghana, it has been remixed in Los Angeles by “Bill Delia” for the international market. “Make Me Dance”, along with an acoustic version, will be distributed on the “Djimba World Records” label under exclusive license to Paris-based “JTV Digital”. The single has been released internationally on 7 October 2013, and it is available on iTunes.

The music video “Make Me Dance” was shot in the studio and on location at Prampram. It features Wiyaala in scenes shot underwater and dancers from the Henokami Culture Troupe from New Ningo. Wiyaala had to take swimming lessons for the best performance while on camera.

“Make Me Dance” got released also in remixed form in Nu-discoBreakbeatDrum and bass and Trance styles on 9 December 2013. The “Make Me Dance” Remix EP was mastered in the Paris-based La Source Mastering Studio and released worldwide through Djimba World Records. On 8 December 2013, Wiyaala and Plug.dj held an online-only listening party of the “Make Me Dance” Remixes EP before the official release.

On 28 February 2014, Wiyaala released a new single, “You Got The Power”, again distributed on the “Djimba World Records” label. The single is also available on iTunes.

Her self-titled album, “Wiyaala”, was launched in November 2014 at the Alliance Française in Accra. Wiyaala performed songs from her album and other local and international superstars. The show also witnessed picturesque dance performance from Flash Mob Ghana. One major highlight of the event was when her parents joined her on the stage to perform, backed by the Vodafone Icons contestants. She also released her song “Angel” in early December 2014 during Viasat 1‘s The One Show. The video of the single “Africa” taken from the album won Video of the Year at the All Africa Music Awards in November 2015.

During the first edition of the All Africa Music Awards held on 27 December 2014 in Lagos, Wiyaala won two of the coveted 23.9-carat gold-plated trophies for “The Most Promising Artist in Africa” and “The Revelation of the African Continent”. She has been commended by Vodafone for her achievements and hailed as a youth icon and an inspiration for young Ghanaians to strive for success.

In 2015, Wiyaala received six nominations for the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards winning Best Songwriter and Best Female Vocal. At the second edition of the All Africam Music Awards 2015, Wiyaala won best Video for “Africa” directed by Stanley Ajjetey. 2015 saw features on AJ Nelson’s “Power to The People” and Dark Suburb’s “Mama”.

Wiyaala made her TV acting debut in late 2013 in the Viasat 1 hit comedy series MultiKoloured.

In February 2016 Wiyaala made her movie debut in the Ghanaian feature film “No Man’s Land”  and for which she has been nominated as the Golden Discovery 2016 at the Golden Movie Awards.

Wiyaala got nominated “Female Personality of the Year” at the 2014 Ghana‘s Fashion Icon Awards, with a dress sketched and designed by herself. She designs her own stage dresses and jewellery to showcase the culture of the people from her home region. She has also been recognised for her style by winning the Best Individual Style Award at the Glitz 2015 Style Awards.

Wiyaala has made her intentions clear to recruit, groom, and sponsor young talents from Funsi and its surroundings as her way of giving back to society.

YearTitleDirectorRef
2017Village SexStanley Adjetey 
2016Sun And MoonCharlotte Appleton 
2016LenoCharlotte Appleton 
2016Power To The PeopleN/A 
2015AngelCharlotte Appleton 
2015This Is Who I AmN/A 
2014AfricaStanley Ajjetey 
2014Go Go Black StarsCharlotte Appleton 
2013Rock My BodyCharlotte Appleton 
2013Make Me DanceCharlotte Appleton 

Awards and nominations

YearOrganisationAwardWorkResult
20134syte Music Video AwardsBest DiscoveryMake Me DanceNominated
4syte Music Video AwardsBest Reggae/DancehallRock My BodyNominated
2014Bass AwardsMusic Video of the Year (Dancehall)Rock My BodyNominated
Bass AwardsBest Collaboration (Dancehall)Rock My BodyNominated
Bass AwardsBest Female Vocal ArtistRock My BodyNominated
All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA)Best Female Artiste in West AfricaRock My BodyNominated
All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA)Most Promising Artiste in AfricaRock My BodyWon
All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA)Best African Reggae, Ragga and DancehallRock My BodyNominated
All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA)Revelation of the African ContinentRock My BodyWon
National Youth Authority GhanaYouth Achievers AwardN/AWon
Sissala Prestige AwardsFemale Personality of the YearN/AWon
Radio Progress Upper West Music AwardsMusic Ambassador for the Upper WestN/AWon
GH One TV ShowBiz HonoursRevelation of 2014N/AWon
2015Vodafone Ghana Music AwardsBest Female Vocal PerformanceTinambaynyiWon
Vodafone Ghana Music AwardsNew Artiste of The YearN/ANominated
Vodafone Ghana Music AwardsAlbum of The YearWiyaalaNominated
Vodafone Ghana Music AwardsSongwriter of The YearN/AWon
Vodafone Ghana Music AwardsRecord of The YearTinambaynyiNominated
Vodafone Ghana Music AwardsAfro-Pop Song of The YearTinambaynyiNominated
Glitz Style AwardsBest Individual StyleN/AWon
2016Golden Movie AwardsBest DiscoveryNo Man’s LandNominated
2017All Africa Music AwardsBest African RockVillage SexNominated
2017Ghana Women Awards HonoursYoung and GiftedN/AWon

Source: Wikipedia

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