In the image of her country Reunion island, a tremendous mosaic of populations from all origins: Europe, Africa, China, India, Madagascar, interbreeding is the distinctive feature of the music offered by Reunionian poet, song-writer and singer YELA.
She draws from her island’s cultural legacies like Sega, Maloya, (percussions-based traditional music inherited from slavery times), and from the different backgrounds she grew up with : African, Carribean, Malagasy music, Jazz, Soul, Gospel…;to set to music her Creole and French poems inspired by her elders’ lifestories, her counterparts’ modern life, joys, pains, hopes and dreams. Through her artistic path, YELA joins the path of her island s’elders like: Alain PETERS, Luc Donnat, René LACAILLE, Danyel WARO, ZISKAKAN, BASTER…who all share Creole culture reappropriation and radiance as a motto.
YELA has a vocal style laden with deep sensitivity, swing and warmth taking after the great voices her ears and soul were reared with: from anonymous “Kabar” voices, that is Reunionian family gatherings where MALOYA is played till the break of dawn; to church choir voices. YELA’s singing initiation was started around 8 years old in the southern ‘Ravine des Cabris church where her great-grandmother was a choir leader long ago; and from the legendary voices of her international models: Billie HOLIDAY, Myriam MAKEBA, Edith PIAF, Abéti MASIKINI, FELA, Nina SIMONE, SADE, KASSAV, Oumou SANGARE, Bob MARLEY, BARBARA, Célia CRUZ, Mahalia JACKSON, Gilberto GIL, Jimi HENDRIX, Salif KEITA, Aicha KONE…
That emotional strength is one of her trademarks showing through in all ‘live’ or studio experiences she has been engaged on either for her own projects or for other artists: TI FOCK, les TAMBOURS de BRAZZA, DAAT for the Creole, African, Magalasy scene, KINGDOM SINGERS, NTEMO GOSPEL, Marcel BOUNGOU (EM BEE, former les PALATAS leader) for the Gospel and Jazz scenes.
With her Creole and Indian ocean flavour contribution, YELA emerged as one of Paris’ International Gospel Festival revelation back in the 90’s and had her performance released on a Fremeaux & associés Gospel compilation. Her debut album “SWING LOW SANGOLO” under the aegis of the same label had YELA going deeper into her cultures fusion approach. She granted herself the right to rearrange Gospel classics in a Reunionian way besides her own compositions of which were songs in African languages (Lingala, Kikongo).
Widening her expression beyond the Gospel scene, YELA’s sophomore self-produced project, YELA “MA KALOU”, is an anthology of rhythms and colours intermixing Reunionian music and Afro-beat, Rumba, latin and caribean flavours, Jazz, Soul around her poems surfing over tributes to mothers and women (Ma Kalou), popular legends reassertion (Do do sya), celebration of elders’ legacies (Lo don, Gramoun until, Oyala…), conscious lyrics –oriented tracks in African language to wink at the continent (wéna makoutou, Sala nguélé. The MA KALOU project features the appearance of prestigious elders enthousiastic about YELA’s artistic orientation: Caribbean Jazz Piano icon Mario CANONGE, Bass mogul Etienne MBAPPE, and co-producers JF COREA and Francky “MOULET”Mwélé.
Live music fanatic, YELA graces her audience with incessantly renewed trips in the heart of her repertoire and through the works of elders and contemporary artists. YELA keeps symbolism laden memories of a concert she gave with Manu DIBANGO in her native city of Saint-Pierre within the context of December 20th Slavery abolition commemoration. The latter’s encouragements to hang on to her Creole style strongly echoes on any project she’s engaged in.
A cultural legacy transmission activist, YELA is also involved in educational projects which enable her to appropriate totally different worlds and langages like the central African children’s songs album “L’Afrique de la Fôret, a collaboration with TAMBOURS DE BRAZZA leader Emile BIAYENDA”. Apart from her own music, YELA is involved in the promotion of her island and Indian ocean cultures through the production of live shows for other artists: Malagasy music with JB, DIN ROTSAKA, Ninie DONIA…, Reunion island, Mauritius, Seychelles music with René LACAILLE, MENWAR…); Creole comedy shows through her ‘Humour Kreyol Reunionnais’ with Thierry JARDINOT, Teat LAKOUR, TINAMAN,with the promotion of artisanal productions.
YELA belongs to a generation of modern, innovative Reunion island artists firmly, devoted to the radiance of their country’s memories and Creole culture universal values.
Tel: 06 33 60 61 57.
ADUNAGOW Magazine is an online publication full of exciting African art and culture, information, photographs, celebrities interviews and much more, with the purpose of showcasing the positive contributions of Africans in the world.