African Voices Changemakers airs on CNN International on Saturday 30th September 2023 at 0730 WAT
In the latest episode of African Voices Changemakers, CNN’s Larry Madowo meets Nigerian artist Asake in Miami a few days after his performance at Afro Nation, when Asake says performing is “the only time I have freedom to enjoy myself and see what God has done.”
Nigerian pop star Asake –originally Ahmed Ololade – says his name arose as his friends would play with his mum’s name “Asake” and call him “Omo Asake”. Dropping the “Omo” because he likes the feeling that people are using his mother’s name to call him as “she’s very powerful”, Asake has become a global superstar by selling out international shows, creating viral TikTok hits and scoring the highest-charting Nigerian debut album in history in late 2022.
Asake’s ubringing cultivated his love of music and unique sound. His father was a non-professional singer and his mother used to be a dancer, therefore, Asake says he feels becoming a performer was “a family thing” that he had in his blood. Although he grew up listening to Fuji, he says he does “Afrofusion” which “it’s just like a bit of Amapiano, a bit of Afrobeat, a bit of Fuji, a bit of R&B, of Hip Hop – just to make my ‘Asake’”.
Speaking about the Obafemi Awolowo University, where Asake studied drama and which has become breeding ground for Nigeria’s next big stars, he says that although obtaining a certificate is important, the most important thing are the “people” and their influence once you leave school.
Dance was Asake’s first love, but he decided the music business had a greater opportunity for financial rewards. He says: “I think both music and dance work together because in a mixing video without a dancer, it’s like this song is boring […] So like they work together”.
When asked if he would dance if he were to be commercially successful as a dancer, laughing, he says: “I will definitely join music and dance together. So I will have more money”.
With his unique blend of Afrobeat rhythms, nimble Rap and Sung lyrics, Asake started building popularity with “Mr. Money” in 2020. By 2022 he signed a recording contract with YBNL Nation. He released the E-P “Ololade” featuring a collaboration with his label boss Olamide called ” Omo Ope”. “Olamide is like the lift and the stairs for me to get to the top,” Asake said when asked to explain how meeting Olamide changed the trajectory of his career.
Asake’s release of his debut studio album “Mr. Money with the Vibe” was well received by fans globally and featured hit singles like “Terminator”, “Peace be onto you,” and “Sungba.” “The way I make my songs is like the things that happen around me,” he says. Although Asake often sings in Yoruba, spoken in Nigeria and parts of West Africa, his message has been understood globally.
Asake’s music reigns from the streets of Lagos to the beaches of Miami, elevating both the Nigerian and African music industry. When asked about what dreams he still has he concludes: “I want the songs to be sung in the whole world, in China, Japan or India or Portugal. I want it to be like any language anybody speaks in the world. I want everybody in the world to be singing the songs.”