Q&A With Wunmi, Nigerian Musician With Global Appeal, Part 2

By Ann Brown AFKI Original Published: December 31, 2014, 2:00 am
Photo provided by Wunmi/Pirineos Sur Festival

In the second of a two-part series, U.K.-Nigerian singer, dancer and fashion designer Wunmi talks to AFKInsider about how she got inspired — and made it — in Africa. If you missed part one, you can read it here.

Wunmi is a woman of two worlds. The singer, dancer and fashion designer was born Ibiwunmi Omotayo Olufunke Felicity Olaiya to Nigerian parents in the U.K., but spent most of her childhood in Lagos, Nigeria.

Wunmi’s debut album, A.L.A. (African Living Abroad), was released on the Documented record label in 2006. After this she started her own fashion line and put music on the back burner for a while. But a trip to Ghana reignited her passion for music and she decided to do a new album. With money an issue, she turned to crowdfunding to finance the CD.

Her second CD, “See Me,” which she recorded in Accra, Ghana, and Brooklyn, N.Y., will be released in  2015.

AFKInsider: What are some of your musical influences?

Wunmi: My musical influences are many. From childhood I was mesmerized by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His music created a movement and awakened the masses. He was one of the reasons I am in music. I loved listening to radio, hearing so much different music created a landscape of sounds that allowed me to daydream! From a child I loved dancing.  I loved James Brown, Michael Jackson…Moving back to London, I got into Kate Bush! She is still one of my all-time fav female artists. Then came Sade! Bjork! Then I went in search of more female artists, found Tina Turner, Miriam Makeba.

AFKInsider: How does being born in U.K. influence your music?

Wunmi: I go home to London very often. My parents, siblings, and school friends are all based in London. I feel my music is a combination of the sounds I grew up listening to while in Lagos and London. I always said that Wunmi music is a product of my English-Naija sensibility.

AFKInsider: Why do you think Nigerian music has universal appeal across genres?

Wunmi: Naija music popularity grew as Nollywood movies became huge, especially at hair-braiding salons where they were sold. Many of these movie soundtracks are popular Naija music and one could not deny the infectious catchy beats and hooks! Hear dem once and you were humming and singing dem like ring tones. The power of the hairdressers!

AFKInsider: What are some of your goals?

Wunmi: My goal for 2015 is to record my children’s album. I am also looking forward to spreading my music wider, go on another world tour.

AFKInsider: What is it like being an artist in Nigeria? Is there much support?

Wunmi: Not sure really what it is like being an artist in Nigeria ’cause I have spent my music career out in the world. However speaking with my fellow artist friends, it is like everywhere else, not easy career choice.

For a long time music and the arts was not a career choice traditional Nigerian parents approved of. So support was rarely forthcoming. This has changed somewhat but still there isn’t really a structured music business outside of the bootleg market, so artists rely on getting a hit which then leads to big sponsorships and live shows. Sadly artists like Seun Kuti, Femi, Nneka, Asa and other Nigerian artists get more shows and sales abroad than at home. Pioneers like Weird MC, who is one of the artists who paved the way for what is now called Afrobeatz, say it is rough out there. Truth be told the music industry is rough wherever you are. Only the strongest survive!

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