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Right Notes: The Nigerian Singer On Her Own Alternative Beat

Temilade Openiyi has had a slew of recent successes and is one of the few female producers in the Nigerian music scene grabbing the attention of global stars.

“I would just sit and write about how I was feeling and the things I was going through. It could be about anything and it just came out in a poetic way. That is when I found out I had a passion for music and soon those poems became lyrics.”

In October 2021, Nigerian Afrobeats chart-topper Wizkid released Essence, which would go on to become one of the biggest Afrobeats’ songs also dominating global streaming charts. One of the magical components of Essence was the sultry vocals of Nigerian emerging artist Temilade Openiyi, known professionally as ‘Tems’.

This winner of the Best International Act at the 2022 BET Awards hails from the new movement of artistic expression in the Nigerian music scene known as Alté, meaning alternative, which is a fusion of Afrobeats, dancehall, reggae, hip hop and alternative R&B. After gaining worldwide recognition with her hit singles Mr Rebel and Try Me, Essence’s success, which was further ignited by Canadian singer Justin Bieber jumping on the remix, made Tems a household name globally.

“I had no idea my life was about to change when I did that song. Every day since then is like a dream and I am super thankful for the opportunity I have for people to hear my work on a global scale,” says Tems to FORBES AFRICA.

The 26-year-old honed her musical prowess in Lagos, Nigeria, where she was born. She moved to the United Kingdom with her parents as a child but returned home after their divorce. With no friends and a solitary existence, Tems took to writing poems as an escape.

“I would just sit and write about how I was feeling and the things I was going through. It could be about anything and it just came out in a poetic way. That is when I found out I had a passion for music and soon those poems became lyrics,” avers Tems.

With no money, Tems broke barriers by producing her own beat making her one of the few female producers in the Nigerian music scene and soon started getting the attention of global music stars like Chris Brown, Alicia Keys and Adele.

Her track-record has led to other collaborations like the recent hit single Fountains by Drake and Future as well as most recently, being featured on the official EP of the new Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie where she sings the cover of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry, which got over 172 million views in just 24 hours.

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