Villas&Golfe Angola
· Music · · T. Joana Rebelo · P. Rights Reserved

Yola Semedo

«We have a duty to lend our support so that our culture doesn’t die»

PMmedia Adv.
She dreamed of becoming a vet one day, but fate flipped the script and introduced her to music. She was born into a family with strong musical traditions and quickly became a girl-woman, facing large stages and crowds. This is Yola Semedo, the singer with Angolan blood. Between experiences and sacrifices, the artist reveals the difficult phase of her transition into the adult world, at the age of just seven. Childish games had to take a back seat to a promising career in the music industry. At the age of 44, Yola reflects on her personal and professional experience, highlighting the need for urgent change in Angola.

You were born in Lobito, you’re 44 years old and your parents were music teachers. What else can you tell us about yourself?
I am a woman with many dreams and desires. Every day I struggle to make them come true. A fact my fans don’t know about me is that one of my greatest dreams was to become a vet. I love animals and I grew up surrounded by them, I always had a lot of love for them. 

Did you know from an early age that destiny would put music in your path?
Yes, because I am part of a family of musicians. So, I was born into a home where music is part of everyday life. Music is part of the family tradition and I believe that my Semedo siblings will always try to bring that musicality, learnt from an early age, into their families’ lives.  

You entered the music industry at the age of seven. Was it difficult to deal with the pressure and the responsibility at such a young age?

Yes, it was difficult. At the age of 7, my perception of the adult world was not real. I remember singing for older people since I was little, so I was forced to deal with an age group above mine as well. I therefore had to learn to reconcile it with my day-to-day life. What I wanted to do most was to play and I had to leave the childish games behind in order to get ready to go on stage and play for a lot of people. It was very difficult. 

Was a solo career your ambition from the beginning?
No. As I am part of a family of artists, I noticed that dealing with music was not always a bed of roses. I observed my brothers, who couldn’t play games or almost had no lives of their own because everything was timed. There were schedules that demanded strict discipline. Sometimes we «were smacked» to understand things, which was normal. Today, I know that all the spanking I received was worth it, not only because of the music but also as a way of educating me, making me a more solid woman and prepared for life. At the beginning I didn’t want to be an artist, but as I grew up with music, I haven’t had the opportunity to know what life is like without it. I always wanted to be a vet or an astronaut, but not a singer.

«I always wanted to be a vet or an astronaut, but not a singer»

What messages do you want to pass on through your work?
Positivity, always. I also try to tell a little bit about my experiences and the stories of the people around me. I particularly base my musicality on day-to-day life, on life around me, and not only on the attitude of human beings, but also on the wind, the sea, the sunset, the moon... Things that inspire when writing and creating a melody. 

When you’re composing, what inspires you most?
It depends. As a lyricist, what leads me to write is the feeling that predominates at that moment. I try to reconcile what my mind is thinking with what my heart is deciphering and, from there, create melodic harmony. In essence, I get my inspiration from everyday life. I believe that all composers rely on the will and the need to create music that can serve as reflection and inspiration, telling stories that the people can relate to.

What is the secret to success?
No human being can decipher the secret. We are talking about different dynamics, but we can talk about hard work. Mention the importance of attributing value to every step and detail and not being afraid of perfection. No matter how hard we try, it is impossible to achieve it. So, if we give everything our best and dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly, everything will eventually fall into place. This can be one of the factors that leads to discovering the secret to success. 

Before going on stage, do you have any rituals to bring you luck?
Yes. I’m a Christian, and so I can’t open a concert without saying a prayer and talking to God. Deep down, the strength that I have to succeed comes from Him. It’s not easy to go on stage and have thousands of people looking at me. The normal thing would be to lose my voice and get embarrassed. It really is a divine force, I’m very grateful. 

