Category Archives: Nigeria

New Exclusive Interview With me on NotJustOk TV

Lioness Oyinbo NEA Winner Exclusive InterviewI’m so excited to present a brand New exclusive interview With me on the Nigerian Music blog NotJustOk. The interview was recorded in Dallas Texas and I talk about my love for Afrobeat, Challenges in the Music industry and my perspectives as a disabled artist. I also sing the Nigerian National anthem.

 

You can find notjustok at http://www.notjustok.com

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I’m a Nigerian/African export and proud of it!

A lot of people in Nigeria either ask, or imply that I must be big in my own country and get surprised when I say they have absolutely no clue who I am unless they’re especially interested in Afrobeat. That number in Norway is extremely small. Though the Fela tribute concert I went to in Bergen during the Felabrations indicated that if properly promoted, Afrobeat could actually get a fair following here. I noticed names of different bands being noted down on phones all around me to be looked up on Spotify, so maybe one day more than the 15 or so Afrobeat enthusiasts will know the name Lioness Oyinbo, my family and friends not counted.

 

I got discovered by Nigerians and was invited to Nigeria to develop my music. This couldn’t have happened in Norway and possibly not that easily in the UK, where I experienced that being a white Afrobeat artist was just that little bit awkward. So Nigeria was the only place I could really develop.

 

My reply to those people who ask if I’m big back home is that “I’m an African, Nigerian export” and I’m proud to say that I am. Now, I am accepted as the white Afrobeat singer everywhere, simply because I, musically speaking, come from Africa. My music is being played on all continents, but mainly on African outlets. I hope to be played on mainstream radio stations in Europe, America, Asia and Australia one day, but this is something many African artists alongside me are dreaming of. And if I were to choose between one or the other, I’d rather be on an African radio station playlist among the big names that I admire than be on a mainstream station playlist whilst the people of Africa are don’t want anything to do with my music.

 

So there you have it guys. As an artist, I’m one hundred per cent African and proud of it.

New Song: Love Me Jeje

Lioness (Feat. Chidinma) Love Me JejeOn my birthday which was two days ago, I finally released my track featuring Chidinma entitled Love Me Jeje.

Jeje is Pidgin English and means something like happily, fully, or something along those lines. The song has received really great critique and a lot of people who normally don’t like Afrobeat love this one.

I am grateful to have released my fourth single without the backing of a big label. And to have my song out there alongside big names in the industry. I have faith in this one.

The song can be purchased on iTunes
And it’s Also available on most streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, and GooglePlay and so on.

For my visually impaired readers the video is me and Chidinma performing the song while models are acting out the story. The story is about a couple who are going through hard times before things get better. I believe you die, says the girlfriend, which means I’ll trust you till the end. The video looks invissible to me even though I did include it on the post, so in case screenreader users wanna watch it, I added the link at the top.

My Naijalife part 4. What it’s like to be a blind foreigner in Nigeria

I’m going to talk about this topic from the point of view of a foreigner. If any blind or visually impaired Nigerian happens to stumble across this blog, comments would be greatly appreciated.

Before I went to Nigeria to record for the first time, I was apprehensive about a lot of things from whether this was a real deal to how I would be treated as a blind person. When I was in university, my parents used to live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I didn’t like the attitude the locals had towards me there being blind. People would randomly come up to me in the street or in shops, pat me on the head and say “God bless you dear”. My experience with African immigrants who were a generation older than me wasn’t great either. And I was accused of being possessed by “the spirit of blindness”, being too scared to allow god to heal me and a few other ridiculous and hurtful things.

Surprisingly therefore, my expectations of how I’d be treated in Nigeria were pretty low. After all, I was going to a developing country where disabilities seemed to be caused by evil spirits.

But I was positively surprised. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t referred to as ‘the blind woman’. OI was ‘the white woman’, which isn’t much better. I prefer to be referred to as Linn or Lioness, but the truth is, strangers are always gonna refer to you by your appearance. For example the man with the long beard, the girl with the square glasses etc. so I am not going to complain about that.I do it myself. Being the white woman is somehow a break from being the blind woman. My blindness takes second place. And nobody has accused me yet of being possessed by evil spirits.

