It is no longer news that Nigeria has talent in abundance, particularly in the music industry. After entering the music arena, some of the female acts have made their presence known and positioned themselves well at the top echelon of the music chart with several back-to-back hits that have earned the country global acclaim in terms of music stars and talents.
As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, The PUNCH highlights, in no particular order, six top Nigerian women in music and arts.
Born on June 11th, 1995, Temilade Openiyi, known betters as Tems, rose to prominence after she featured in Wizkid’s 2020 single “Essence” which received a Grammy Award nomination.
The single also peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 after being released in a remix with a feature from Justin Bieber.
She won her first Grammy Award at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. The singer became the first female Nigerian artiste to win a Grammy award as she won the ‘Best Melodic Rap Performance’ category for her role in ‘Wait for U’, the 2022 hit song by Future featuring Drake.
Tems is also the first Nigerian artist to receive an Oscar nomination for her contribution to Rihanna’s ‘Lift Me Up’, a track recorded for the movie ‘Wakanda Forever’.
Tems also made history as the first Nigerian and African female musician to win the Best International Act at the BET Awards in 2022.
The Essence crooner made history as the first Nigerian artist to debut at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with her feature on Future’s Wait For U in 2022.
With the single ‘Free Mind’, Tems made history as the first female artist to debut at No.1 on the Billboard US Afrobeat song charts with no feature in 2022.
2. Tiwa Savage
A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts, Tiwatope Savage, popularly known as Tiwa Savage, began her music career doing backup vocals for artists such as George Michael and Mary J. Blige. After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Savage signed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing in 2009.
Inspired by the growth of the Nigerian music industry, Savage moved back to Nigeria and signed with Mavin Records in 2012. In 2018, she became the first woman to win the Best African Act trophy at the MTV Music Europe Music Awards.
In May 2019, she announced her record deal with Universal Music Group and exit from Mavin Records. Savage’s contributions to the Nigerian music industry have earned her several achievements. She has been involved in youth empowerment and breast cancer screening projects and has raised funds to build schools in Nigeria. Savage launched the We Are Tired charity foundation, an initiative aimed at providing legal support and representation to victims of sexual assault in Nigeria.
3. Ayra Starr
Born on June 14, 2002, Sarah Aderibigbe, known better known by her stage name, Ayra Starr. After covering several songs by popular artists on Instagram, she posted her first original song on her page in December 2019. This led to her deal with Mavin Records.
In early 2021, the musician achieved mainstream recognition with her eponymous debut extended play and its hit track “Away”. The track paved way for the release of her first full-length mixtape, 19 & Dangerous in August 2021. Categorized mainly as Afropop and R’nB, the album has been met with favorable critical reception. It spawned two top forty hits in Nigeria. The lead single “Bloody Samaritan” peaked atop the Top 50 chart, becoming the first solo song by a female artist to reach the number-one position. Starr debuted on Pandora Predictions chart, and on 28 August 2021, she ranked number three on Billboard’s Next Big Sound.
In 2022, Ayra Starr achieved mainstream international recognition with the release of her hit song “Rush”. The song charted in many territories like Switzerland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, where it peaked at Number 36.
With the song, Ayra became the Youngest African Female Artist to surpass 100 Million views on a single video on YouTube, and also the first to do so within 5 months. She also set a new record by becoming the only Nigerian Female Artist to have charted a solo song on UK Official Singles Chart
4. Yemi Alade
Born on March 13, 1989, Yemi Eberechi Alade, known better as Yemi Alade is a Nigerian Afropop singer, songwriter, actress, and activist. She won the Peak Talent Show in 2009 after which she signed to Effyzzie Music Group, and had a hit with her single “Johnny” in 2014. Since then Yemi has gained prominence in the music industry and is considered one of the biggest artists in Africa.
Alade released her debut album King of Queens on 2 October 2014, and the album produced her most successful single Johnny and other singles like “Kissing”, “Tangerine” and “Taking Over Me” featuring Phyno. The album was nominated for Album of the year at the 2015 Nigerian Entertainment Awards and the 2015 Headies Awards. On 25 March 2016, Alade released her second album titled Mama Africa which produced singles like “Na Gode”, “TumBum” and “Ferrari”. Mama Africa won the Worldbeat Album on the 2016 Independent Music Awards.
In 2016, she debuted on Billboard as No 4 on the “Next Big Sound” Chart. She won the MTV African Music Awards for Best Female in 2015 and 2016 consecutively. She was nominated for Artiste of the Year in 2015, making her the first female to win the MAMAs for Best female consecutively twice and nominated for Artiste of the Year.
5. Nike Davies-Okundaye
Born in 1951, Nike Davies-Okundaye is one of Nigeria’s most well-known batik and Adire artists. She has exhibited internationally and is a champion of supporting African artists and women. She founded the Nike Art Galleries in Oshogbo, Ogidi, Abuja and Lagos.
Mama Nike, as she is fondly called, spent three years producing this textile which is titled ‘The Cycle of Life’. It was created while training at the Oshogbo School of Art under the tutelage of Ulli Beier and Susanne Wenger. The motifs and symbols depicted in the work tell the story of the pattern of life.
6. Princes Elizabeth Olowu
Born in 1945, Princess Elizabeth Olowu is the daughter of Oba Akenzua II of Benin and a sculptor. As a child, Elizabeth took interest in the objects in the royal court of Benin and started learning the skill of bronze sculpting alongside her mother, according to the seven pioneering women of Nigerian art compiled by Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University.
Despite superstitious beliefs discouraging women from venturing into such a sacred craft of men, she was encouraged by her father to chase her dreams and passion. Elizabeth is regarded as Nigeria’s first female bronze caster. Her focus and desire as an artist is to “liberate womenfolk from the shackles of men, deprivation and taboos” and she expresses this in her works.