Onyeka Onwenu, the renowned Nigerian songstress who was dubbed ‘The Elegant Stallion’ by the media after her 1982 debut album was one female musician who held her ground in the entertainment industry not only locally but on the World stage. She gained so much notoriety that the juju king himself, king Sunny Ade was forced to seek a collaboration which birthed the track “Mada wolohun” (Let Them Say). The song received massive airplays and huge international acclaim prompting the master of Juju music to seek out two more collaborations – “Wait for Me” and “Choices.”
However, as time went on, music genres like Rap and Hip Hop begun to gain more ground and more traditional genres began to give way as did the prominence of some of the brightest female music entertainers like; Onyeka Onwenu, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Evi Edna Ogholi, Oby Onyioha and Salawa Abeni Alidu. As such the face of the music industry right up to the early 90's was male.
In came Weird MC who wasn't having any of that! The bold female rapper took the industry by storm and from 1990 to 1996, the hardcore rapper held her own in relation to her male counterparts earning her a nomination for the Headies Artist of the year alongside Paul Play, D’Banj, Mode 9 and P Square; with Paul play winning the revered award.
The turn of the 21st Century came with many changes including the decline of hardcore rap on the Nigerian scene. Like a major shift in genre interest had years before, this shift successfully dwindled the relevance and influence of Weird MC.
The new generation of music lovers were R&B inclined and for quite sometime, there was no female entertainer at the forefront of the music Industry.
Fast forward to 2007, a certain dark skinned lady in glasses surfaced. Artist Asa put Nigerian music on the world map again in 2007 with her songs coming in at No 3 on the World Charts on two occasions! Her lovely vocals and soulful music won the hearts of many, but the more expressive youths needed more! They needed tunes they could dance and party to, and this need continued to support a male dominance in the industry.
We saw this dominance expressed in the portfolio of artists at two of Nigeria's top Record Labels. Kennis Music which was founded in the early 1990s boasted over 23 top artistes and only of those two artistes – Kenny Saint Brown and the Late Goldie were female. On the other there was regional music giants, Mo’Hits Records which ruled the country's music scene from 2005 to 2012 with not a single female artiste signed to the label!
6 short years later, it's an entirely different story with a radically different plot.
Female entertainers have taken the industry by storm and this time, they have come to stay! The Amazons of the Nigerian Entertainment industry struggled and conquered; they have broken barriers and set a new standard. It is hard to see any show in Nigeria without a top female artiste on the line up. Not only do Female entertainers feature in top shows, they headline them; top concerts, award shows and everything in between.
Think Tiwa Savage! Undoubtedly the game changer for female contemporary entertainers in the country, Tiwa is one true African woman who has proven that women are strong and capable of achieving anything. She joined Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records in 2012 and since then has never so much as dwindled. Through her marriage, pregnancy, delivery and bitter news of divorce. The Mavin queen has become the sweetheart and First lady of the Nigerian Entertainment industry with even her male counterparts holding her in very high esteem. With over 100 local/international nominations and 16 major awards, Tiwa Savage and her new band of Amazons are rewriting the history.
These new generation of Amazons have mastered the art of what they do and do not bow to any pressure or shift in sound. Just a few days ago, news broke that songstress Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye popularly known by her stage name ‘Simi’ was named a Human Rights Ambassador by the United States Consul General. The Artiste is also leading the pack at this year's headies as the most nominated artist. Fancy that?!
From 2015 BET Awards Nominee, Yemi Alade to 40 local/international nominations and 8 major awards winner, Waje; World famous Seyi Shey, evergreen Omawnumi, Rap Queen Cynthia Morgan, beautiful Niyola and Kedike goddess Chidinma, the industry is bubbling with exciting Amazons who are breaking barriers and editing the history books.
I have a dream that one day a female entertainer from Nigeria will win the Grammys! When it does happen, remember that I called it in first. Watch Out!