Gender bias or queer issues? | Temmie Ovwasa’s experience at YBNL suggests the industry has a long way to go on inclusion

The recent boom in the number of female music stars seemed to have quelled some growing agitations on female marginalisation.

Now, more than ever, female superstars are in surplus in the entertainment industry. From Tiwa Savage, Teni, Niniola to Omawumi, Yemi Alade and Simi, the Nigerian music industry has the capacity to organise an all-day music fest which will feature only women. Tems is another growing star who, after her debut music project and appearance on Wizkid‘s Made in Lagos album, has been tipped for musical greatness.

Despite the apparent good time for the female folks in the industry, especially when it comes to achieving equality on a gender basis, the picture painted would only seem to paper the cracks of the underlying challenge.

Former YBNL recruit, Temmie Ovwasa, is the latest artiste to point fingers in the direction of gender partiality in the music business. She was snapped up by YBNL boss and popular rapper, Olamide, in 2016 and hopes were high as to what she was bringing to the table. For a label which had never had a feminine presence, it was also an opportunity to change the narrative of being a mafia of males. 

More than four-and-a-half years after, Temmie Ovwasa said she could only point to four songs and four videos as the only projects YBNL allowed her to do. Fireboy joined YBNL much after Temmie but has left her way behind and is the poster face for the record label. Olamide directed Fireboy’s album and Temmie would have expected a similar show of support given that she joined earlier. 

Two months after her exit from YBNL, the 24-year old released her debut album, E be like say them swear for me, which suggests that her inactivity at YBNL was not down to lack of content but for some other reasons.

One of such reasons would be her position on sexuality. Temmie has been unapologetic about her maiden music project, flaunting it that it is the first gay album in Nigeria.

In case you missed it: Review: Temmie Ovwasa’s debut album is irreverent and unapologetically gay

In launching his latest album, Carpe Diem, Olamide revealed that his music outfit has already been perceived as ‘razz’ and he wishes to correct the impression. He added that he initially didn’t want to ‘taint’ Fireboy’s image but it was Fireboy who insisted on having him direct the Apollo. Badoo would have deemed that adding queer to razz was too much for him to bear, and Miss Ovwasa would have been her unapologetic self.

Another would have been her gender and attendant perception. Weeks ago, on Ebuka Obi-Uchendu’s Blackbox, Tiwa Savage made a rather stunning revelation that she still experiences unfair treatment due to her gender. And if the acclaimed ‘queen of Afrobeats’ could still have such experience, then Temmie may be experiencing same.

Apart from the well-documented gender bias in the industry, for Olamide, competition is fierce among the talents on his books and Temmie didn’t enjoy the rather instant success Fireboy did. Meanwhile, his own career is also on the line as he pushes to achieve success as an artiste and as a music executive. 

The end result is that a teenager who left Ilorin with her hopes held high is rather starting all over again and this time as an independent artiste. From antecedent, stars such as Omawumi, Niniola as well as Tiwa and Simi to a reasonable extent, had to go independent of major labels when finding their feet in the industry. 

Not just for YBNL but all music labels and stakeholders in the country who see just having just one female artiste as standard practice, the journey to female inclusion remains a long one, let alone queer artistes.

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