The Alte culture is a form of self-expression that is not limited by culture or traditional expectations. These individualistic and non-traditional forms of expression could be in the form of music or fashion. These new forms of expression influenced the growth of Alte music in Nigeria.
The Alte sound (pronounced “uhl-teh”) is a fusion of music elements from reggae, hip-hop, dancehall, afrobeats, and alternative R&B.
The “Alte” term was coined in the 2010s by the DRB Lasgidi music group, a group made up of young Nigerians (TeeZee, Boj, and Fresh L).
The term was first heard in 2014 on Boj’s song “Paper.” TeeZee talked more about these music styles, saying, “Alte is a Nigerian word for “alternative,” and it’s freedom of expression through any medium.” It has been going on since the 1960s in Africa, as we have always experimented with music. “But it only got recognized as its own genre in 2012 and broke into mainstream media in 2016, with the rise of new stars in it.”
Some of the other artists in this genre are: Cruel Santino, Zamir, Lady Donli, Nonso Amadi, Tems, Amaarae, Odunsi (The Engine), Tay Iwar, Ayraa Starr, and many others.
In fashion, these forms of self-expression have also been getting a lot of recognition. Mowalola’s very sex-positive designs thoroughly express these. Or fashion influencers and stylists like Dunsin Wright or Ashley Okoli, who have a gothic, or “Y2K” style, as it’s popularly known.
In a fashion event that’s influenced by the Alte style, you would find young people with bucket hats, crop tops, different kinds of jewelry, baggy trousers, dyed hair, and sneakers. An example of these events is the Alte Fest, held in Ikeja, Nigeria. The aesthetics of these, both in music and in fashion, are always unique and pleasing to the eye.
A lot of other Nigerian mainstream artists like Fireboy DML, Ckay, Wizkid, Rema, and Burna Boy are also taking inspiration from these forms of expression in their music styles.
These genres have gained a lot of success commercially, with some of the artists making it into the British and American charts. Tems Ep. “If Orange Was a Place” was the first Alt-J extended play to gain a spot in the US “Heatseekers Album” and on the Billboard World Album.
The Alte’s music and style have been greatly influenced by a combination of global fashion aesthetics and music styles. They grew up watching old Nollywood and Hollywood teen movies, which shows in their dressing styles. And they listened to music from Fela, 2baba, and other highlife artists while combining it with rap music, including some Beyonce, Rihanna, and Britney Spears. And in their songs, you could pickup some of these sounds in between some that were uniquely created in their own form.
More young people in Nigeria have been more courageous in their own form of self-expression, both in music and in fashion, and these are signs that the Alte movement is still on for a long ride, both in Nigeria and in other parts of the world.