Afrobeats continues to sweep the world off its feet with captivating rhythms, empowering messages, and danceable tunes.
With hits like Love Nwantiti by CKay, Lowkey by Fireboy DML ft Asake, Unavailable by Davido as well as Boomplay’s No.1 Afrobeats song in Africa, Terminator, by Ghana’s King Promise, it is no surprise songs from the genre are in high demand.
Over the years, the genre has been male-dominated. From the iconic Fela Kuti to the trailblazing Burna Boy, the male artistes of Afrobeats have played a significant role in shaping the sound and legacy of this exciting genre.
The world has been fascinated by its infectious rhythms, thought-provoking lyrics, and thrilling performances.
However, the past, present, and future of Afrobeats cannot be complete without applauding and acknowledging the females in the game who have played a role and continue to do so while contributing in no small way in shaping the success story of the genre.
The role of women in the African music industry, though usually unrecognized, has played a crucial role in the industry’s progress. The early 60s and 70s saw the rise of Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Onyeka Onwenu, and the Lijadu Sisters making an impact on the Nigerian music industry. Omissions of the contributions of these women and more have left blank sheets in history where their impact should have been trumpeted to encourage women’s inclusion in the space.
In recent times, however, women in Afrobeats have taken a fiercer approach to being heard, listened to, and recognized as much as their male counterparts.
This new set of Afrobeats queens are daring and have shattered hitherto gender stereotypes and limitations to offer a versatile look and feel on the perspective of femininity all the way by letting their strong voices be heard. We take a look into the lives of a few of these Afrobeats queens.
Nigerian Afrobeats queen, Tiwatope Omolara Savage, professionally known as Tiwa Savage, made waves with her hit single, Eminado. In 2011, the charismatic Tiwa released Kele Kele Love which received massive airplay as well. The 43-year-old songstress began her career in the US as a backup vocalist for the likes of Beyonce, George Michael, and Mary J. Blige.
She returned to her home country of Nigeria to begin her own music career. Over the years, she has garnered millions of listeners across Africa and the globe with hits like Without My Heart, Ife Wa Gbona and Folarin. The 2014 Best Album of the Year nominee at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards went on to break new barriers having featured on Beyonce’s The Gift Album which was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album during the recently ended Grammy Awards.
Adina Thembi Ndamse (popularly known as Adina) is a Ghanaian-South African singer, songwriter and model who is also making waves in the Ghanaian Afrobeats space. The 2008 Stars of the Future winner blends RnB, blues and pop in her music to serenade her millions of listeners. The sultry-voiced songstress has blessed the ears of many with hits like Araba, Take Care of You (ft Stonebwoy), Why and Hear me. The Sika hitmaker continues to enchant many with her voice and captivating performances.
South Africa’s very own Nomfundo Moh is another Afrobeats sensation making headlines in the genre. After her highly patronized debut, Lilizela, the 21-year-old got signed to Universal Music Group. Having garnered 8 million views with her single Phakade Lami, which featured two of South Africa’s biggest female artistes, Sha Sha and Ami Faku, the young songstress is set to take over the world.
The young and vibrant Ayra Starr is an Afrobeats queen worthy of mention as she keeps sweeping many off their feet with hits like Away and Sare. The 19-year-old Nigerian-Beninoise released her debut album 19 & Dangerous, which expresses how influential and enthralling she is as an Afrobeats artiste. The Sability singer’s debut album had songs like Beggie Beggie (ft CKay) and Bloody Samaritan on it which put her on the No.1 spot on the TurnTable Top as the first female solo artiste to do so.
Bose Ogulun (“Mama Burna”)
Finally, one Afrobeats queen worthy of mention though not for singing purposes, is Bose Ogulun, popularly called “Mama Burna”. With a musical mastery that stems from the era of Fela Kuti, the French lecturer, and translator now-turned-talent manager, has been very instrumental in the career growth of her very own son, the award-winning sensation, Burna Boy. Heading the Space Collective and its smaller groups, Mama Burna has grown to emerge as one of the most successful Afrobeats music exports from Africa.
According to Benewaah Boateng, music curator and Spotify manager for West Africa, women are no longer afraid to speak their minds and express themselves. Though there are a lot of challenges these Afrobeats queens, in their journey to let their voices be heard, remain unrelenting in their stance.