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EXCLUSIVE: Songbird Yemi on her real search for ‘Johnny’

Nigerian Afro-pop singer, Yemi Alade, released the music video for Johnny in March 2014 to critical acclaim and now has more than 16 million views on YouTube.

The hit single dominated, topped music charts and became an anthem in some countries.

Yemi, who defines herself in three words, original, African, and strong recently opened up to Nairobi News, in an exclusive interview.

According to Yemi, her music career started with a group called ‘Noty Spice’ with her being known as ‘Ginger Spice’.

However, she received recognition when she won a talent show in 2009 and it was after this that she knew it was time to take the next big step in her music career.

In mid-2012 Yemi signed a deal with Effyzzie Music Group and as they say, the rest is history.

“My first mega hit is definitely Johnny. But I was involved in music before, you know you always have to start somewhere and work yourself to the top,” said Yemi.


What many of us don’t know – for reasons being we just love the comedy in the video or the songs alluring beats and Yemi dance moves – is that the song Johnny was her personal experience.

“We all go through these kinds of situations in our lives, and to me it was a journey that I will never forget but it I have never let it affect me, or any new relationship I find myself in. In fact, I am currently in a relationship,” she quips.

She continues, “However, Johnny is not ‘his’ real name (the guy from the previous relationship not the current one). I don’t want to make him that popular-oo (adds the Nigerian pidgin).”

Since then she has moved from a broken heart to bliss and love, with her latest singles Tangerine and Kissing. Her songs are inspired from life experiences with love as the main theme, since she believes that it is a strong language that anyone can understand.

If she wasn’t a singer she probably would be doing something in aviation or something on the climate since she has a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography (her words, not the writer’s).

The fifth born in a family of seven attributes her success in music to how she was brought up and being exposed to different types of music. Her father, a retired police commissioner, was a lover of ABBA music, while and her brothers and sisters loved Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey among others.

“As a young woman I see that old soul coming out due to my family’s music choices that practically shaped me. Personally, I was just so into B2K, you understand my meaning? Those cute boys just made every young girl’s heart melt in the early years of the millennium,” she says.


Having completed both African and Europe tours and with her new album called King of Queens, Yemi’s music is on the rise.

Although all the glitz and glamour can be alluring and intoxicating, having to tour the world and wake up in a different cities almost every two days. It can be an overwhelming job that sometimes people get the impression that she is a snob.

“This job is very sensitive and I am sorry that sometimes when you meet me I may not be enthusiastic to greet you back. I might be coming from a fourteen hour flight and trying to keep my calm,” she says.

So does she miss her old life?

“Oh my God! I miss a lot. One of my biggest hobbies was taking long walks but now I can’t without being accosted by a fan, and there are crazy ones. I also miss being the girl next door. But that does not mean I don’t thank God for where I am right now. I am thankful for how he has changed my life,” said the 26 year old.

I ask her if we will ever find Johnny and she laughs heartily. Or maybe we should demand Yemi and Wizkid to give us the last names of these people (Caro and Johnny) to make the search simpler.

Perhaps it is, as Yemi says at the end, that maybe she was the ‘Joan’ – female version of Johnny according to her – and she is just blaming it on Johnny.