Tems’ Grammy, another leap for Nigeria
The recent Grammy award conferred on singer and rapper Temilade Openiyi, popularly known as Tems, has once again proven the authentic Nigerian youth power. Coming amidst perceived retrogression and hopelessness in Nigeria, the award testifies to the quality of the true Nigerian youth who has refused to be hoodwinked by the chaos and confusion that have bedevilled the country. Tems, who earned this first Grammy for the Best Rap Melodic Performance for featuring alongside Drake on Future’s ‘Wait for You,’ deserves to be cited, if not celebrated, as another example of Nigerians who have transcended what Nigerians can do with little motivation.
With this prestigious award, Tems, who got a nomination last year but did not win, joins the list of illustrious Nigerians and Nigerian descents, who set the pace with their Naija spirit. If Nigeria claims the Ibadan-born, British of Nigerian descent, Helen Folasade Adu (Sade Adu), then the first Nigerian Grammy Award win would go to her. The Ibadan-born Sade Adu earned the first of her four Grammy awards in 1986 for the “Best New Artiste.’’ Another Nigerian-British singer and songwriter, Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel, popularly known as Seal, also has four Grammy awards from 14 nominations. His 1994 epic song, “Kiss From A Rose,” earned him three Grammy awards in 1996. The Nigerian-American rapper, Hakeem Temidayo Seriki, stage-named Chamillionaire, won a Grammy award in 2007 for his song, “Riddin”, under the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Others include Lagos-born Lekan Babalola, a Nigerian jazz percussionist and musician, who has two Grammy Awards won in 2006 and 2009; Sikiru Adepoju, a Nigerian percussionist and recording artist, who has had two Grammy awards in 1991 and 2009; Kevin Olusola, a Nigerian-American musician, beatboxer, cellist, rapper, record producer, singer, and songwriter, whose vocal band, Pentatonix got the Grammy Awards three different times (2105, 2016, 2017); and Cynthia Chinasaokwu Erivo, a Nigerian-English actress, singer and songwriter, who got a Grammy in 2017 for the Best Musical Theatre Album. Lately, apart from Burnaboy (Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu), who earned a Grammy in 2021, two other Nigerians got theirs from featuring in Beyonce’s ‘‘Brown Skin Girl.’’ These include, British of Nigerian descent, Jenn Nkiru, who co-directed “Brown Skin Girl’’ and singer and songwriter Wizkid (Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun).
For many years, hardworking Nigerians, including those in the neglected entertainment industry, have become winners through painstaking personal efforts and resources, sheer commitment and unwavering tenacity. In times like this when the heat from rapacious partisan politicking seems to be bringing out the worst in Nigerians, it is gratifying that this recognition has come from the other extreme of social life, that is, the entertainment industry. Amidst continuous denigration of this aspect of our national life, (recall a sitting governor referred to a presidential aspirant as a Nollywood actor), the entertainment industry has remained the surest unifier of the country.
Indeed Tems’ Grammy success is an indication that, given the right leadership, provision of necessary facilities and an enabling environment, Nigerians can do better. For a 27-year old, who has decided to remain a Nigerian brand while her peers are amassing resources to migrate, Tems is an encouragement to other Nigerians, irrespective of their areas of human endeavours or disciplines. She is a testimony of the reward for impassioned commitment and relentless pursuit of lofty dreams. She and her likes are an attestation of the audacity of hope.