Nigerian singer-songwriter, Tems

The air of celebration that followed the announcement of Nigerian singer-songwriter, Tems as winner at the 64th Grammys in the Best Melodic Rap Performance category alongside American rapper Future and Canadian rapper Drake for the song ‘Wait for You’ was felt across the world.

Born Temilade Openiyi, Tems shot into international limelight with her collaborative song with Nigerian Afrobeats legend, Wizkid titled ‘Essence.’ The song was nominated in the ‘Best Global Music Performance’ category at the 63rd edition but failed to win.

Instead, Essence dubbed ‘Song of Summer in 2021’ won in the ‘R&B Song of the year’ category in 2022. In the same year, she also won the best Favourite Hip Hop song alongside Future and Drake.

This latest win is her first Grammy Award triggering different shades of reaction. From congratulatory messages to mockery of her other music colleagues in Nigeria, Tems’ remarkable win also fueled the argument over which female Nigerian is the first to pick up a Grammy in Nigeria’s history.

British-Nigerian singer, Sade Adu, was the first musician of Nigerian origin to win a Grammy in 1986 in the Best New Artist category.  Her popularity permeated the pop culture across the world and in Nigeria, a particular hairstyle, weaving with centre parting, was named after the musician. Sade was born in Ibadan and within the constitution of Nigeria, she is a citizen by birth. However, she grew up mostly in the UK. Sade is known for living a very private life and hardly grants interviews. This may explain why many young generations of music fans from Nigeria are ignorant of her status in global music. Her hit songs include ‘Sweetest Taboo’ ‘Smooth Operator’ ‘Kiss of Life’ ‘Paradise’ ‘Cherish The Day’ ‘King of Sorrow’ amongst others. Sade has not renounced her Nigerian citizenship and so, the attempt to discard her memory and legacy in music by declaring Tems as the first female Nigerian to win the Grammys is somehow disrespectful.

Back to Tems, her win triggered some netizens’ mockery of Burna Boy, who was nominated in two categories namely ‘Best Global Music Album’ and “Best Global Music Performance” which were won by Masa Takumi for ‘Takura’ album and the trio of Nomcebo Zikode, Zakes Bantwini, and Wouter Kellerma respectively. Burna Boy is famous for his boastful posts in a manner that is reminiscent of the late American boxer, Mohammed Ali. So, when he missed out on the Grammys with his globally acclaimed ‘Last Last’ album, tweeps indulged in several memes to mock him.

He was not the only one that was the butt of jokes on the internet. The Queen of Afrobeats, Tiwa Savage as well as Yemi Alade who is the first African female to be nominated for the MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs) were also on the receiving end of taunts. Rather than respond to the jokes online, both artists sent their congratulatory messages to Tems.

Tems’ win at the Grammys is yet another trailblazing entry into mainstream music for artists of Nigerian

A Young Sade

origin. It should be a moment for collective celebration and not one that should trigger an abuse of our cultural history.

-Yinka Olatunbosun, a music enthusiast writes from Lagos.



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