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International Women’s Day 2021: Pulse speaks with DJ Cuppy, Omawumi and Waje on what it means to be a woman in Nigerian music

The three amazing women have differing perspectives on certain topics and make this conversation worthwhile.

International Women’s Day 2020: Pulse speaks with DJ Cuppy, Omawumi and Waje on what it means to be a woman in Nigerian music. (NJO/Instagram/Omawonder/Vibe)

While Pulse Nigeria has been telling stories via Women of Pulse, but this time, we speak to women in the Nigerian music industry. With problems of sexism and limitation of women in the music industry as well as the lack of sufficient collaboration between women, Pulse speaks with Nigerian DJ and artist, Cuppy and two singers, Omawumi and Waje.

For this reason, they answer three questions;

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  1. What does it mean to be a woman in the Nigerian music industry?
  2. Why are collaborations between women scarce?
  3. What would you tell an upcoming female artist to do in the male-dominated space of Nigerian music

Age: 27

Occupation: DJ, artist

Time in the industry: 8 years

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Cuppy: I’ll like to recognize/appreciate the immense growth that the Nigerian music industry has witnessed over the last couple of years. I am very proud to be among the network of phenomenal women contributing to that growth.

Whenever I think of “women in the music Industry” both in Nigeria and internationally, the first word that comes to mind is Fortitude. We (women) have a special gift of a strong mind that enables us to approach our dealings courageously. Most times, we generally have it harder.

The Nigerian music industry is no exception. The music industry is clearly a male-dominated space and women have had to work twice as hard as our male colleagues to get the result we desire. The media already depicts a distorted view of a successful woman in the music industry due to its somewhat unprofessional nature.

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We have to deal with sexism, harsh criticism and gender discrimination. Whether or not you’re in the forefront as an artist, a DJ, a Manager or an agent.

We can all agree that being in the music industry takes more than being passionate about the craft. You have to be resilient in great amount and be a hard worker. For example as an female artist, when you make a music video, the focus is not purely on the music. People are looking at how well your edges were laid, your makeup or how appropriate your outfit is and a lot more.

Generally, I think being a woman in the Nigerian music scene means you’re firm enough to kick down, break stereotypes and change a narrative. Be significantly confident in yourself and work not just hard but smart. I believe that when you genuinely work hard, no one can question you.

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Cuppy: I believe there are multiple reasons for this and some are;

  1. The misconception that females are harder to work with. 
  2. The fact that we are hugely under-represented and sometimes.
  3. A little mix of unhealthy competition. 

However, I’m glad that of recent, there has been a considerable increase in the number of female collaborations.

I think now, more people have seen the magic that happens when women come together to work on a project and have decided to tap more into that. My debut EP, Original Copy features some of the most amazing female artists. I genuinely cannot wait for everyone to listen to the songs

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Cuppy: Be significantly confident in yourself and work not just hard but smart. I believe that when you genuinely work hard, no one can question you.

I’ll say that she should maximize every opportunity, look beyond the glitz and glamour and be ready to work twice as hard because nothing is ever just handed to us.

The Cuppy brand has always been about shattering stereotypes and kicking down doors. At a very early age, I knew what I wanted I went for it head on and never been intimidated by a challenge. Even if it wasn’t music, I would still be in a male dominated space. I hope my story inspires lots of young girls to live their dreams to the fullest.

There’s been a considerable amount of positive shift for us in terms of acceptance and I am glad that people are finally seeing the need for equal opportunities

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Age: 37

Occupation: ArtistE, Singer-Songwriter, Performer

Time in the industry: 15 years

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Omawumi: I think the best way to say it means for one to be resilient and to work twice as hard. It also means making an additional effort to stand out and to be in a position where you can carry people along.

Omawumi: I can’t speak for everybody, but I think as women we are very guarded and quite finicky with out craft. Sometimes, it boils down to whether you think the next woman would be able to interpret your sound. Outside of that, it also boils down to timing and that sometimes makes it easier to work with the guys.

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It’s a male-dominated industry. To catch attention, people would want to work with the guys - in the past. However, I think things are changing and you will see a lot more collaborations - between women - as we go. I might be speaking for myself, but you will definitely see more collaborations.

Omawumi: I’ll tell her to keep working and never give up. Most times, it seems like a lot of work to crack it. As women, we have to consider a lot more than the music - we have to consider the looks, our on-stage presence and performance… I would tell her to know what they’re doing and to work on their craft.

More importantly, I’d tell her to never leave the studio unless the song is perfect. It’s also important to never put out mediocre music because music are like stamps and they never really go away.

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Age: 39

Occupation: ArtistE, Singer-Songwriter, Performer

Time in the industry: 15 years

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Waje: (Laughs) It means you work harder than everyone and probably get less. It means you don’t stop - no matter how little you get. It means learning how to use your femininity without being overtly sexual.

Waje: I'll tell her to subtly use her gender against oppression, but she should work so hard till she sits on that table so the ones after her will thank her and praise her legacy.

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Waje: I don’t think collaborations between women have been scarce. I think we’ve had ore collaborations than we had in the past. We have a long way to go, but it’s a start. More women are investing in businesses owned by other women. More women are celebrating women at women-oriented concerts. One step at a time - we are getting there.

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