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WPGM Commentary: Falana Extols The Virtues Of Bravery And Resilience On ‘Sweet Adetola’

Hey, my name is Falana I am a Nigerian Canadian singer and songwriter. “Sweet Adetola” is a song off my new EP Rising and it’s definitely one of my favourite songs on the project.

The song is a story about a brave and resilient girl name Adetola. But in my mind, I am Adetola, You are Adetola. I think everyone can relate to her. She is anyone who is trying to be confident and has goals, is trying to live their best life, but keeps getting knocked down. She may have had traumatizing experiences but somehow never stops dreaming.

I remember watching the film Joy on Netflix by Austrian Iranian director Sudabeh Mortezai not long before writing “Sweet Adetola”. I was so moved by the film, and how it shared the ‘Japa’ mindset, a ‘live by any means necessary’ attitude that many Nigerians are forced to have.

In the case of this film, it leads the main character Joy into a dangerous sex trafficking ring that is incredibly difficult to come out of. Adetola may or may not be like a girl from the film Joy, like I said, I wanted it to be open ended.

The song was produced by my good friend Davay O, who is also an amazing musician and bass player. He recorded the bass on every song on my last EP Chapter One, and we have also performed together many times, so it was a very organic transition to writing music together. The first day we met up, we wrote this song.

I remember him asking me what vibe I was in, and I knew I wanted to tell a story. I had been listening to Tracey Chapman the week leading up to our session, and was just obsessed with the way she told stories in her music. So I think that may have influenced my direction as well.

So we started by listening to some music to just vibe. And then he started building from scratch with a sample. The first verse and chorus I literally wrote in 15 minutes. The second verse and third verse took a bit more work. I wasn’t sure where to go next and played it for a songwriter friend named Elhi, and he gave me some melody ideas for the third verse.

Originally I wasn’t going to repeat the first verse melody, but my manager encouraged me that I was on the right path and that it sounded really good, especially if I expanded out the melody. Once I locked down the melody and lyrics, Davay O worked on building the production. We increased the tempo, and also got the amazing guitarist Nsikak David to put down the incredible guitar line that I think really brings the whole song together.

For the visualizer, I wanted the story to have a certain kind of ambiguity, so anyone can watch it and see themselves in it. It was my first time directing anything so I was really excited to bring it to life.

So I kept imagining a girl driving or in a passenger seat of a car, playing with her hand out of the window and we don’t really know where she is going. I wanted her to take us on a journey with her emotions and leave room for the viewers’ own imagination and feelings. It is starring Nengi Adoki who is an amazing Nigerian actress in Lagos and I was so excited to have her on board to help tell the story and take us on this journey.

When coming up with the concept, I was inspired by the “Cold Little Heart” video by Michael Kiwanuka featuring Lakeith Stanfield, and “Chandelier” by Sia featuring Maddie Ziegler. I love the idea of artists not appearing in their videos, so the song and the story can really be bigger than the artist.

Shooting the video was just a fun experiment. I co-directed with Ubong Ofong, who is also a great DOP, so we worked together to create variety with different angles. I was sitting in the front seat of the car, with Nengi in the back, directing her through a flow of emotions.

Sometimes I was even “insulting her” when she was acting out the phone scenes, to give her something to work off so we could get the intense moments as well. Nengi captured the different moods perfectly.

‘Adetola’ seems unhinged in moments, and kind of aloof, in the way you may be if you are frustrated or zoning out of life. She feels strong and sexy, happy and angry, weak and uncertain. I really love the progression of the character that we were able to achieve with the amazing Canadian editor Nicole Sison. We didn’t even need that many revisions, she got it right away.

Overall, it was really fun to transform a song I wrote into a visual but from the director’s POV. We literally used my car to shoot it, and I even styled it with a dress from my own closet haha! It was very DIY but I think it came out beautifully. Simplicity really does win sometimes.

Watch the video for “Sweet Adetola” below and stream the Rising EP here.

Words by Falana // Follow her on Twitter + Instagram

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