With her dancing, multilingual and socially conscious songs, Wiyaala sings about a modern yet rural Africa. The stances she takes and the work she does for children in her community have also made her a role model for Ghana’s young people, awestruck by the success of this extraordinary woman.
Published on 19/10/2021
Born in 1986 in Wa, north-eastern Ghana, Noella Wiyaala spent her childhood in a rural setting where gender discrimination ran rife. She was introduced to music through a church choir, with which she also learned to dance. She soon made her differences and her desires clear. “When I was little, children called me ‘girl-boy’. I played football and wanted to wear trousers. Even my father teased me.”
From the age of five, she began performing in a local club with children of her age. It was a revelation, cementing her desire to become a singer and dancer. She won her first dance competition aged 14, before starting to earn a living as a chorister in groups in her home town. In 2008, she also released her début album of eight songs, Tuma.
In the Sissala language, Wiyaala means “she who does”. This name forged the identity of a determined women with a host of different projects ahead of her. In an attempt to break into the music scene, she auditioned for the Ghanaian programme Stars of the Future three times before being selected in 2011. The following year, along with her group, Black n Peach, she won the Vodafone Icons programme, before releasing her first international album, Wiyaala, in 2014. This won her the Artistic Revelation of the African Continent prize at the All Africa Music Awards, followed by the prize for best performer and songwriter prize at the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards.
Thanks to this success, Noella Wiyaala was noticed in the United Kingdom and took part in Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance) festival. In 2018, she played at the Commonwealth Games with a girl band called GRRRL while releasing her second album, Sissala Goddess.
Now famous throughout the continent, the socially conscious singer has never forgotten where she came from. She showcases the rural African tradition of angular outfits and her extravagant jewellery, which she makes herself after traditional designs from her home region. Wiyaala also makes use of her platform to champion causes close to her heart, standing against the forced marriage of young girls or female genital mutilation.
In 2020, she showed her fondness for her region by leaving Accra, the capital of Ghana, and moving to Funsi, the village where she lived from the age of eight to the end of her teenage years. There, she is building an arts centre to share her knowledge and experience with children and young people.
She wins her first dance competition aged 14, the only female competitor.
Wins the Vodafone Icons programme with her group Black n Peach.
Wins the Revelation of the African Continent prize at the All Africa Music Awards for her album, Wiyaala.
Releases Sissala Goddess, her second album.
Returns to Funsi and builds an arts centre.
Laureate of the Institut français residency programme at the Cité internationale des arts, Wiyaala is in residency in Paris (July - October) and benefited from the support of ZN Productions.
Learn more about residencies at the Cité internationale des arts
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