Africaine is constantly inspired by and pulls influence from Africa.
Chinanu Onuoha is Africaine; the embodiment of the African feminine aura, translated through music.
Africaine chose her name after discovering that it signified “African Woman” in French, a perfect description for a singer who is constantly inspired by and pulls influence from Africa.
Born in Connecticut, Africaine spent her summers in Owerri, Nigeria, where she connected to her roots and developed a deep love for Nigerian music and culture.
Although she was raised in a Christian conservative background which saw her listening to primarily gospel music in her early years, her discovery of artists such as Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Wande Coal awakened her romance with Afrobeats.
While working as a backup singer for a gospel artist, Africaine crossed paths with a producer who encouraged her out of her shell, launching her career as a solo artist.
In 2019, Africaine, who went by the name ‘Chi’ at that time, released her debut single, Love for Free, an RnB track which saw the singer flexing her vocals.
However, due to difficulties with some of the people she was working with, Chi found herself back at square one in January 2020.
She started from scratch: invested in equipment, learnt how to record herself, taught herself to produce by watching YouTube videos.
‘Africaine’ was born from this period of struggle and self-discovery, as she ditched RnB to follow her true musical passion for Afro-fusion.
In May 2020, Africaine connected with producer Gbeduboss via social media, who took a chance on sending her some beats.
Subsequently, she released Bloodclaat, a smooth mid-tempo track full of poignant lyrics, as the artist narrates her journey so far.
Surprised by the traction the song was getting, Africaine continued to fine-tune her sound by improving her songwriting, recording and producing skills.
February 2021 saw her work with famed producer T.U.C. on an electrical and sultry afro RnB track titled Jaiye. Africaine’s vocals shine on the track, as she celebrates life.
Africaine the Artist
Africaine’s sound could be described as Afro-pop and Sfro-soul, but she refuses to be restricted to these terms. Her influences range from The Cavemen, to Alicia Keys, to Teni, Amaarae, and Burna Boy.
She admires artists with a different approach to music, who truly work on their craft and treat music as an art, as that is how she herself views the music process.
Her goal is to incorporate true soul music into Afrobeats in terms of lyricism and vocals, also drawing from her gospel background.
In terms of the creative process, Africaine has no specific formula. Although she prefers building from scratch, by writing lyrics from a chord progression or idea in her head, she is also often inspired by beats sent to her by producers.
As an artist, Africaine is inspired by her life experiences, and the changes she lives through as she grows. Her music is an outlet, an opportunity to express and explore her emotions, experimenting with sounds and creating beauty from her everyday life.
She makes music for the young African: at home and in diaspora. One of the goals for her music is to bridge the gap between diaspora and indigenous Africans, as well as to fully express the unique African diasporan perspective.
Being an independent artist allows for freedom of direction and execution within her craft, allowing her to work without the need for validation from others, as well as giving her full ownership of her sound.
However, it also comes with its fair share of challenges; a lack of funding to promote and execute music in the way she wants to, difficulty in making connections with other creatives, and the inability to focus fully on her craft due to the financial burden that requires investment in the form of capital being earned from working.
In the midst of these challenges, a silver lining is the encouragement she gets from fans who say her music is refreshing, that she brings something new to the table.
“It warms my heart to hear that my music evokes emotion, that it’s relatable and that it touches people.”
As a woman in the industry, especially the Afrobeats music industry, it can be difficult to navigate professional relationships. Being that music itself can be quite sensual, there are those in the industry who try to take advantage of that and mix business with pleasure.
One has to be firm with boundaries or find oneself in situations that they are not entirely comfortable with.
Sometimes others do not take you seriously or believe that you have anything real to bring to the table.
“You say something, and no one listens, but a man says the exact same thing and he’s praised for it.”
There’s also this idea that female artists are expensive and difficult to manage.
This means there are less opportunities in the industry for women, which breeds competition among female artists.
Africaine wants to be part of the new generation of women artists that are deconstructing that narrative and supporting one another’s music and art.
“The goal for my music is to empower women to believe in themselves, to dream bigger, to support one another, to push boundaries and do the unexpected.
– To still be in the conversation.
– To still be making music that makes her happy.
Her upcoming two-pack single, One Chance, is a prequel to her first project which will be released early next year.
The singer’s steady backup vocals ring through the entire song, imitating a choir-like experience as she sings soprano over a mid-tempo afro-pop track, addressing an unfaithful lover.
The second song is an acoustic version, the raw material of the singer’s vocals that allow her emotion and passion to fully shine through.