Becoming Rose May Alaba

A Musical Journey from Vienna to Lagos, Weaving Nigeria, the Philippines, and Austria into a Global Tapestry.

Interview: Tobi Efunnowo
Photography: Daniel Uwaga
Rose May Alaba is more than a musical sensation; she is a living embodiment of cultural convergence, a symphony of influences that resonates beyond borders. In the lively heart of Victoria Island, Lagos, her melodic journey, born in Vienna, Austria, to a Filipino mother and a Nigerian father, becomes a celebration of roots and artistic prowess. Anticipation crackles within the studio's walls – this is not just an interview but an exploration of a vibrant tapestry. Amidst the dynamic energy of Lagos, Rose May stands poised, her magnetic aura painting the room with a kaleidoscope of colors. With her father and cousin by her side, a familial grace permeates the atmosphere, revealing a down-to-earth demeanor. In this familial symphony, Rose May Alaba emerges as more than a musical talent; she is a captivating embodiment of cultural diversity, seamlessly weaving together the threads of Nigeria, the Philippines, and Austria. This is not merely an interview; it is a rendezvous with the personification of global music and the vibrant hues of a multicultural life.
Rose May Alaba wears a Jacket from Garmspot and pants from The Fia Factory.

What emotions are you feeling right now?
What kind of emotions? I’m happy…and tired, to be honest with you. It’s been a pretty long day.

I want to say a big thank you for putting out such great music. Your music keeps getting better, and you have shown that you have the confidence to follow your heart by switching genres from Pop to Afrobeats through your career. How has that been?
Thank you very much. I feel like music is a journey right? I feel like as you grow in real life, it should grow. Music is an emotional thing to me,  you can see the growth that I’ve been through in  real life through my music as well.

I imagine your influences have changed over time…
You know, I was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. My dad used to be an artist, and my mom used to sing so I come from a very musical household. I’ve always been surrounded by music. So once I started seeing my dad on stage, from then I knew that I wanted to be on stage as well. So he was a big influence of mine. He is still a big influence of mine. I also used to listen to Whitney Houston a lot, I used to listen to Lauryn Hill, so I feel like they shaped my music.

Rose May Alaba wears a shirt from Yeno Label.
Rose May Alaba wears a dress from The Fia Factory.

Tell me about the first time you sang in front of people
Okay, the first time I sang in front of people might be when I was around seven or eight years old. Getting to grow up in a musical household, the Filipino side of the family always used to sing Karaokes, that was our thing to do. So every birthday, they’d take me and make me sing for the people, and yeah, that’s how it started.

What Was Music Like in the Household?
We heard a lot of reggae music, my mum would listen to a lot of Bob Marley, and then my dad used to play all the bangers from before… he also used to play Lauryn Hill, and reggae as well. All the old good ones, Micheal Jackson too.

Did they Listen to Different Types of Music?
Yes, because my dad also used to be a DJ, so he always had to expand his genres, so to say. I also used to listen - I am still listening to Rock as well, to RnB, so I’ve had a wide range, I don’t listen to heavy metal tho.

From what I hear, I can see that your dad had a huge influence on you, most especially on your ability to transition between genres...
Yeah definitely, because right now, I am also trying to infuse house music into my songs, putting some amapiano twists into it. I’m just trying to represent my roots and put all the influences I grew up with into my music.

What was Music like in Austria, outside of your home?
Very traditional, and there was a lot of German music. But mostly, the original music in Austria is Folk music. There was a lot of folk music growing up.

Rose May Alaba wears a Jacket from Garmspot and pants from The Fia Factory.

Do you think it influenced your music?
Not really. I mean it’s fun when you’re out with friends you know, drinking and partying to folk music. Typically, the lyrics are funny, but it didn't influence my music.

You learned how to play the piano and guitar early…
When I was around six years old, my parents knew that I had a talent for singing, so they wanted to support me, and they were like, oh, you want to do something like a lesson? I was like, yeah! I want to learn the piano and do music.  So I learned how to play the piano when I was like eight to nine, then I taught myself how to play the guitar through YouTube just watching tutorials, and that’s when I also started to write my own songs, and that’s how it began.

At the time, did you learn it because it was something you wanted to do professionally, or just as an added skill?
No definitely, I always knew I wanted to do music professionally. I always knew I wanted to be a singer or to be an entertainer on stage. So when I was around thirteen, I told my dad that I wanted to do music professionally, and he was like “You know, you’re not there yet, you still need to work on your craft”. So I waited, and then I started acting, so I was in acting school for three years, and after that, I started to do music professionally.

