Yaya Alafia's Songs Of Strength For Her Baby Boy

2013 was a big year for actress and model Yaya Alafia. She starred in three films and had a baby boy. Alafia shares the songs reflecting those experiences for Tell Me More's series 'In Your Ear.'

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, let's hear from a model and actress who also has Nigerian roots, Yaya Alafia. Last year was a breakout year for her with meaty roles in critically acclaimed films including Lee Daniels' "The Butler" and Andrew Dosunmu's "Mother of George." And she had a baby.

But she was nice enough to take time out from her busy schedule to join us as part of our regular feature we call In Your Ear. That's where we invite some of our guest to tell us about the songs they've been listening to. Alafia says her year is all represented in the music she shared with us.

YAYA ALAFIA: Hi. This is Yaya Alafia, and this is what's playing in my ear.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO BEAUTIFUL")

ASA: (Singing) Beautiful is your name. Wonderful is what you are to me.

ALAFIA: "So Beautiful" is a song by Asa, a Nigerian singer. It's in English and in Yoruba. And it's just a lovely song. It's great to dance to, and it's great to sing to my new little baby boy 'cause he's so beautiful.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO BEAUTIFUL")

ASA: (Singing) Ebami kira fun mama mi. Orisha bi iya o. Ko si laiye. Ebami kira fun mama mi. Orisha bi iya o.

ALAFIA: "They Won't Go When I Go" by Stevie Wonder is a very mellow, moody song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THEY WON'T GO WHEN I GO")

STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) Gone from painful cries, away from saddened eyes. Along with him I'll bide. And they won't go when I go.

ALAFIA: This song is a little dramatic. But it definitely helped me at a time when I was having a hard time and really needing to insist on my independence and make decisions for myself and not really take into account input from other people so much because ultimately when I go, right, when I leave the planet, I'm going alone. And so his song is such a beautiful and pretty way to remind us of something that is kind of bleak, but so true.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THEY WON'T GO WHEN I GO")

WONDER: (Singing) Unclean minds mislead the pure. The innocent will leave for sure. For them, there is a resting place. People sinning just for fun, they will never see the sun, for they can never show their faces. There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner, who will take more than he will give, he will give.

ALAFIA: "Something Inside So Strong," by Labi Siffre.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING INSIDE SO STRONG)

LABI SIFFRE: (Singing) The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become. The farther you take my rights away, the faster I will run. You can deny me. You can decide to turn your face away. No matter 'cause there's something inside so strong.

ALAFIA: "Something Inside So Strong" is a song that I actually learned in an afterschool program. It was such a strong, motivating, you know - the kids got excited about it. And, you know, there were parts where you could shout.

And it really kind of instilled the fighter spirit in us. And I sing it now occasionally to my baby because he is already a leader, I think. We'll see.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING INSIDE SO STRONG)

SIFFRE: (Singing) The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing. You hide behind walls of Jericho. Your lies will come tumbling.

MARTIN: That was an actress and model Yaya Alafia telling us what's playing in her ear. To hear our previous conversation with her, just head to NPR.org, click on the Programs tab and go to TELL ME MORE. And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING INSIDE SO STRONG)

SIFFRE: (Singing) Something inside so strong. Something inside so strong.

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