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IWD: 6 Top Nigerian Women in Music and Arts

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einsteineruploaded with. Upon their entry into the music industry, some female performers have made their presence known and positioned themselves well at the top tier of the music chart with multiple back-to-back singles that have garnered the country global accolades in terms of music stars and skills.

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, here are the six notable Nigerian women in music and arts, in no particular order.

1. Tems

Temilade Openiyi, also known as Tems, rose to notoriety after appearing on Wizkid’s 2020 single “Essence,” which garnered a Grammy Award nomination.

After being released in a remix with a feature from Justin Bieber, the record also peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.

At the 65th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, she received her first Grammy Award. The singer became the first female Nigerian artiste to win a Grammy in the category of ‘Best Melodic Rap Performance’ for her role in Future’s popular song ‘Wait for U,’ which featured Drake.

Tems is also the first Nigerian artist to gain an Oscar nomination for her contribution to Rihanna’s ‘Lift Me Up’, a single produced for the movie ‘Wakanda Forever’.

Tems also made history by becoming the first female Nigerian and African musician to win Best International Talent at the BET Awards in 2022.

With her participation on Future’s Wait For U in 2022, the Essence crooner became the first Nigerian artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Tems made history in 2022 by becoming the first female artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard US Afrobeat song charts with no feature.


2. Tiwa Savage

Tiwatope Savage, popularly known as Tiwa Savage, is a Berklee College of Music graduate who began her music career playing backup vocals for musicians such as George Michael and Mary J. Blige. In 2009, Savage signed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing after graduating from Berklee Institute of Music.

Savage returned to Nigeria in 2012, inspired by the expansion of the Nigerian music business, and signed with Mavin Records. She was the first woman to win the Best African Artist award at the MTV Music Europe Music Awards in 2018.

She confirmed her record deal with Universal Music Group her departure from Mavin Records in May 2019. Savage’s efforts to the Nigerian music business have garnered her a number of honors. She has worked on projects for youth empowerment and breast cancer screening, as well as raising funding to build schools in Nigeria. Savage established the We Are Tired charitable foundation, which aims to provide legal assistance and representation to victims of sexual assault in Nigeria.

3. Ayra Starr

Sarah Aderibigbe, better known by her stage name Ayra Starr, was born on June 14, 2002. She shared her first original song on her Instagram page in December 2019 after covering several songs by popular singers. This resulted in her signing with Mavin Records.

With her eponymous debut extended play and its hit single “Away” in early 2021, the musician gained mainstream acclaim. The song set the way for her debut full-length mixtape, 19 & Dangerous, to be released in August 2021. The album has received positive critical acclaim and has been classified primarily as Afropop and R’nB. In Nigeria, it created two top forty hits. The lead single, “Bloody Samaritan,” peaked at number one on the Top 50 chart, making it the first solo song by a female artist to do so. Starr debuted on Pandora’s Forecasts chart, and she rated third on Billboard’s Next Big Sound on August 28, 2021.

With the release of her hit single “Rush” in 2022, Ayra Starr attained major international popularity. The song charted in several countries, including Switzerland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, where it reached number 36.

With the song, Ayra became the youngest African female artist to reach 100 million views on a single YouTube video, and the first to accomplish so in less than five months. She also broke a record by becoming the first Nigerian female artist to have a solo song chart on the UK Official Singles Chart.


4. Yemi Alade

Yemi Eberechi Alade, better known as Yemi Alade, is a Nigerian Afropop singer, songwriter, actress, and activist who was born on March 13, 1989. After winning the Peak Talent Contest in 2009, she signed with Effyzzie Music Group and scored a hit with her tune “Johnny” in 2014. Yemi has since acquired recognition in the music industry and is regarded as one of Africa’s most prominent artists.

On October 2, 2014, Alade released her debut album King of Queens, which included her most successful track Johnny as well as other singles such as “Kissing,” “Tangerine,” and “Taking Over Me” featuring Phyno. In the 2015 Nigerian Entertainment Awards and the 2015 Headies Awards, the album was nominated for Album of the Year. On 25 March 2016, Alade released her second album named Mama Africa which spawned singles like “Na Gode”, “TumBum” and “Ferrari”. Mama Africa was named Worldbeat Album of the Year at the 2016 Independent Music Awards.

In 2016, she debuted at No. 4 on Billboard’s “Next Big Sound” Chart. She won the MTV African Music Awards for Best Female in both 2015 and 2016. She was nominated for Artiste of the Year in 2015, making her the first girl to be nominated for both Best Female and Artiste of the Year at the MAMAs.


5. Nike Davies-Okundaye

Nike Davies-Okundaye, born in 1951, is a well-known Nigerian batik and Adire artist. She has shown abroad and is a strong advocate for African artists and women. Nike Art Galleries in Oshogbo, Ogidi, Abuja, and Lagos were founded by her.

Mama Nike, as she is affectionately known, worked on this textile, named ‘The Wheel of Life,’ for three years. It was developed while studying at the Oshogbo School of Art with Ulli Beier and Susanne Wenger. The work’s motifs and symbols illustrate the story of the cycle of existence.


6. Princes Elizabeth Olowu

Princess Elizabeth Olowu was born in 1945, the daughter of Oba Akenzua II of Benin and a sculptor. According to the seven pioneering women of Nigerian art gathered by Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University, Elizabeth took an interest in the things in the royal court of Benin as a youngster and began learning the craft of bronze sculpting with her mother.

Despite superstitious ideas that discouraged women from entering such a sacred art of males, her father encouraged her to pursue her aspirations and passion. Elizabeth is credited as becoming Nigeria’s first female bronze caster. Her artistic goal is to “liberate womenfolk from the chains of men, deprivation, and taboos,” which she portrays via her work.

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