With over 200 million total YouTube views and counting, entertaining sensation Alex Boye is “Africanizing” the pop landscape once again, infusing the explosive rhythms and various languages of his ancestral continent (he was raised by his Nigerian mother) into a highly anticipated upcoming debut pop album—a dynamic collection that perfectly embodies the singer’s belief that “music has no passport.”
Embracing his rich heritage after years of successful recordings as a gospel artist, the charismatic, London born, U.S. based vocal powerhouse is having a breakthrough year as a mainstream pop artist, scoring over 72 millions views for “Let It Go” and another 40 million views for “Peponi,” the “Africanized” version of Coldplay’s “Paradise” with ThePianoGuys. In addition to that, Alex recently made his debut at the world-renowned Royal Albert Hall, opening for Olivia Newton John, and realizing a childhood dream.
“Both of my parents were born in Nigeria, and I lived there for several years of my early childhood,” says Boye. “But even with that strong Nigerian background, I never focused on the African culture in any of my music before. As a singer and artist, I’ve always been this British guy who has lived in the U.S., recently became a citizen and so in essence I’m also African American. For years, my mother urged me to put some African influence into my music, but I kept insisting that it wasn’t a commercially viable genre.
“I’ve done everything else—jazz, pop, hip hop, gospel, heavy metal, even emo—and then I got a phone call from ThePianoGuys wanting me to be in their video singing Swahili,” he adds. “The resulting success of the ‘Peponi’ video had been the biggest response to any of the music I had ever done up to that point, and it’s exciting to see so many people responding to pop with an African twist. I’m humbled by this opportunity to expand my musical scope and reach so many people who are enthusiastic about my new journey.” The success spawned by that single video has since been eclipsed by the release of “Let It Go,” among others.
Boye’s original musical journey began during his early years in the Tottenham neighborhood, where he was influenced in his teen years by Motown (particularly Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye) and other soul greats like James Brown, Jackie Wilson and Otis Redding. He launched his professional career in 1995 as the lead singer of the European boy band Awesome. The band performed at local dances and other small venues until 1996 when they won a vocal competition on Capitol Radio, London’s largest radio station. Awesome signed to Universal Records Europe and released three singles from their debut album Rumors which made the Top Ten on various pop charts throughout Europe. Selling over half a million CDs, they performed shows alongside numerous superstars, including Bryan Adams, The Backstreet Boys, George Michael, Simon and Garfunkel and MC Hammer.
Alex is gratified by the response to his Africanized versions of pop songs and the commercial opportunities they are opening for his career. “I think above all, people respond to an artist’s honesty and integrity, and I feel like I am being true to myself in a way I have never been,” he says. “Thinking about other artists, when you have Aretha sing a song, or when Whitney sang to a full stadium, or when Dylan sings ‘Blowing In The Wind,’ those are spiritual moments too.
“What I’m doing now is taking those big arena type songs I sang with Awesome and mixing them with the joyful vibe of African music. The ultimate goal is to make people feel good and give them a few moments of uplift, which as I’ve discovered over the years, can have transforming and even lifesaving potential. I’m glad I finally listened to my mom, and it feels good to be home.”