I’ve had a few negative incidents, but that was mainly with my first label where the CEO, who has little education and I suspect low IQ, sent in a press release where he referred to my blindness as an “imperfection” and asked me to write a song where I “encouraged the handicapped”. Can you blame me for dumping that label? LOL. Handicapped might have been ok to say in 1856, but in 2016 it’s pretty off.

But after I changed label, I’ve had none of that. In fact, most people who meet me don’t realize I’m blind, so imagine how puzzled I got when a girl at a video shoot asked me if my leg was ok. I was holding my stylist’s arm so she must have assumed I needed physical support. Those kinds of assumptions can be quite confusing at the time. I think everyone knows I can’t see, though that’s not the case, but actually they are indirect compliments. Blindness doesn’t always come up in interviews either. But when it has come up, I’ve only had positive experiences talking about it, because blindness related questions tend to be about my blog.

The real challenge for me when it comes to being blind in Nigeria has more to do with practical matters. Public transport systems and roads are not developed, so I can pretty much forget about getting around independently. And that’s why I couldn’t live there twelve months of the year. I’m a spoilt girl who is used to going out to get what I want when I want and not having that freedom is depressing. My team is more than willing to help me with anything I may need, something I’m grateful for, but it doesn’t quite make up for lack of freedom and flexibility. Being a white woman alone in Lagos comes with its own risks, but had I been able to drive, or get around independently by other means, I would have enjoyed more mobility and freedom which would have made daily life easier.

Being a blind foreigner in Nigeria is fun and exciting as long as I am busy working and have access to a gym or a pool. But for day to day spare time living, it is just too restrictive in the long run.

My Naijalife part 3: Na this oyinbo pepper eh?

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to personally insult individuals who may recognize themselves in some of the examples. It’s just my reflections on what I think may be a very complex issue.

One thing I really admire in Nigerians is the winner attitude. “We can, we’re the best,” etc. And I find that in Nigeria, when something seem about to fail, it somehow get pulled together at the last minute in some very creative ways. I’m talking about day to day and work situations mainly.

So it’s therefore a bit puzzling to me that although there is this refreshing “we’re great” attitude, there is also a tendency to have a slightly unhealthy obsession with white people. I’ll mention a few examples.

I was talking to one of my young colleagues when he said “You white people are just a lot better than us. We just destroy things and we’re not organized like you.”

Another time, I was with the first female friend I had in Nigeria as she proudly proclaimed to her friends that “I’m busy. I’m actually with my white friend.”

The final example is quite recent. I overheard another friend’s friend asking her why she hadn’t told him I was white before we met.

In all these situations I felt a little bit awkward. Why is me being white so special? And why would anyone say they’re not as good as a white person?

I’m not new to self-criticism of my own race. I think white people as a race can be quite full of themselves and walk around as if they own the earth and anyone is supposed to serve them. But I don’t see white people as less able to be friendly than black people. And I’ve met individuals of both black, Latino and Asian people who walk around with a sense of false entitlement. So it’s not your colour that determines how nice you are. Although I can appreciate that a lot of racial discrimination is carried out by white people.

Generalizing an entire race is very dangerous. I said to my colleague who claimed all white people to be better than black people that if young people across Nigeria were thinking like that, the country would never develop to its full potential. Luckily, many young Nigerians are seeing potentials and are doing great things in the country. Some are even moving back from Europe to start businesses and that’s awesome!

Like with individuals, every people have its good and bad points. And it’s good that we’re not all the same as we can learn from each other’s differences.

When I came on to the Nigerian music scene, there were a lot of blog comments about white people coming to take over yet more things in Africa. And that Nigerians should stop worshipping white people.

I totally agree with the latter, though worship is a little bit of a strong word. But if we go back to examples two and three, where my colour seemed to be a big deal, I can appreciate that somebody would use that term. Example one is an even clearer indication of this. By the way, these people from the examples are intelligent and well educated, so I’m guessing this view on white people goes a lot deeper than just education. And I will not claim to fully understand this issue.

