There are debates about who a Nigerian woman is since some people were simply born in Nigeria and lived their entire lives in other countries while others just had Nigerian parents and never lived in Nigeria.
Is Tems really the first Nigerian woman to win a Grammy?
The three Nigerian women who have won the Grammys are so radically different from one other.
But one cannot really be divorced from their country of birth or their parent's birth unless they renounce their citizenship. They are Nigerian citizens for all purposes and intents.
It was in Chinua Achebe’s famous book, 'Things Fall Apart', he wrote about the importance of the motherland (for this article, motherland includes anywhere one can trace their root), “A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there.”
1. Helen Folasade ‘Sade’ Adu
With such an African name, it seems clear that she is the first Nigerian woman to win a Grammy, but many believe that she doesn’t identify as a Nigerian woman but as a British woman. Though she was born in Ibadan to a Nigerian Professor and an English nurse in 1959, her parents divorced when she was just four, and she moved to Essex, England.
Sade had a total of eight Grammy nominations and won four for singles ‘ The Sweetest Taboo’ ‘No Ordinary Love’, the album ‘Lovers Rock’ and the single, ‘Soldiers of Love’.
2. Cynthia Erivo
Cynthia is truly a queen of Broadway and drama. Her ethnicity is traceable to Nigeria. She was born Cynthia Onyedinmanasu Chinasaokwu Erivo to Nigerian parents in London in 1987.
Cynthia is one step away from EGOT status (someone who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). She won an Emmy for her role in The Color Purple for her Outstanding Musical Performance in a Daytime Program. The same musical also earned her Tony and Grammy Awards.
3. Temilade ‘Tems’ Openiyi
Now Tems has no link to any other ethnicity or nationality which is why some people think she is the first Nigerian woman to win a Grammy. Tems' rise to the top began with her collaboration with Wizkid on the 2021 global summer song, 'Essence'. Since then, Tems has writing and singing credits with singers like Beyonce, Rihanna, Drake and Future. It was a sample version of her 2020 song ‘Higher’ that won her the Grammy in 2023 after Future and Drake sampled it.
Yemi Alade had a brief stint with the Grammy Awards. She was a part of Angelique Kidjo's 'Mother Nature' album, which at the 2022 Grammy Awards took home the gong for the Best Global Album. Even though she won't get the award, she must have gotten a certificate.
Niniola also has a Grammy certificate. She received Grammy recognition for her work as a composer on Beyonce's Grammy award-winning album, 'The Lion King'.
It is obvious why Tems' win hits closer to home, because these other women are Nigerians by ethnicity but not by experience and her other Nigerian predecessors only had certificates.
Nevertheless, the simple answer is Sade Adu is the first...
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