Celebrating Five Powerful Women in Contemporary African Music 


The music industry is one of the most demanding and challenging sectors for many women in Africa. Unlike the film production sector, the music scene is male-dominated. From the promoters to the producers, women are mostly performing artists with age boundaries to deal with.


Occasionally, these women are taunted by trolls on social media for their marital status or publicised divorces or at times, indiscretions. Still, they have to fulfil their recording contracts and for some, family duties. To make this year’s International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at ten of the most powerful women in contemporary African music.

  • Angelique Kidjo

It just feels right to put her in the number spot. Since the demise of Mariam Makeba, Kidjo had assumed the centrestage in African music. With several Grammy awards and nominations on her sleeves, this stage dynamite is blessed with a powerful voice on and off stage. The Beninese singer is a five-time Grammy award winner and a philanthropist.

  • Tems

Fans would always tie her success to her hit song with Wizkid ‘Essence’ but it took a lot of grit to get there and above that. Tems’ unusual taste made her unpopular in the studios as many producers turned her down. However, she began to produce her own songs to shatter the glass ceiling. After recording a couple of songs, she was introduced to Wizkid who fell in love with her beautiful voice. The rest is history: BET award for Best International Act, American Music Awards for Essence in the Afrobeats category and four Grammy nominations, winning one for her collabo with American rapper Future and Canadian rapper Drake. She was featured on The Woman King movie soundtrack and co-wrote Rihanna’s ‘Lift Me Up,’ an original song that earned the nomination at the Oscars.


  • Nomcebo Zicode

Most famous for her collaborative song with Master KG titled ‘Jerusalem,’ Nomcembo has joined the rank of Grammy winning artists. Having signed a record deal with Open Mic Production, she co-wrote and was featured on Master KG’s single “Jerusalema” (2019), which debuted #1 on Billboard Music charts and Apple Music charts. The song became a global anthem with many viral dance videos with the song flooding the internet.

  • Tiwa Savage

The acclaimed Queen of Afrobeats broke the norm in African music with her sexuality. It is almost a taboo for women to be scantily dressed in Africa and Tiwa repeatedly made hits songs that often came with some form of backlash. The song “Wanted” demystified her sexuality and till today, is perhaps the most provocative material ever done by a female African singer. In November 2018, Savage won Best African Act at the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards, becoming the first woman to win the category and the first Nigerian artist to sign a management and publishing deal with Roc Nation. Savage made it to the BBC’s list of the 100 inspirational and innovative women for 2017.

  • Yemi Alade

She is considered as one of the most powerful women in African music with the Nicky Minaj effect. She is a Queen but somehow some prestigious music awards had eluded her. But it’s on record that she won the MTV Africa Music Awards for Best female in 2015 and 2016 consecutively and was nominated for Artiste of the Year in 2015, making her the first female to win the MAMAs for Best female consecutively twice and nominated for Artiste of the Year. In 2015, Alade was the first African female to be nominated for the MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs) and she was nominated for the BET awards for Best International Act: Africa in 2015 and 2016. She has collaborated with many international acts including Angelique Kidjo and Beyonce.


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