A Song Unites British-Born Africans

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For this week's staff song pick, Christabel Nsiah-Buadi selects Crossover, by fellow British-born African, Wunmi.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Our staff song pick of the week comes from the newest member of the NEWS & NOTES team. Senior supervising producer Christabel Nsiah-Buadi just joined us last week so we thought we'd start her off in the hot seat. Christabel's song is called "Crossover." It comes from a fellow British-born African, Wunmi. Here's Chris to explain herself.

CHRISTABEL NSIAH-BUADI: Okay. First off, here is my caveat. Wunmi is a like sister to me. We met when I interviewed her about a version of the song "MAW Expensive" by the late, great Fela Kuti. The song was featured on the album "Red, Hot + Riot."

Wunmi's style of music is hard to pin down because she has so many cultural influences, including those from Nigeria, the land of her ancestors, and England, the land of her birth. As a result, when people try to describe her music they often prefix it with Afro but have no idea if it's punk, punk-soul, or anything else for that matter.

And that's a problem for record companies who just don't know how to, well, label her. And that's caused her some trouble in the past. It's an issue she tackles on her latest album, ALA, which stands for Africans Living Abroad, with the song "Crossover." And despite the title, Wunmi actually advocates being yourself. She talked to us about her experiences.

(Soundbite of song "Crossover")

Ms. WUNMI (Singer): (Singing) (Speaking foreign language)

Ms. WUNMI: One of the major experiences I had was with a label, a major label in South Africa. I presented by demo to them and the response was I was too African, not international enough. I thought it was quite funny coming from actually an African fusion artist.

I learned that you really cannot cater to any of them because you will lose your way for sure. In a sense, what I have done has been production with a lot of international producers and the music has been very much dance music - not predominantly African, not at all African. And to have a label based in Africa telling me I'm not international enough, it's enough to make anyone lose their way.

(Soundbite of song "Crossover")

NSIAH-BUADI: I often have to remind myself that it doesn't matter that people may not understand where I am coming from half of the time. So it's nice to be reminded every so often that the only way to get inner peace is to just, as Wunmi would say, do you, even if sometimes being yourself is the hardest thing in the world to do, sometimes.

(Soundbite of song "Crossover")

Ms. WUNMI: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language)

CHIDEYA: That again was NEWS & NOTES senior supervising producer Christabel Nsiah-Buadi with her song pick of the week. It's "Crossover" by fellow British-born African Wunmi.

(Soundbite of song "Crossover")

Ms. WUNMI: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language)

CHIDEYA: That's our show for today and thanks for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit npr.org/NEWS&NOTES. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow: an intimate look at Alzheimer's disease.

(Soundbite of song "Crossover")

Ms. WUNMI: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language)

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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