The Rise: Nigerian Songstresses Stake Claim in the New Wave

When Tems featured in Wizkid’s global masterpiece, “Essence”, the world knew it was time to listen to more Nigerian female singers.

Her fine vocals added a soft, essential and complete feel to the vitality in the song. It would always take two great talents to place Nigeria on the map it had long sought and a voice like Tem’s was of the essence. 

The song is filling the ears that matter, playing on the most peaceful occasions and having its time on the finest beaches. It’s the men’s pure piece of art and women’s special taste in a musical stunner. It’s the Song of the Summer for many, and when it made its debut on the Billboard Hot 100, it was a perfect way to cap its continental dominance and global acceptance. Finally, Afrobeats is hitting the right places, and it’s happening consistently.

A large proportion of the praise has gone to Wizkid, who deserves it by every decibel, but the missing piece that completed that jigsaw was that touch (or note, if you please) of brilliance brought on by Tems. It was also a statement of presence and a reminder about the coming of age of Nigeria’s songstresses. 

The Road To Now

Many have come, and some are gone. Since the years Christie Essien reminded children of their mother’s love for them, and Onyeka Onwenu sounded an important note of unity through music, Nigerian female musicians have always strived, albeit struggled to match their male peers, in popularity, place and power. 

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Salawa Abeni was a voice of note in Fuji music in the country, competing against some of the biggest names in the country in “Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Ayinla Kollington. Tope Alabi made gospel songs a renewed niche easing her beautiful songs and powerful lyrics through ears to hearts and reminding Nigerians of the importance of spirituality. 

And since that time, Nigerian songstresses have broken records, made the songs that matter and worked hard on very hard grounds – unforgiving, hardly-encouraging and rigid. 

However, a new wave of fantastic music talents seem to be reaping the struggles of old. The likes of Essence, Sasha P, and many others who huffed and puffed to make a way yet struggled to even break the ceiling must be proud of what these new acts are managing to do. Younger, more daring, working in a better and more accepting musical environment and supported by a global support, the new female singers in Nigeria are breaking boundaries.

Sinach may have shown a way for those whose interests lie in ministering as her 2015 record ‘Way Maker’ is making the way for many. With more than 100million YouTube views, just the third in the country after Davido’s ‘Fall’ and Yemi Alade’s ‘Johnny’ and millions of replays and covers, ‘Way Maker’ made a way for Sinach and may have paved the way for many in her trade. The new wave doesn’t exclude those whose voices are to praise God and raise the spiritual awareness of many, but the tide doesn’t just stop there. 

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Tiwa Savage is an African music powerhouse, having proven herself over the years with some of the best hits the continent has seen. With Yemi Alade, Simi, Nini, Teni, Omawumi and Waje all doing well in their respective rights, they’ve brought the game closer to the top and have closed the gap on their male peers. 

The rising Gen Z seem to have more in their vocal boxes, and are strategically opportuned to reap from a growing interest in female musicians. Some of the biggest labels in the country have identified the importance of the female voice in the new musical trend, and they are nicking the best and the finest at every opportunity.

From Tems to Ayra Starr, Kenah to Ria, Liya and many others, there’s a new wave of the new voices, striving to make the difference, young and hungry and looking ready to stand through the times. 

Ayra Starr’s latest album, her second project in months is a reminder of the quality in these voices. While social influences and societal opinions are still core issues to tackle, as many beautiful voices are still content singing in their bathrooms, and to their friends, due to the fear of not being accepted, the successes recorded from these fantastic, young talents in the last one year is testament to the readiness of the industry for their ilk. 

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“19 and Dangerous” explains the goings-on in the life of a teenage girl, and all the world of possibilities before her. It was Ayra Starr’s debut album, but one that proved the best may still be in the locker for Nigerian music.

For as many who are yet to be heard, but not courageous enough to sing to anyone else but their siblings, afraid of failure and the stereotypes that have always pegged female singers back in the country, the road seems clearer and the path, this time a lot better. It’s time to get on the waves. 

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