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Estelle on Maintaining Her African and West Indian Roots

“I was surrounded by African aunties my whole life,” she said.

London-born singer Estelle recently spoke to EBONY about growing up with a Grenadian father and Senegalese mother, and how she presented that heritage in her latest album, Lovers Rock. 

Estelle, 39, attributed her can-do attitude to the strength of her matriarchs. “I was surrounded by African aunties my whole life,” she said. “All the women [were] very powerful.” 

Although her parents split up when she was 3, her mother was adamant about teaching her children about both cultures through food and music. The couple later reconciled and married some 20 years later , which is an underlying story on Lovers Rock. 

The 14-song project, released in September 2018, explores her parents’ relationship through a blend of music genres from across the African diaspora including reggae, soca and Afrobeats. 

Estelle said she was deliberate about collaborating with musical acts such as dancehall artist Konshens and Nigerian record producer Maleek Berry. 

“First of all, I wanted to work with people I was fans [of],” the Grammy winner  said. “Second of all, it’s the core music. How am I going to chose who’s popping just for the sake of a record?” 

She added, “They’re all artists who make the music and come from the places that the music originated from. I think they are just as great and amazing as whoever is being popular appropriating [the sounds].” 

Estelle also spoke about London being an epicenter of Black culture because of many of her peers, including Grime rapper Wiley and DJ/actor Idris Elba, are first-generation Europeans. 

“We’re first generation and closer to our roots than a lot of the rest of the world,” she said. “My parents came to the U.K. in the 1960s and ’70s. … They have been back every year to Africa or the West Indies.” 

The “American Boy” artist believes “clear lineage” back to their motherlands is what has kept the cultures so embedded in the art that comes out of London. 

Watch the full clip above to hear more. 

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