One thing I’ll tell everyone despite who they are is love yourself and only focus on being the best version of you. You don’t have to be your people, your country or your colour for that matter. As supportive commenters did point out, I came to Africa because Afrobeat is what I know how to do. I urge you to do the same. Do what you excel at.

Happy 2016!

I know I’ve been a bit of a stranger recently. I always have these incentives to blog regularly, but something always comes up.

Anyways, let me start by wishing you all a happy 2016. May this New Year be the year where your goals are reached and your dreams come to pass.

2015 was a great year for me. Though mostly the exciting stuff happened in the first 9 months of the year. After the NEA in September where I didn’t won my category, but still had a great time and learned a lot, and till new-years-eve, I was just in Norway working on the business side of my music career and my Forever Living business.

But at the start of this year, I went back to Nigeria again and being back was lovely. I’ve done what I think is my best project yet. A song featuring Chidinma, a very sought after female singer in the Nigerian music industry for those who’re not too familiar with afrobeat and produced by DJ Coublon, producer of the year. The video was shot by my team member and friend Hg2films. The song will soon be released and I just can’t wait to share it with you!

What I think made this project so good, was both the fact that I now have a lot more experience and better self-esteem and, in the case of the video, I had my own personal stylist, who is practically like my sister. She didn’t dress me up in anything until I understood what kind of look and style it was and she kept a very sharp eye on the make-up artists, so I got the look I wanted. And so I felt I looked better and had more control.

Having the right team around you is extremely important for everyone. But for me as a blind artist, it’s especially important because I need to have that extra level of trust. My opinions on how something looks only goes as far as what I can feel myself and that isn’t always enough in an industry where appearance is so important.

I am back in Norway now, dealing with the cold harsh winter. But though I’m known for hating snow and the cold, I’m feeling really positive right now. Spring isn’t that far away and with spring comes my birthday. And I’ll soon be travelling again for shows and promos.

I also need to work on my other business this year. And I need to focus on recruiting which I’m terrified of. But I believe in having many things going at the same time and if I want to succeed, I need to step out of my comfort zone. Easier said than done though. But I’m ready for the challenge. Hey, it’s nearly spring! The Lioness is rising!

My Naijalife part 2. Lagos salons

“Is your hair real?” I have to admit I still find that question strange, but in Nigeria I do get it from time to time. People usually ask just before they ask if they can touch my hair, or just after they’ve touched it. The reason I react surprised every time someone asks, is that everywhere else, everyone assumes my hair is my hair, though since my hair colour is not very common, I do get questions asking how much I paid for it, which are equally amusing to me.

Real hair or not though, I love going to hair salons in Lagos. I like getting braids. And though my hair isn’t yet long enough that I can just use it to get the style I want, I can use extensions. Funnily enough however, when I do that, I’ve had women come up to me to tell me how lucky I am who has so much hair naturally. The irony.

Having my hair braided at a salon is a bit of an experience if that’s not what you grew up with, which I certainly didn’t. I love having my hair done, so that alone is my reason for going there. It just feels nice to sit down while someone else takes care of it and then come out looking and feeling great afterwards.

Then, it’s the atmosphere in the salon and the strange kind of bonding that happens there. Braids take long, though I’ve been lucky since my first set of twists only took 3 hours while the box braids took 4. I’ve known girls to sit in the chair for a lot longer than that. Still, it’s longer spent in a hair salon than what I’m used to.

The TV and radio are usually on at the same time, though not always. But it creates a very interesting mix of sounds. It also makes me feel like I’m at a party. That feeling is increased by the running around and loud chatter of women and men in different languages.

Often, my hair stylists have not spoken more than basic English, so we can’t talk very much, but we bond over singing instead. The last time I had my hair braided in Lagos, me and my two stylists where taking turns singing verses and parts of choruses to every song that came on the TV. I might never meet these women again, but for as long as I was there, it felt like I was among my best friends. It was so informal and fun. And you get quite comfortable with someone when they’ve done your hair and you’ve been singing together for four hours.

It’s not just the hair part I like about the Lagos salons. I love how you can get pretty much anything done there. At least in some of the big ones. Nails, tattoos and hair for both men and women.

