by ‘Demola Adesina
Not many people know that Sasha is just a pseudonym for Yetunde Alabi. For this lady, though, there really is not much difference between the persons of Yetunde Alabi and Sasha. “We are one and the same person”, she explains. “When I am not on stage though, I am a bit reserved”.
What has today blossomed into a pretty successful career started off with a young female undergraduate just having fun. In 2001, she became the popular choice but first runner up in the ‘Girls Nite Out’ annual talent show organised then in the University of Lagos. But for her, that was not the start.
“I always felt like I was born to be a performer and entertainer,” she says. “I have been gathering audiences (my family) and making them watch me on stage (our dining table) since I was three years!” Asides music, she has had a history in other arts. “I did a bit of acting and choreography in primary and secondary school,” she says. “My primary school play made it to the television.”
It was easy for Sasha to have an attentive audience. The last of eight children, she grew up with an interesting and entertaining family. “There was always something going on at home,” she recalls. “And I have always likened my family to the von Trapp Family” She adds that she was the ‘Gretel’ of the family in the classic 1965 movie, The Sound of Music.
Even now, it is not hard to think of Sasha as a character from the von Trapp family. Her stage acts are always well rehearsed, probably accounting for her consistent performances in major events across Africa, including the 2010 Channel O Music Video Awards. She carries herself with immense grace in her self-made fierce costume designs. Her choreography always moves the audience. And yes, she learnt how to play the piano at home. Totally von Trapp!
Perhaps drawing from her early experience, this young lady thinks the family is immensely important to what an individual eventually becomes. “I believe being born into a family with a flair for dressing up and entertaining played a big role in sparking my interest. Although I am the only professional from the family, we all are very musically inclined.”
Sasha attended the International School, Ibadan and the University of Lagos where she studied Law. The decision to study Law was predicated on a certain philanthropic ideal. In her words, the choice of Law was “because I wanted to have authority to use my voice to help elevate the plight of those less fortunate than myself, and to make an indelible mark in my generation.”
In a strange way, though, she has come to discover that her studies have actually helped her in her current choice of career. “They require similar qualities: tenacity, individuality, a great memory and audacity.” More importantly, as a lawyer, she has been able to effectively manage the business arm of her brands.
One consistent fact about Sasha is that she works hard. She has consistently pushed herself through sheer hard work and consistency in the past ten years of her career. This is the message behind her Making Money hit. Although it appears that the track talks about money, the message behind it is that hard work rewards.
Recently, Sasha has been quite rewarded for her hard work. Winning perhaps the most coveted award in 2010 was a high point of Sasha’s career; she took home an award in the Channel O Awards, and solidified this win with another in the MTV African Music Awards (MAMA) in the Best Female Artiste category. It was an immense moment for her, winning in the same category where Nneka was nominated alongside Lizha James (Mozambique) and Barbara Kanam (DRC). The feat has set Sasha up as the most respected female artist in Africa.
But for her, this is not the period to rest on her laurels. She says it is an opportunity to humbly look up to God for more inspiration.
More importantly, she thinks this is the time to work even harder. She likens the experience to being graded A in an examination. “So much more is expected of you and you have to put in even more effort to ensure you don’t fall short of those expectations.”
As for the future, Sasha describes her upcoming album, SashaSpeaks, as upbeat, motivational and generally delightful. It is the kind of work you will want to always listen to. “I am trying to make my audience relate with my music and sing along with me”. She is overly excited about sharing this album with her fans. The new album features acts like Naeto C, SauceKid and Dama Do Bling.
In the past few years, Sasha has been consistent in pushing her fashion line – the Eclectic by Sasha brand. She started this brand while still at the University of Lagos and it gained immediate acceptance amongst her peers. A brand, again inspired by family, Sasha hopes to push the Eclectic into every home in Nigeria. “We are working on making Eclectic a household name a few years to come,” she says.
While Sasha thinks that the jacket/blazer is the greatest fashion trend of all time, she is incredibly excited about those little head pieces and brooches at the moment. She doesn’t care about the shape and size, she says, she just totally loves brooches. “I even make some Eclectic by Sasha brooches with ankara and zip detailing.”
Sasha completely adores the Motown family, especially in the golden age of the 80s and early 90s. It is interesting to see her musical inspiration enjoy the dynamism of moving from black pop sensation James Brown to the soothing music of Tracy Chapman; then she moves from the buzzing rhymes of MC Hammer or Tupac to the soft Fugees sound of Lauryn Hill. Like many Nigerians, Tuface Idibia is on her list of favourite artistes.
And Diana Ross? Sasha blushes at the mention of her name. Diana Ross, for her, represented an era which totally defines the quintessential music culture. “I’d have loved to be a part of all that history,” she screams. “That era just totally fascinates me, the hair, the clothes, the melodies all seemed so glamorous. I’m getting dreamy eyed just thinking about it!”
The Eclectic by Sasha is hugely influenced by the designs of Alexander McQueen, Balmain, Deola Sagoe and David Tlale. She makes most of her style decisions herself, with huge consultation from her sisters and Style Architect Chalya Shagaya.
Sasha loves continuous progressive change. Her life is guided by a simple message: always welcome change but never let go of your values. Little wonder her heroes are Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey – change makers who keep their values intact.
(This interview was first published in Elan [of NEXT Newspapers] on Sunday, 9th January 2011)