The Nigerian music industry has been dominated by men for many decades, but despite the male dominance, some women have managed to break the glass ceiling and mark their feet in the industry. As International Women’s Day 2022 arrives on March 8, in this piece we will celebrate 9 women who have made their mark on the Nigerian music industry.
- Onyeka Onwenu
“The Elegant Stallion”, as she is affectionately known, began her musical career in 1981 while still working with the NTA, releasing the album For the Love of You, a pop album which featured an orchestral cover of “Hold Me Tight” by Johnny Nash, and his second album Endless Life was produced by Sonny Okosun. Both discs were released on the EMI label.
In recognition of her contribution to music and the arts in Nigeria, she has been celebrated by professionals like Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Laolu Akins, Charles O’Tudor and former PMAN President Tony Okoroji among others in the industry arts in Nigeria.
- Christy Uduak Essien-Igbokwe,
Popularly referred to as “Nigeria’s Lady of Songs”, she was known for her songs “Seun Rere” Tete Nula, Ife, Hear the Call and Give me a Chance. She was the first female President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) and the President and CEO of Soul Train Entertainment.
She sang in Igbo, Ibibio, Efik, Hausa, Yoruba and English. His fluency in Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, English and his native Ibibio gave him an appeal that crossed tribal boundaries. Essien-Igbokwe died after a brief illness on June 30, 2011 at age 50 at Ikeja General Hospital.
Afterwards, Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, Onyeka Owenu, Bisi Olatilo (veteran broadcaster), Soni Irabor, Oritz Wiliki, Remi Tinubu, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Aliko Dangote and Victor Uwaifo among others paid tribute to the singer.
- Bose Ogulu (Executive, Spaceship Collective)
“Mama Burna” as she is affectionately known, Bose Ogulu is not only Burna Boy’s manager, she also runs Spaceship Collective, which includes the Spaceship Entertainment label and a publishing arm.
Before joining her son’s team, Ogulu had a successful career as a translator for the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and taught French for 10 years at the University of Education of Port Harcourt, retiring in 2018. She can speak French, Italian, German, English and Yoruba fluently.
Besides Burna Boy, she also manages her sister Nissi Ogulu (alias Nissi), visual artist and musician; and his father, author Benson Idonije (he is also the first band manager of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti).
- Jennifer Imion (COO, Mavin Global)
Jennifer Imion has been an integral part of Mavin’s evolution into a fully-fledged business and creative enterprise. Imion directs day-to-day operations and hiring at Mavin Global, parent company of Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records. She also oversees its suite of ancillary services, including content creation, talent management and partnerships.
During the two years she held the position, she oversaw the expansion and management of Mavin’s studios and offices. She also played a pivotal role in the label’s ability to attract new talent and further cement its place as a strong label in the Nigerian music industry.
- Weird MC
Born Adesola Adesimbo Idowu, is a Nigerian-British rapper, songwriter and producer. Known for her English/Yoruba lyrics, Weird MC, also known as Shola Idowu and The Rappatainer, is one of Africa’s most popular female rappers and one of the few Nigerian artists associated with Afrobeat.
- LIKE A
Bukola Elemide popularly known as Asa, teamed up with Cobhams Asuquo, and with the new involvement of Christophe Dupouy and Benjamin Constant produced her platinum-selling self-titled debut album, Aṣa. The release of the album saw Aṣa chart radios across Europe, Asia and Africa and won the prestigious French Constantin Prize in 2008 when she was voted best new talent of 10 singers or groups by a jury of 19 music industry specialists in Paris.
Her second album, Beautiful Imperfection, in collaboration with French composer Nicolas Mollard, was released on October 25, 2010, went platinum in 2011. Beautiful Imperfection’s first single titled “Be My Man” was released in late September 2010. It was reported that in 2014, Aṣa sold 400,000 albums worldwide. Asa is considered one of Nigeria’s most exposed and wealthy musicians with an estimated net worth of $28 million.
- wild tiwa
Tiwa Savage began her musical career doing backing vocals for artists such as George Michael and Mary J. Blige. After appearing on the UK edition of The X Factor and 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 returned to Nigeria and signed with Mavin Records in 2012. Tiwa Savage signed a management and publishing deal with Roc Nation on July 29, 2016, she made it official by announcing the deal through her Instagram account, making her the first Nigerian artist to be signed to the label.
- Osagie Okunkpolor
One of the few women to have been in the Nigerian music industry for over a decade, Osagie Osarenkhoe has managed many Nigerian artists including Wizkid (whom she managed for the first five years of her career), Skales , Banky W, Reekado Banks, Niyola and Dammy Krane.
She is the founder of The Zone Agency, a talent management company she launched in 2016 and currently has a roster including Timaya, Reminisce, MTV Base Africa video jockey Ehiz, Dapo Tuburna and Bella. Okunkpolor is also currently leading operations for the Lagos arm. of One RPM, a labeling services company.
- Vanessa Amadi-Ogbonna (founder/CEO of VA PR)
Often referred to as “the PR guru for the stars”, Amadi was Whitney Houston’s British and European publicist for the last seven years of her life. She has also worked with Usher, Ciara, Estelle and Ne-Yo.
Amadi started her own PR company VA PR in 2006, but before that she started working as a publicist for the UK-based MOBO Awards. Amadi has made a name for herself in Nigeria through her work with Nigerian stars like D’Banj (including international hit Oliver Twist which she helped promote in the UK), legendary actress Genevieve Nnaji and performers from Global Citizen Live Lagos Davido and Tiwa Savage.
A true powerhouse, Amadi was a key figure in Tiwa Savage’s current recording deal with US-based UMG Recordings.