Entertainment, culture and commerce in Nigeria can be said to have their cores in the city of Lagos, home to twenty million people with majority of the number being young people. So it’s not surprising that the pop scene in the city, alongside fashion and urbanism, is a pace setter for those of the other parts of the country. Lagos could be anything, but regular. And this is the very meaning of being “Alté”.
Alté is pronounced “ul-teh” and is short for alternative. The term was first used by Boj and Teezee — both members of the DRB Lasgidi music trio — in a 2014 song “Paper”. They used it to describe the concept and idea of being different in style and way of living in that song. However, over time, the use of the word transcended from being just about style into being an Afrobeats subgenre of its own; unarguably the fastest growing sound out of the African continent.
However, what exactly alté should sound like has not stopped being an issue. Different creators who are now being described as alternative actually have almost entirely peculiar sounds and employ different fusions. Yet, for some reasons, they are all tagged alté artistes. Popular singer, Lady Donli tries to provide an answer as to why this happens in a recent Twitter trend.
“Altè is a subculture, just like punk, just like emo. Some people make R&B, some people make pop music, some people make hip hop. Are we just going to categorise everyone that doesn’t make afrobeat(s) as “alternative”? That’s so lazy.”
“You gone say me, Odunsi, Tay Iwar, Santi all make the same type of music? Crazy. Like yes there’s a lot of fusion but there’s fusion even in popular afrobeat(s) songs. Artistes these days are genre bending. Made in Lagos is R&B sometimes, sometimes it has reggae elements, sometimes it has afrobeat elements. Is it Alté because of that? Alté as a subculture is close to my heart because it created room for me when no one else would. It gave me room to be and to grow. Me and so many others.”
According to her and in a true means of trying to define what alté actually represents, the term encompasses more than a musical sound or a fashion trend or just spoiled kids of rich Lagosians being rebellious. Alté is a culture; a movement of gen z’s and millennials who live beyond societal verifications and survive utterly on self validation.
It’s the best way to explain how its acts wear what they want, sing what they want, live outside the mainstream and do life on their own terms. Alté paints a picture of what everybody wishes to be, but cannot because they care what people watching would say about them. Alté portrays a possible freedom from anything that could be stopping us from doing the things we wish we could do; being the people we wish we could be.
So “man, wtf is even Alté?,” Lady Donli asks.
Alté is the portal into a world of our most outrageous fantasies that allows who we could be to become reality, Itty Okim responds for DigiMillennials.