Which song has marked your life the most up until now?
There are several. I’ve had 44 years of listening to and soaking up music from other cultures, and as life unfolds, I understand everything differently. One of the songs that marked me was Verdade Chinesa, by Emílio Santiago, the lyrics of which, then again, at my age, I can understand better, seeing myself in it. I would also highlight Filho Meu, the song I wrote for my son, after he was born. When I became a mother, I began to look at life differently and the simplest things became the most beautiful ones.

Do you still have dreams to achieve?
Yes, I do. As long as I am alive, God will give me the opportunity to dream. I ask him to give me the strength and the ability to make as many dreams as possible come true. We can have thousands of dreams every day, and so, when some come true, others are born. 

Complete. Angolan music is…
Joy. There have rarely been times when I’ve been around people where Angolan music, full of rhythm, hasn’t had an effect on at least one muscle in the body.

What does the country's music industry need at the moment?
It needs a little bit of everything, but mainly the fundamental basis to ensure a healthy musicologist. There is a lack of musical education and, now, I am addressing school institutions, so that they can convey the aspect of musical theory. Without it, we feel handicapped when it comes to lyrical composition. Even using our daily life, we have to know how to implement the elements of musical theory.
The country also needs CD factories, the resources to make it easier to record music... Of course, not everyone has the same financial capacity, and that counts a lot. But in fact, the music we get out of it is not the best, making our market suffer. The world, technology and time do not wait for anyone. Instead of taking the next «step», so that we can progress with the best merit, we remain stuck in time for lack of mechanisms to absorb the best that each one of us has to offer musically, and more besides.

«Major institutions sponsor foreign musicians more readily than an Angolan musician»

Do you think Angolan music has seen greater recognition in the world?
I think it has. At least the world now knows that Angola exists and there are musicians who have worked hard to honour their country and to make their mastery count. What I am worried about is that, however hard we try, we can’t do it alone. My biggest fear is that there will come a time when what we can do individually will no longer be enough. We need support and encouragement to do it. It makes me sad to see that several national styles are losing their space and sparkle because of the lack of support within our homeland. Major institutions sponsor foreign musicians more readily than an Angolan musician, who wants to spread the word to younger ears, so that they don’t continue to only embrace what comes from abroad and doesn’t represent our culture. We need to look to those who have the essence of culture and the Angolan rhythm. We have a duty to lend our support so that our culture doesn’t die. It’s lovely to see what we can achieve abroad, but it won’t help if we don’t have things in place here, that is to say, if we don't value what is truly ours. There is room for everything and for everyone. We cannot become a nation where culture is only worthwhile if it is commercial. Then we will lose our habits and customs and our essence.  

How do you manage to stay at the top for such a long time in what is such a competitive market?
With hard work. Without expecting to earn and succeed. What keeps me in the market is the love I have for the art, the fact that music is part of my being and the respect I have for my culture, which I always embrace. I really want our traditions to shine. I try to take as much as possible from what our ancestors left us, what my family passes on to me and what I see every day. In short, I embrace my reality. What I can do, I will do with all my might.

If you could leave a message to the women of your country and the world, what would it be?
Live intensely. I believe God has a plan for each one of us. Respect and be respected, which is only possible if you value the time God gives you. We are all special and important to the world, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Be happy, remembering that happiness depends on the quality of your thoughts and choices. 

We are celebrating the 13th anniversary of Villas&Golfe magazine, in Angola. What have these last years represented for you in your life and in the country?
Progress, regardless of the difficulties that Angola has. The issues of Villas&Golfe reflect this progress. I notice that the magazine team does its utmost for the growth of Angola, showing exactly what should be exported to the world - good and positive things. In essence, it encourages the outside world to look at Angola with different eyes. The fact that there is a magazine that reflects the quality of life we can have here is a great asset. I wish you many years of life, much strength and that you have the wisdom and ability to make the magazine grow more and more and that, with it, comes all the development that our people need. Thank you for existing and for what you teach us.
T. Joana Rebelo
P. Rights Reserved