Tag 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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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.

“Your swag’s African girl.”

I was waiting to take the subway home when someone came rushing towards me, shouting my name and through herself around my neck to give me a massive bear hug. It took a few seconds to recognize her. My own little sister. You might be wondering how I would struggle to recognize the person I know best in the world. But it’s easy. I didn’t expect to see her there and then. I recognized her fast enough, but since I didn’t think I’d see her, my ears weren’t tuned in properly.

This happens to all of us. Sighted or blind. We don’t see or hear at once what we expect to see or hear in places we don’t expect it… And in different contexts, what we actually see and hear isn’t exactly what we see and hear. So we can be easily fooled or tricked.

I had an experience like that in New York which was actually quite fun and amusing.

During my time there, I hung out exclusively with West Africans. Quite natural really, since I was there for the Nigerian Entertainment awards. We went clubbing quite a bit in relation to this award. And one question my friends got asked a lot was “Is this girl white, or a light skinned Nigerian?” Nobody asked me that directly, but I did get a few questions about where in Nigeria I was from. I told them I was proudly Lagosian LOL. My friends also told whoever asked them, that I was a light skinned Naija girl.

I loved being taken for a Nigerian. But it did baffle me somewhat. I was quite tanned at the time and I have curly hair with a texture some mixed race girls have got, which were in cornrows at the time. I also speak Pidgin English a lot when I hang out with West Africans. But how can anybody mistake me for anything other than white with my blue eyes, hair colour and Oyinbo nose?

So when I met a Ghanaian American artist to feature on his single on my final full day in New York, I asked him why I was taken for an African. His reply was interesting. “Your swag is African girl.”

What he meant by that, is that though you look at me and clearly see a white girl, the way I speak, my mannerisms and the setting makes me appear African. There were white people at the events, though they were a minority. But there were a lot of Jamaicans. A nationality I could get away with more easily as white Jamaicans exist.

I’m not sure I totally get the whole thing about the African swag, though I can only relate it back to not expecting to see something, in this case a white girl, in a majority Nigerian setting who behaves like a Nigerian, whatever that means A bit like me not thinking immediately the girl so excited to see me was my sister. But I don’t care. The koko for this post is that I be proudly African, Nigerian sef. Even if it’s honorary.

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!

Why I love and identify with L’Occitane en Provence

Disclaimer: L’Occitane is not paying me to write this post. I do it out of love and gratitude.

L’Occitane en Provence is a French personal care, beauty and cosmetics brand founded in 1976 by Olivier Baussan. However, in those days it was a far cry from the International stores which are so popular today. In fact, Olivier Baussan started his business selling essential oils in an open air market in Provence. The first actual store opened in 1978 in Provence and in the 1990s L’Occitane saw International expansion. Today L’occitane shops can be found in over 90 countries in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

The products are organic, not animal tested and plant based except for beehive products that are used in the manufacturing process. L’Occitane is also practicing traditional ways of cultivating and harvesting ingredients and in the making of the products themselves.

Most ingredients are sourced directly from Provence though the popular shea butter series containing shea butter is purchased directly from women groups in Burkina Faso as Fair Trade.

I love L’Occitane for several reasons. First of all, the products are nice and my skin loves them. And using them makes me feel beautiful and refreshed.

Secondly, L’Occitane makes their products accessible to blind people. I remember the first time I was in a L’Occitane store in London getting quite emotional because picking up a product and being able to read what was inside it was a completely foreign and beautiful experience to me.

Thirdly, I support what the L’Occitane foundation (La fondation D’Enterprise L’Occitane) is doing. Namely to support visually impaired people and the economic emancipation of women.

L’Occitane works with NGOs to reduce avoidable blindness, particularly, but not exclusively in Burkina Faso. But they also do other things to empower visually impaired teens, such as running perfume schools every year for visually impaired teens from all over the world in Provence. If only I had known when I was a teenager…..

I have always loved the brand because of their accessibility efforts, but I’ve only recently started using it for almost every part of my beauty routine. I wasn’t aware of just how good all the products where, how much the company supported causes I have passion for and I thought it the price tag was high. However, having recently been to an L’Occitane members evening at the L’Occitane store in Oslo, I found out that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Plus I really don’t mind my money going to this company.

