By BENJAMIN NJOKU
When the curtain was drawn on the premier edition of the now rested Idols West Africa reality TV show in 2007, two talents made a lasting impression on the audience.
They were Timi Dakolo and Omawumi Megbele . While Dakolo won the show, Omawumi emerged the 1st runner-up. Both talents have since become superstars in their own rights with Omawumi still igniting the fire without any inhibition.
The grit in Omawumi’s voice, which endeared the songstress to millions of lovers of the reality show has not dwindled with the passage of time. Despite several challenges, Omawumi has pulled through to stay on top of her game. Till date, she remains one of the strongest voices in the music industry.
At some point when the debate on who was the most talented female singer in Nigeria, many did not hesitate to give it to Omawumi. In spite of the threatening presence of the likes of Waje, Tiwa Savage, Chidinma and Seyi Shay on the music scene, Omawumi is still the talk of the town. The songstress created buzz with her uncommon talent, her stage craft and how she engages the audience while her performance on stage was second to none.
Her preceding two albums, ‘Lasso of Truth’ and ‘Timeless’ released after her début album ‘Wonder Woman’, remain her calling card today. Though ‘Wonder woman’ album was not as critically acclaimed as the other two albums, it was however, still a commendable body of work that set Omawumi on her path to a flourishing career that has become the envy of many.
The album was released at a time when Nigeria’s sound structure was different, and there was an insistence for pop music to be more than just a vehicle for celebration. In the music industry, Omawumi made the difference with her unique sounds and her voice became the quintessential sound that many crave for. She has recorded several other hits that would surely write her name in the annals of contemporary Nigerian music.
For many, Omawumi represents two things; hard-work and determination. Aside being described as an epitome of creativity, Omawumi is reputed for making inter-sectional music by finding the fusion between pop and traditional folk elements. ‘Belle’, one of her earlier hit songs featuring Flavour which resonated with millions of fans across the world, had her digging into Highlife and Pop. It was the same story with ‘If you ask Me’ which was a testament to re-inventive fusion.
Omawumi has also turned international burlesque arrangements into local happiness. This was evident when she launched her second album, ‘Lasso Of Truth’, which was a commercial success. The grooving atmosphere that pervaded the event in 2013 is still fresh in the minds of those that graced the colourful event.
The talented singer at a point disappeared totally from the scene. The silence her disappearance created was loud because only few musicians could match her quality and influence. She however manages to stage a comeback in 2017, with a brand new single titled ‘Without you’. The song served as the lead single to her recently released album ‘In Her Feelings’, which is her fourth album in 10 years and follow-up to her previous album ‘Timeless’ also released in 2017. The album was a reflection of the singer’s mastery and growth of her diverse sensibilities. A cross-section of songs offers an insight into Omawumi’s state of mind on issues of love, politics, personal struggles, life goals, emotional awareness and abuse.
Released in June this year, fans commended the collage of songs and various reviews have given glowing reports about album.
But the question on everyone’s lips is : would this album put Omawunmi back on track ? With the likes of Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Seyi Shay, Teniola, taking the centre stage, is it possible that Omawumi still has what it takes to stand out as as a singer with enviable track record. Tiwa Savage is presently the reigning lady of song, and she’s obviously not ready to come off the horse of the hottest Nigerian female singer and the most bankable at all times. With her Sugarcane EP , a mini-album released last year and hit songs upon hit songs laced with great collaborations, Tiwa has continued to show her dexterity and the uniqueness of her golden and ‘million-dollar’ voice texture. All eyes are now on Omawumi with hope that she could emerge from behind to outwit Tiwa Savage’s creativity.
Back in time, Omawumi ranked as one of Africa’s best live performers. An Omawumi set is designed as an inclusive, content-heavy, and experience, that has been felt at numerous corners of the globe. It is led by her powerful vocals, with dancing and laughter on stage. Only a few can come close to her mastery of stagecraft. And that’s why her list of stage performances are endless, and she has shared them with the most prestigious performers including Chaka Demus and Pliers, Carl Thomas, Angie Stone and Donell Jones, Angelique Kidjo, 2Face Idibia, M.I., P Square among others.
Music critics are hopeful that since Omawumi got signed to Cabal Entertainment co-owned by entertainment executives, including Obi Asika and Chris Ubosi, the owner of Beat FM, Classic FM and Naija FM, the stage is set again for the elite vocalist to return to reckoning.
If she must reclaim her place in the Nigerian music scene, Omawumi must surely return to the drawing board and try to keep up with the deeds that once brought her to the top. Most of her recent songs have not been commercially successful. Though she has produced some of the finest and most interesting work of her career, she still risks alienating core audiences who are used to the friendly Afro pop sounds of her past works.