Though she was already making impact across Europe, particular in Austria where she’s currently based, Rose May Alaba’s music career witnessed a major boost last year when she worked with Coca Cola on a Unified Song for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter games, Can You Feel It.
Composed by Markus Weiss and Bern Wagner, The track was written and performed by Rose alongside musicians with intellectual disabilities from the organisation Jugend am Werk (Youth at Work) playing the Veeh harp, a plucked string instrument that does not require the ability to read music. They performed Can You Feel It live at the opening ceremony in Schladming on March 18 and closing ceremony in Graz on March 24, while Coca-Cola also featured the anthem in its marketing campaign for the games.
The 23-year-old singer asserted her talent at the Austria Music Awards, after releasing her first two singles, All of This is You and Love me Right in 2016, followed by Can You Feel It and then Take Your Time.
Basking in that euphoria, Alaba, a pop singer and sister of Bayern Munich player, David Alaba, took a bold step to visit Nigeria in February this year with the hope of promoting her brand back home, as well as working with Nigerian producers and collaborating with local stars.
The decision to visit home, according to the talented singer, is to experience the musical environment and strengthen her art with African sounds. With her on the visit was her Ogere Remo, Ogun State-born father, George Alaba, who, interestingly, has been a DJ and a recording artiste, working with Tabansi Records.
George is a contemporary of the likes of Christ Okotie, Felix Liberty and Majek Fashek. In 1984, he moved to Austria, where he met his Filipino wife, Gina, mother of David and Rose May.
I’m home because I want my music to have African influence; I try to find and nurture my own sound. I’m not where I want to be yet, so, I’m determined to work harder. I really love African music; my fans in Austria listen to African music, as it is a big thing. The music I have been doing so far is pop music and it won’t be authentic to me like switching from pop to Afro sound. There is a very healthy line between Afro sound and pop. I would call my genre of music Afro-fusion
With the level of success recorded during her first visit to Nigeria, Rose returned to the country last month and this time around, she worked with singer Mayorkun on a new single, 50 50 Loving, produced by Kiddominant, while the video was shot at various exotic locations in Nigeria.
Speaking to showbiz reporters in Lagos on the inspiration behind her new track, she explained, “The song was inspired by Kiddominant; it was actually his idea. He sent the idea to me and I said it would appeal to the Nigerian audience. The song basically talks about the need for a relationship to be balanced and not one-sided.”
She said her second visit is part of the efforts to familiarise with Nigerian artistes and stakeholders in the showbiz industry.“I’m home because I want my music to have African influence; I try to find and nurture my own sound. I’m not where I want to be yet, so, I’m determined to work harder. I really love African music; my fans in Austria listen to African music, as it is a big thing. The music I have been doing so far is pop music and it won’t be authentic to me like switching from pop to Afro sound. There is a very healthy line between Afro sound and pop. I would call my genre of music Afro-fusion,” She said.
Having been in contact with the Nigerian music industry, Alaba seems to have made some observations.“I think that Nigeria music industry for me needs classic stuffs, proper classic Afrobeat but mixed with pop music. I think that’s what I am bringing; I’m bringing optimal Afro fusion, Afro like nobody has. So, it’s actually a good plan for me to just spread my music all over the country,” she said.
On how she intends to deal with competition, especially with the likes of Tiwa Savage, Seyi Shay, Simi, Yemi Alade and other are already on ground, she said, “I already feel the love on my social media; people have been lauding me, loving my music, appreciating me for coming back and they are like super intense. I feel the general love, so, I’m not really scared of coming here and putting out my music. I feel like anywhere is home to me,” she enthused.
Asked if she’s under pressure to make impact back home, she said, “Yea, that’s for sure. I feel like the particular sound that I do… like mixing harp with Afro beats, like doing this Afro fusion thing really makes my sound different from the rest. I feel like I have a good chance here to show the people that I’m here now and that I have a different sound and I’m here to stay. I don’t really have a name for it but I just want to call it Afro fusion. I don’t want to call it Afro pop; I don’t think there’s something as Afro pop.”
Meanwhile, it seems Alaba’s experimentation with African sound is already paying off back in Austria.“They love it; they play me on radio, they really like it. I feel like they are really accepting me infusing Afro sound into my music, much more than me singing pop. I think I’m on the right path,” she declared.
As a child, Rose loved to play football, and she found a trainer in her brother, David, who had, since childhood, shown great tendency for the round leather game. As time went on, however, it became clear that her musical talent was more compelling.By age six and seven, she sang often. By eight, the father enrolled her in a piano school and this has helped her a lot. While Rose May has also taken advantage of YouTube to train herself on other areas of music, she also studied acting, although she has not done much acting beyond some musicals she participated in.
The singer is proud of what she has done so far, especially her singles and major performances. But she aims by far higher than she has done in her career.“I was born and raised in Austria, but I am proud to be home and back to my roots. I want to work with the producers and songwriters I have been listening to. I am home because I want my music to have African influence.”