I also like the friendly treatment I received from the L’Occitane staff at this member’s night. They advised me on what my skin needed Rather than telling me I needed a million products because they needed to sell. I came away with a lot of shea butter products.

As an artist who works in Africa, is blind and working on setting up a foundation to help blind people in Nigeria with education tools, L’Occitane is the kind of company I dream to one day be one of the faces of.

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.

My biggest Challenge as a white artist in Nigeria is…

When I give interviews in Nigeria, I often get asked if I face any challenges being a white artist. I reply that I have been received with open arms and hearts and that people don’t seem to see my colour. And I stand by that. However, after a really silly disagreement with a makeup artist, I realize that I do face one minor, but nonetheless annoying challenge being a white artist in a black music industry.

It’s got to do with makeup. A very common phrase among my friends back in Norway and the UK is
“You did look amazing in that photo shoot/video. But can’t they give you a better foundation? You look paler than normal.”

Though a minor thing, I do find it frustrating when I learn that more often than not, I have been given a lighter skin tone than I give myself when I apply my own makeup.

I have come to understand that the makeup artists, who style me, don’t do this out of malice. More than anything, it has to do with unfamiliarity with skin colour. Unless you are a real pro with lots of experience making up different people, choosing foundation and powder for someone who has a different skin colour to yourself is a challenge. That goes both ways. I think it’s hard for a white person to find a perfectly matching foundation for a black person and vise versa.

We all have skin overtones and undertones. And the two don’t always match. The overtones in your skin is what people can see with the naked eye, while the undertones may not really reveal itself until we’re talking about cosmetics.

A black person can have dark overtones, but light undertones, while a white person can have fair overtones and dark undertones. Two people with the same looking skin may need completely different makeup because of the undertones.

I have a friend who, at a glance looks as if she has the same skin colour and makeup needs as me. So, we went out to buy makeup one day, and she gave me the same bronzer she used. Only I used up mine in six weeks whereas hers lasted a year. It wasn’t a cheap bronzer and I was frustrated at the crazy amount I had to dump on my face for it to even show. So we pondered over this for a while until she came to the conclusion that I needed to go two shades darker as well as a slightly different colour. Her undertones are blue. Mine are yellowy brown.

So I went and got a quite brown bronzer which is still going strong after almost daily use for a year and nine months. And it looks natural on me.

But it was this brown bronzer that got me discussing with a Nigerian makeup artist.

This was a very unprofessional girl to start with. She knew she was going to work with a white girl, but had seemingly made no preparations for it, so asked if I had bronzer. I am getting used to this situation, so luckily I had brought it with me. I also wanted to make sure I got the right colour skin this time. However, she thought it was way too dark and complained that I didn’t have anything lighter., to which I replied that if my daily bronzer was too dark for her, I found it strange and that I wouldn’t use anything lighter.

I think the reason for this misunderstanding was her unfamiliarity with me as much as her preconceived idea of what white skin is. I know I was the first white person she ever made up, so perhaps she had ideas of white powders and pink colours. She’s not the first and she won’t be the last.

Likewise, the average white person has preconceptions of what black skin is and thus what makeup black people should wear.

But it’s not all bad news. As I said previously, true professionals have no issues with colour. I have had two amazing black stylists. And one of them hadn’t even met me before making me up. And they got it right. The fact that one was Canadian African and one African American may have helped since they were used to seeing and working with a greater variety of skin colours.

It’s not as if the Nigerian ones got it all wrong though. Lipstick, eye shadows etc. is not that colour bound. And if I don’t get light strawberry pink on my face, I usually look okay. It’s just the foundation that tends to go wrong.

Funnily enough, once when they did get it right, someone in Nigeria commented on one of the music blogs and said they hoped I wasn’t trying for a coloured gimmick. A la Rachel Doleza.l Hilarious!

Solution: When in doubt, ask. I may not be the makeup stylist. But I know my skin enough to know what works as the base. And with that, I hope for no more foundation and bronzer mishaps again.

And as long as that’s my greatest challenge as a white artist in Nigeria, I really can’t complain. Because my fans, you are lovely and I love you!

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!