If you’re planning a trip to Nigeria, go to a salon and experience it for yourself. No need to get your hair done. A refreshing manicure and pedicure is enough to experience the salon mood.

I admire: Femi Anikulapo Kuti

I know. It looks so easy. Recording in the studio, appearing in the media, performing on shows, getting nominated and winning awards and have lots of fans telling yu every day how much they adore you.

Yes. There is this side to being an artist. And nothing feels more fulfilling and rewarding than, when you do these things and they go well.

But to get there, you need to work hard and take chances. Many artists before me have experienced working with dodgy labels, being rejected over and over and puzzle over how on earth to get together money for a good promo for their new single. Many artists after me will experience the same things. I am going through these things.

Though you know you’re not the only one going through these things, you can often feel really alone and isolated when you do. And it’s easy to lose faith in yourself and start a negative cycle of thoughts.

When I feel particularly down related to my career, I cheer myself up by reading, or listening to success stories of artists who are doing well now.
And who I see as my role models. One such artist is Femi Kuti. He is the son of the legendary Fela Kuti. And in my opinion, a legend himself.

I Recently came across a very lovely interview with him on youtube. Don’t let the title fool you. This is deep, personal and to me it was super inspiring.

I may not agree with every single of his viewpoints, but I share many of them and it would be a dream come true to one day work with him.

Not many, if any women is doing this type of pure afrobeat. With my soon-to-be released single, I’m going to be doing a pop version of it. But how cool wouldn’t it be to perform at at the Fela Shrine with Femi and his band?

My Naijalife part 1. Coping during the fuel strike

I love Naija! An even though I draw a breath of relief every time I come back to Norway or England with running water, electricity and chocolate brownies easily accessible, it doesn’t take long for me to start missing the chaotic crazy place that’s Nigeria. Because in all her imperfections, Nigeria is a very beautiful place where I have learned many life lessons and really grown and matured as a person. I haven’t really been able to share my experiences with my blog readers, but I figure it’s about time now.
I am amazed at the Nigerian way of adapting to tough situations. It seems that no matter what, we have to cope with it. Preferably with a big smile, some good music and a can of Origin, which is this herbal alcoholic pop. One such situation was the fuel strike in April and May. The strike was so bad, it even hit international news.

In Nigeria, there’s always a shortage of electricity. At first I thought some big boss, OluwaChukwu Muhammad (All major tribes represented) decided “On NEPA” or Off NEPA” just to entertain himself with the fact that the electricity would be turned off and disrupt what the general public were doing. Ok, so I didn’t really think it was all that simple. But it does feel that way sometimes and it’s become a joke between me and my Nigerian friends.

So when NEPA is off, we have to fuel the generators to get anything done. I hadn’t seen a generator until I came to Nigeria, although I know some crazy Norwegians with mountain cabins that don’t have electricity and running water use them. So I knew that they provided electricity to a house or apartment.

During the fuel strikes, life was tough for a spoiled Oyinbo like myself who is used to constant power every day. LOL. Since NEPA was often more off than on and since black market fuel cost four of five times as much as legal fuel, we were often left with no form of electricity. The black market fuel was also watered down and could harm cars and generators. So buying that was dangerous as well as pricey. Phones couldn’t be charged and none of us really got any work done since music production depends on laptops that couldn’t be charged either.

Going out was not possible unless we really had to since we had to save the fuel in the car to go get more fuel for the house. It was hot, because there was no air-condition and the mosquitos seemed more plenty than usual.

So, not having access to a lot offline, or non-electronic entertainment or work, I slept a lot during the worst of the crises. Although I did have some relief in a hotel for a few days where they had diesel generators and therefore air-condition and all the other comforts of electricity.

I also attended a few TV interviews during that time. And they all asked me how I coped with the strike. I replied that I really had no choice but to make the best out of it.

And there were good moments too. Because we were forced to entertain ourselves, we played with balls and skipping ropes in the compound like when we were kids. And sat outside and chatted while eating fresh pineapple.

I’m not exactly hoping to experience something like this again. But the experience taught me to really appreciate things I take for granted, got my skipping rope skills almost back to my childhood levels and that it really is easier to work with a difficult situation than against it. And I’m grateful for those lessons.