Wiyaala: Sissala Goddess

Global Village

Listening Post 232. Candace Bushnell, creator of Sex and the City, has company. The Ghanaian singer-songwriter Noella Wiyaala opens her second album with Village Sex (video 1), intertwining music and attitude: Her outlook balances respect for some traditions (like pre-marital abstinence) with modern ideals (women comfortable with sexuality); her style blends West African folk, Afropop and arena rock. On Sissala Goddess, Wiyaala unveils a rustic 16-track panorama viewed through a personal-cultural lens, touching not only on love and marriage but also confidence and faith, betrayal and violence, humor and heritage—with a commanding voice shifting to soothing or prayerful at the right moments. In contrast to its sensual intro, When the Lord Get Us Ready is a hymn to divine gifts (video 2). A response to mob brutality, The Captain’s Lament recalls the lynching of an army officer mistaken for an outlaw (video 3); while Wiisi (Not Too Much, Not Too Little) pays tribute to the humility of Wiyaala’s blind uncle (video 4). The artist’s surname means “the doer” in Sissala, spoken in and around Funsi, the village in Ghana’s Upper West Region where she grew up. Singing mostly in Sissala and English, she lives up to her name—as a teen Wiyaala improvised one of her first costumes from her mother’s tablecloth and as one of her country’s most renowned entertainers she still makes her own performance attire and jewelry based on village designs. Her stage persona is inseparable from her activism as a UNICEF ambassador, opposing female genital mutilation and child marriage and promoting women’s rights. She also prizes village values like community, dispute resolution and deference to elders. Urban or rural, east or west, no realm has a monopoly on wisdom or folly. But Wiyaala offers proof that mixing tradition and provocation is good for music and for civilization—even a civilization the size of a village. (Djimba World Records)

Wiyaala: Sissala Goddess
Noella Wiyaala: Vocals
Jürgen Von Wechmar, Henry Steel: Guitars
Melissa Van Der Spuy: Keys
Shane Cooper: Bass
Kevin Gibson: Drums

Note: See Wiyaala’s Story: An interview with the artist (video 5).

 

Village Sex
Based on a traditional village bachlorette party song poking fun at the groom’s sexual desire and anticipation, imbued with the artist’s portrayal of a woman comfortable with her own sexuality 

Lyrics & Music: Wiyaala
(from the Sissala and English lyrics)
Wow! Katinbajaga is excited because of vagina
Whatever they say/Kintin is very quiet
They talk about vagina/And he gets too excited
Wow! Wow! Wow!/Katinbajaga is excited because of vagina

Not because of pounded yam. But Vagina!/Not because of corn food. But vagina!
Not because of rice. But vagina!/Not because of money. But vagina!
Not because of beer. But Vagina!/Not because of pounded yam. But Vagina!

They say/They say the thing is sweet oooh
They say/They say the thing be nice oooh
Sweet pass sugar (hmmm)/Sweet pass toffee (tofe)
Sweet pass chocolate (sugar)/Sweet pass honey (honey)
Sweet pass sugar/Sweet pass toffee (yeah)
Sweet pass chocolate (yummy)

 

When The Lord Get Us ready
Lyrics & Music: Wiyaala

God gives, God makes, and shares
Gives everyone/Their own thing

Mine is to sing/Mine is to dance
Mine is to make people happy

Wiyaala Wiyaala/Wiyaala Wiyaala
Wiyaala Wiyaala/Wiyaala Wiyaala

God gives, God makes/Everybody and their thing
Mine is to come down and sing/What is yours?
What is your thing?/What is your thing?
That’s why I say/One, two, three, four, five, six
They are not the same
What did I say/One, two, three, four, five, six

Sala sala dee pan nye

God gives, God makes, and shares
Gives everyone/Their own thing
If mine is to do whatever/And yours is to do whatever
You must do it/Because He gave everybody their own thing
He gives, He gives, He gives, He gives

That’s why I say/When The Lord get us ready
We will move [We will move yeah]

Wiyaala yeah/Wiyaala yeah

That’s why I say!/When The Lord get us ready
We will move [We will move yeah]/We will move [We will move yeah]

 

The Captain’s Lament
A prayerful response to an horrific event: In May 2017, Ghanaian Army Captain Maxwell Mahama—Wiyaala’s Sissala cousin—was murdered by a mob after he was mistaken for an outlaw.

Lyrics & Music: Wiyaala
Death is for everyone/Death is not for one person alone
When your time is up, you will go/There’s nothing you can do about it

Death can take a baby/Death can take a rich person
Death can take the old/Death can take the young
Death can take the sick/Death can take anyone

 

Wiisi / Not Too Much, Not Too Little
Lyrics & Music: Wiyaala

I accept your will, with all my heart/and ask sincerely
On behalf of people like me/whatever He bestows upon us we accept

Ooooh, Oooh, Oooh, Ooooh

When He gives us peace, we accept/when He gives us life, we accept
That which He refuses to give you or me/He knows why, he knows all

Ooooh, Oooh, Oooh, Ooooh

Not too much, not too little/You will get what you deserve
Not too much, not too little/Make the most of what you have
Not too much, not too little/You will get all you deserve
Not too much, not too little/Just enough
Whatever destiny gives/You must accept

 

Wiyaala’s story: An interview with the artist.


13 thoughts on “Wiyaala: Sissala Goddess

  1. Wiyaala is simply a Goddess who came out of nowhere to shock the music world in Ghana and Africa as a whole with a unique sound. She is marvelous in her performances and one has to adore her. She is an authentic ” Sisaala Goddess “.

    1. Thanks for writing, Jonathan. I agree about Wiyaala. Makes you wonder how much more prodigious talent is hidden away in villages around the world.
      Best wishes,
      Alan

  2. Wiyaala has got such a beautiful voice. I love the energy and passion she puts in her songs!
    Lots of love Wiyaala!

  3. She’s one of the best in the Afro pop industry world wide.
    Her voice is pure magic!
    More wins for Wiyaala, Roarrrrrrrrr

  4. Wiyaala’s style is Unique…the next ‘Angelic Kidjo’ of Africa.
    Keep up with the amazing work and we all got your back.
    Lots of love xx

  5. Such a positive and wonderful music from a wonderful and talented person! Very positive lyrics

  6. Wiyaala is a great gem and has a nice personality. Ghanaians need to celebrate her more:-)

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