Managing Director of Citi Fm, Mr. Samuel Atta-Mensah, popularly called Sammens, minced no words when he declared in a tweet that, Noella Wiyaala is the biggest female musician in Ghana.
Perhaps, following that big endorsement and declaration, many tongues wagged and many more heads shook. But if you’ve really taken your time to study the brand called Wiyaala, your tongue won’t wag and your head won’t shake in disagreement.
Noella Wiyaala is indeed the biggest Ghanaian female musician and a major global icon on the world stage and one of the Ambassadors for Ghana music abroad.
But has the Leno hitmaker, Noella Wiyaala always been a global act or a big name in Ghana music? Of course, no. But the saying that you should not despise humble beginnings finds meaning in what is now a major brand in Ghana and beyond.
So what was her humble beginning?
The “Lioness of Africa,” as Wiyaala often refers to herself, started her music career from a ramshackle Pito bar in Tamale. (Pito is a local beer brewed mainly from guinea corn). And that was her mother’s Pito bar.
Wiyaala, then a kid, used to hang around the spot while her mother was busy serving her customers with the local beer. Of course, she was often in the company of her age mates and friends.
The Make Me Dance hitmaker and her friends would usually sing and dance to entertain themselves at the pito bar. But one day, young Wiyaala was singled out and given a big “endorsement” that set her on the path to stardom, something she didn’t know at that young age. This fortune changer came in the form of an invitation by patrons of Wiyaala’s mother’s pito bar, to sing and dance to entertain them. Read Wiyaal’s own words:
“It all started at a bar where they make African beer, ‘pito’. I was dancing around with some children and some men drinking at the bar called me to do a performance, which I obliged. That ignited my passion and from one effort after another, I got to this place”.
That’s right! Sounds so easy and smooth-sailing, wouldn’t you say? But was it?
Of course, she had to work on that early talent discovered by the pito patrons. So through it, little Wiyaala found herself at the Roman Catholic choir for children. If you doubt my words, read hers as she narrated in a live Sky News interview which was also the stage where she said the words already quoted above:
“I was a member of the Children of Mary Choir in the Roman Catholic Church with thousands of other children. ‘Now they ask me, ‘How did you make it?’ It is overwhelming because I didn’t know I would turn out to be a pop star”, said the Tinambayi songstress who sings in Sisaali, Waala and English.
From these humble biginnings, Wiyaaala persevered. Of course, it was not all ‘music teeth-cutting,’ as she also had to attend to the usual house chorse plus schooling, which saw her graduating from the Takoradi Polytechnic, now Takoradi Technical University.
“Wiyaala” in her native Sisaala language means “the doer”. And Wiyaala actually “did” and nurtured her talent well. Before being known publicly, she did a good number of songs on the low. But after various stints, including reality shows, the African lioness fully cut her musical teeth and “roared” onto the public stage with the hit song Rock My Body, which won her two awards: the Most Promising Artiste in Africa award and the Revelation of the African Continent award, at the 2014 All Africa Music Awards ceremony.
The Africa hitmaker has also had many nominations and won many awards which time and space wouldn’t allow me to list here. But her stamp of authority comes from her numerous shows around the world, which have made her a global icon.
She has performed at various shows in countries like Israel, Holland, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, etc. And she continues to shine on big stages across the world, which makes her the envy of every female Ghanaian musician.
But what is most intriguing and bears out Sammens’ descsription of her as the biggest female Ghanaian musician is the fact that hers was a journey from grass to grace, from a ramshackle pito bar entertainer to a major global music icon.
This daughter of Funsi in the Upper West Region of Ghana is indeed an icon, a lioness, a voice and a force to reckon with.
Wiyaala to the World!
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