Sheyi Shay, Niniola, Simi, and Yemi Alade all had smashing successes in 2017, but only Tiwa Savage was judged as being valuable enough for any awards at the Soundcity MVP held Friday in Lagos.
Tiwa’s award was in the best female MVP category, beating her sisters named above for the sole trophy received by a lady. Everything else, from Song and Video of the Year, to New Artiste, and Artiste of the Year seemed exclusively reserved for the male acts, even if the ladies got nominated in such categories too. Simi’s name went up on the big screen and Joromi was played for the Best Pop Artiste award, but Sharon Oja had announced Maleek Berry winner, one of the snafus of what was otherwise a fairly well-organised awards show.
Like other work environments, the music industry poses its peculiar challenges to women, some of whom have to support children or keep up to the expectations of socio-cultural norms. Chimamanda Adichie would describe it as the “have ambition, but not too much” condition for engagement in public life.
And within the industry too, challenges abound that make it more difficult for the ladies to get as high as their male compatriots. We have heard more than one female artiste at one time or another point to the higher standards set for them, with respect to demands made of them and the emphasis of proving oneself.
There are factors not of the making of the industry which, as it were, place limitations on the consistency of female acts. Some would take short or long hiatuses to attend to other matters of life, an example being the one-time queen of continental soul, Omawumi, whose wedding ceremony holds today and has been away from the active scene for some time.
One way or another, the inability to have the same playing ground with all the toys available to men inhibit the quality and quantity of records a lady could put out within a given period. This would subsequently affect the chances of landing honours at award ceremonies such as the Soundcity MVP.
Award shows should not mean too much for an artiste who does music for the love of the sounds. Asa’s concerts will continue to be masterclasses for all artistes in the country, if she keeps to the standards of the past two editions. Simi’s mix of conversations with her complicated muse and her Saturday song (O’wanbe) will be regarded as treasures long after she’s dropped the microphone. And Sheyi Shay’s Caribbean touch will keep her within touching distance of established international acclaim.
Still, it would be worthwhile to start improving the opportunities for female artistes to do as much as they can as the men are given. There is a reason Adele and Taylor Swift are unmatched in awards and in the sales of their records, despite playing in a heavily male-dominated industry.