Tag Archives: Lagos

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 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.

Blindness is NOT an imperfection!

My first single Let’s go party is out! I can’t quite believe it’s happened. But it’s on music blogs all over Nigeria, even Ghana and people have been sharing my video from Norway to England to Australia. It will soon be available on iTunes and other digital platforms, but I’ll announce that when it happens.

This is the least serious of my songs. And what you will hear from me in the future will sound less pop, and more, hmm, serious is not the right word, but never mind. You’ll hear it when it comes. Still, this is my first baby and I’m very proud of it. The song puts me in a good mood and will hopefully do the same to you.

My dream has really come true and this is just the very tip of the iceberg. The only bad thing I feel deserves a mention, is how the music blogs talk about me. Firstly they state my blindness. Fair enough. But then they go on to say that “She has always had a passion for singing and performing despite her imperfection”.

I don’t know about you. But this is both insulting and patronizing. Why, first of all, does blindness have to be called an imperfection? It’s at times an inconvenience, but imperfection?!

And why should I have a passion for singing and performing DESPITE this so called imperfection?
I don’t know if this is a cultural matter. But I do wish that whoever fed the bloggers my bio wouldn’t have added that bit. Or, I wish at least, that the bloggers would have the presence of mind not to include it in the brief. But I blame whoever wrote the brief. It was nasty and hurtful and a stinging insult. It forces me to speak up about blindness and how positive I am, when instead, I would have liked to let my personality and character speak for itself on those matters.

And I believe that the pending interviews and promoting I’ll be doing in the months to come will show people that there is no imperfection and no despite of. And the brief writer’s words will be an empty patronizing echo from the past.

But, I am happy. I am grateful for having the opportunity to work with my music and release it, despite the imperfection of the press brief. (See what I did there?)

In case your sight is as bad as mine, I can tell you that the video is a dance video shot on a boat in Lekki which is a very beachy area of Lagos. In one scene, I’m on a bed, but in the others I’m dancing at a party. I’m mostly sitting down. There are lots of people around. Men and some video chicks. The latter are all over my singing partner Lace. I don’t have that much male attention, but that will change in my next video. I have been assured though that I look very elegant in a black and white short dress and big straw hat.

You can listen and watch here:

Nigeria Baby!

I am writing this from my bedroom in Nigeria! And let me tell you, my life has changed quite a lot over the past three months in ways I didn’t think possible. If somebody had told me a year ago that I’d be the first white female artist to sign with a Nigerian music label, I’d tell them they were crazy, although I’ve always dreamed of establishing myself in Africa.

I’m not sure where to start really. But as well as being a writer and want to make a living out of that, I am also a singer and if I had the chance to do both, I would do both. My writing is going pretty well these days with my freelancing and I’m even working on my first novel. But my music career was a dream I’d pretty much put on the shelf. That was until I met my current manager whose nickname is Slim-Fit.

One day, I was actually on a job In Wales; I received an e-mail from a guy in Nigeria who really wanted to get to know me more, because he had a record label and was interested in me musically. He’d found me on twitter where my good friend Oly, who had just came back in my life, and who persuaded me to give music one more try, had set up a souncloud page where I’d put out a reggae demo which I again put on twitter.

We got talking. And to make a potentially long story very short, after months of getting to know each other and building a close relationship, I decided to take the risk and go over to Nigeria. It’s a country I’ve always wanted to visit, because I am fascinated by a lot of the culture coming from there. Some of the world’s greatest intellectuals, such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka hale from there and Nigeria also has a booming music industry. I happen to rather like Nigerian music and since my areas of music would be reggae and afrobeat anyway, it was the perfect place to go. A lot of people said that a potential manager should have come to Europe to see me. And that would have been great, but circumstances were not permitting of that, plus it would just make more sense for me to come to him.

But of course, I did have a lot of doubts. 419 scams ring a bell for you? Well, I was pretty sure I wasn’t about to fall victim to one. But the worries some of my closest friends had, rubbed off on me. And with all the stuff now happening in the north of the country, I just wasn’t sure if it would be safe. And, there was the additional thing, blindness. Was I, a blind Western woman really going to be safe going to Nigeria by myself?

As you can imagine, I had a lot of questions, no real and certain answers and after I revealed my plans, heaps of worried friends and family. But I chose to go in the end, because I was convinced that this was a real opportunity after having done a little bit of detective work. And my foster parents were 100% supportive as long as I promised to text or call them every day.

And here I am. I have already recorded 4 tracks, two of which features Nigerian A-list celebrities. Slim-Fit is also a great manager. A much bigger man than I anticipated. Not really in stature, otherwise the nickname wouldn’t fit, but in standing. He is well respected and I can definitely tell that being an artist under this label is going to be a very enjoyable thing for me.

The blindness thing is not so much an issue yet, and maybe it won’t be. I have only been here a week and I’ve only interacted properly with my manager, producer, general friend and driver and the two other artists, all of whom I share a house with in Akure in the South-Western part of Nigeria, far away from Boko Haram and alike. The other people I’ve met, such as my manager’s family members, the company lawyer and bank staff have all been very nice to me and I don’t feel pitied like I have felt sometimes in foreign countries.

The work is hard, but when you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. I only notice in the evening when I’m exhausted. But it’s exhausted in a good way. There are many other perks as well. Hanging out at A-list celebrity’s houses in Lagos, getting VIP tables in the night club and just being here, recording, realizing my second dream!

I realize this is a very messy update. But I’ll be more specific in later posts about different aspects of life here. I’m gonna be here till mid-October this time, but I’ll of course be back once my work permit is cleared with immigration. And then, the whole crew will be moving to Lagos which I really can’t wait to do! So many beaches and other things to explore. Plus, it’s where it all happens!

In the meantime, I want to let my readers know, I’m as safe and happy as I could be!