At what age did you start professionally?
I started professionally at 19.

How was the reception at the beginning?
I have to say, I was actually so excited to drop my first single and I thought oh my God, the world is waiting for Rose May to drop her music! Well, that did not happen. But I still was super happy that I just released my own song for the world to listen to. But I definitely grew since then.

Do you dance?
Yes, I do. I’ve always been dancing. I still dance.

Living in Austria, and then living in Nigeria, what would you say are the cultural extremes between both places?
There is a huge difference because obviously, there are way more people. Secondly, way more traffic, and I feel like there is no proper structure here. In Vienna, everything is very structural, but I feel like you get caught up in your comfort zone in Vienna. So I cannot stay in Vienna for too long because the comfort zone just takes over. There is no hustle. There is no drive for anything basically. Every time I come back to Lagos, that is what I love about the people here.

Rose May Alaba wears a dress from The Fia Factory.
Rose May Alaba wears a Jacket from Garmspot.

What is your definition of Success?
To me, it’s living off my music. I cannot lie, I know I want to do this professionally, and I feel like God gave me a talent and I should use it. Therefore I feel like my parents always supported me in that sense as well. Success to me is basically just living off my music and being happy doing what I do.

How important is culture to your work?
It is very important to me because, when I started doing Afrobeats, I also started a new journey in my life as well, that’s when I started to search for my roots and I wanted to know where my parents grew up, where they came from. The first time I came to Nigeria, I was ten years old, and I feel like living in Austria was so different. So, when my friends introduced me to Afrobeats, I wanted to incorporate the rhythm into my music more, and I was like, I cannot do this, unless I come home, unless I work with the people here, unless I get the vibe of where my father actually grew up in.

You travel a lot, what’s your favorite city to live in, and why?
I feel like it’s probably a city in Spain. I have been to Barcelona once, but I’ve been to Madrid a couple times and I’ll admit Madrid is a beautiful place to live in because it has the best of both worlds - you have the calmness but you also have the city vibe, the chaos, a lot of people.

Do you read?
The bible.

Do you have any tattoos?

But if you had to draw one, what would it be?
It’ll probably be a heart because I love LOVE.

Who are you listening to at the moment?
Right now, I really love Rema’s new E.P.

Do you think it is possible to judge art objectively
To judge art? Actually no, I don’t think that it is even okay to judge people, so why judge art?

What items you can’t be caught without?
Oh my phone, obviously.

Rose May Alaba wears a dress from The Fia Factory.

You seem to have a strong spiritual upbringing, did it affect how you see the world today?
Oh definitely. I feel like it helps me a lot being in the industry because I feel like you can get caught up in the sauce. You know, success doesn't always come overnight, and it’s given me trust to believe in God's timing as well because I know God's time, and I believe in God's time. I feel like it’s given me the consistency in being in the industry, being in the world, and the discipline required.

What is your metaphor for life?
Just be like a shark. Just go forward. Always moving forward.

What is your definition of being Unruly? What does being Unruly mean to you?
Just being yourself. I mean, just being unapologetically you.

As we conclude our rendezvous with Rose May Alaba, the anticipation lingers like a melody in the air. With her diverse influences and global resonance, we eagerly await the symphony of new music she is poised to share in the coming year. Rose May's vibrant spirit, rooted in Vienna, Austria, and now thriving in the pulsating heart of Lagos, Nigeria, promises a fusion of cultures that transcends boundaries. The harmonious blend of her Filipino, Nigerian, and Austrian heritage creates a tapestry of sound that resonates globally.

Interview: Tobi Efunnowo
Photography: Daniel Uwaga
Project Manager: Adesewa Adeniyi
Asst. Project Manager: Ubong Inyang
Styling: Nonye Cynthia Ndianofo
Makeup: Isime Daniels
Hair Styling: Margaret Mosah
Location: Garmspot Studio
Production: Studio Unruly

Fiyin Koko


A rap virtuoso whose roots led him to triumph in a talent contest, setting the stage for a globe-trotting journey that has left an indelible mark on his craft. Early in his career, he inked a substantial record deal, propelling him into the forefront of the rap scene. Stay tuned for an electrifying conversation with this trailblazing artist as we unravel the chapters of his musical odyssey, exploring the beats and rhythms that define his unique journey.

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