Temilade Openiyi: The Musical Rebel
“We’re not the same. No, no”.
As sung on her hit single Try Me, Temilade Openiyi, better known as Tems is far from the typical breakout talents in the Nigerian music industry.
Even though her love for music began from age eleven, a time where she describes as having a “very quiet” childhood, it didn’t stop her from wanting to harness it, “I didn’t like to do so many things but I loved music a lot and I knew early that I wanted to develop myself in it”, she says.
Staying true to her talent and the quest to be the best, Tems took a step of faith by joining her school choir, which in one way helped shaped what her sound has evolved into.
According to her, she’s “driven by God and life” and her music, undoubtedly, comes from her soul and written, “for people who feel misunderstood and want to be free”.
Her music teacher also helped by giving her access to professional help with her music: “He exposed me to a lot of music. And that was where I really got the drive”. In addition, she learned how to play the piano, and heavily consumed everything from Asa, Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Beyoncé, and Rihanna, for their authentic emotional content.
Fast forward to over a decade, Tems now not only sings and writes her lyrics, but she also produces it as well. For what it’s worth, she can be described as the Jane of all trades and master of all when it comes to music, because when she puts all these three aforementioned specialties to work, she creates a musical masterpiece, as heard on her debut single, Mr. Rebel released in July 2019 and Try Me in August 2019. At first, listen to either of her songs, one can hear how well she engineers different chords for musical balance.
She talks about the inspiration to both lead singles saying: ‘Try me’ is a call to break free from societal, mental and spiritual bondage, it’s inspired by the need to be oneself unapologetically and standing up for what you believe in. ‘Mr. Rebel’ is a conversation between me and someone who is pretending to be strong and tough but is really indecisive and scared and I’m here to calm him down and show that I see through it all.
When asked what it is like being a female producer in a male-dominated industry, she says, “Honestly, being a female in any industry is tough. However, as a producer, I wouldn’t say that I’ve experienced a lot because I make music for myself so I’m my own competition to me. I guess the only I would say is that people don’t take you seriously until they actually see you work”.
Contrary to being tagged an alte artiste, Tems says she “didn’t ‘choose’ any genre” and is sticking to what she’s good at.”
I was making the music I make without thinking about what genre it was. Doing that would be me limiting myself. That’s why my music can easily be seen as genre fluid I think because it’s really a mix of different sounds. I make music based on my life and my experiences not so much based off other people’s perceptions or preferences. I have also tried genres from Afro-pop to reggae to dancehall to South African house to hip hop to R ‘n’ B to neo-soul.”
Even though Tems – unsigned to any record label – didn’t confirm whether or not she’ll be dropping an album soon when asked, one thing is certain – she’s all out exploring how far she can go riding solo and enjoying her freedom.
Asides being a leading vibe in the Nigerian music industry, Tems reveals if she wasn’t doing music, she would be a teacher or professor “because I like kids and I want to be part of something that involves developing minds and helping people grow”.
And when she isn’t busy creating magic in the studio, she may just be ‘enjoying a good conversation over the phone and eating’.