Where is Omawumi? Why is Nigeria’s most loved music diva absent from the scene? The last time we heard from her, she was serenading the continent with her “Timeless” album. Where is she?
Omawumi is an original; One of those rare talents that carry the art as part of their DNA. For her, music isn’t a profession. It’s a core personality trait, one that has endured and been the source of numerous highlights and many moments to cherish.
When Omawumi first announced herself to mainstream consciousness, she pulled off some of the greatest feats – making intersectional music – by finding the fusion between pop and traditional folk elements. “Belle” one of her earlier hit records had her digging into Highlife, and extracting pop with help from Flavour. Another, “If you ask me,” was a testament to reinventive fusion. She turned international burlesque arrangements into local happiness. And when you travel closer, taking in her most recent album, “Timeless,” what you will find is mastery and growth of her diverse sensibilities.
Music has always been Omawumi’s primary driver and core focus. Her debut album “Wonder Woman” happened at an earlier time when Nigeria’s sound structure was different, and there was an insistence for pop music to be more than just a vehicle for celebration. “In the music,” the debut hit record off the project, which was the culmination of her famous run on the reality TV show, Idols West Africa, was ahead of the curve.
For her second album, “Lasso” of truth, Omawumi extended her growth and sealed it with some of the most piercing songs ever released in the history of Nigeria. “Lasso Of Truth” carried the classic record, ‘If you ask me,’ as its lead single. The record became an instant smash hit, embedding itself in both pop culture, and legacy as one of the evergreen records from our industry. It wasn’t alone. “Belle,” sits up there with it as one of the greatest Nigerian pop songs ever. “Bottom Belle,” the phrase came to define the reciprocity of Nigeria romance, and the melody became the soundtrack of transactional love. You can still catch echoes of that record in today’s love songs. Although the passage of time and matter has brought changes in lingo, the symbolism of Bottom belle still stands, living on as other gifts and promises made by musicians to their love interests. Whether Gucci or Ferragamo, Prada or a romantic trip to Malaysia, love in Nigeria is tokenised and sealed with “Bottom belle.”
“Bottom Belle is a special song,” the feisty diva explained with the release. “It is my witty way of telling the story of an opinionated young Nigerian woman who wants and fully intends to enjoy her life. This is a song you’ll rock to at the local hangout, the club or even the village square!”
We are still rocking it.
For her third album “Timeless,” released in 2017. Omawumi went a different way. This time, she took it in another direction, moving from local pop to what she termed ‘exportable African music’. This sound was exemplified by the lead single, ‘Play na play,’ which featured African Grammy Award winner, Angelique Kidjo.
“That is who I am. When I go into the studio, when I want to write, the first genre that comes into my head is mid-tempo lovers rock. That’s how I write…I was brought up in a home where I listened to different genres of music, and the ones that stick are songs that are deep-rooted in African music, but also have influences of jazz and live music. I have always known that that’s what I wanted to do. I have always written in that direction.” Omawumi told Pulse.
Where previously she has worked with local producers to conform to prevalent pop waves and sound motifs, she cut out all of those voices to create music that is true to a new spirit. She teamed up with producer Cobhams Asuquo, who crafted the sounds from live instrumentation. Omawumi and Cobhams recorded with live instrumentation in Nigeria, South Africa and America, from orchestras in Jòzi to horns in Lagos and strings in Houston, and she voiced everywhere.
All of this work comes alive in her performances. Omawumi ranks as one of Africa’s best live performers. An Omawumi set is designed as an inclusive, content-heavy, and experience, that has been felt at numerous corners of the globe. It is led by her powerful vocals, with dancing and laughter. Only a few can come close to her mastery of stagecraft. And that’s why her list of stage performances are endless, and she has shared them with the most prestigious performers including Chaka Demus and Pliers, Carl Thomas, Angie Stone and Donell Jones, Angelique Kidjo, among others.
Omawumi’s silence is loud. Loud because very few can match her in quality and influence of her sound. We miss that. We miss her powerful voice belting off our stereos, we miss the incredible visuals that accompany her releases. Above all, we miss Omawumi, for all the excellence that she embodies in her art and person.
Where is our Queen? When will our musical royalty return?