I Once Begged For Shows- Omawumi Megbele
Songstress, Omawumi Megbele, tells FUNSHO AROGUNDADE about her second album, The Lasso of Truth, what she did to rise to the top and why female artistes deserve as much recognition as male counterparts
Why did you title your new album, The Lasso of Truth?
Wonder Woman was the title of my debut album. This was a nickname someone gave me. I love it and I decided to use it as the title for my debut and it worked. Wonder Woman is a fictional character in GT comics and one of the weapons she used to wield in the comics was called the “Lasso of Truth” or the “Golden Lasso”. The lasso is a rope that is impenetrable. So when I wanted to title my second album, I chose “The Lasso of Truth” because the album is a great project.
Tell us more about the album?
It is a 12-track album and in it, many things were revealed. For example, I have a song I Go Go, which is about women silently dealing with troubled marriages. Those women wear a façade that makes people see them as happy, but deep down, they are miserable. I don’t want to encourage separation, but I want such people to know that they actually don’t love themselves by staying in such relationships. There is another song, Warn Yourself, which talks about living within one’s means. As you know, this is a country where so many things are wrong; there are no checks and balances. Recently, the federal government granted some people pardon for crimes that they clearly committed. But since I cannot question anybody, I recorded another song What A Bang Bang?, which focuses on those socio-political happenings in our country.
Why did you launch the album with a concert?
Female entertainers in Nigeria do not get the respect and recognition they deserve in spite of our efforts. I felt that one of the best ways to make my own impact felt is by showcasing my full potential to the people. So, when the opportunity arose, I began to plan that my concert would showcase the many sides of me as an entertainer–both the funny me and the real Omawumi. A lot of people wonder who really I am. I crack jokes a lot and could be a little bit crazy, but deeply, I am a very serious person. These personalities are what I displayed on stage that day.
You featured Onyeka Onwenu at your concert. What exactly is the relationship between both of you?
First and foremost, Onyeka Onwenu is one woman I tried to emulate. For her to remain graceful at her age and her music still somewhat in demand make her line worthy to be toed. I am not ashamed of toeing that line. If we have more divas of her time still alive, you would have seen them at my shows. If you listen to my music, you will discover that I try very much to make my music dynamic in a way that people who were here before me will listen and say to me that I have done well. For those who can still recollect my time at the Idols, the first song that drew people’s attention to me was Onyeka’s Ekwe. And since that time, people have been calling me “Little Onyeka”.
What would you say has changed about you and your music?
I feel that my music has become more mature than it used to be. When you listen to some of my songs, especially If You Ask Me, carefully, you will understand what I am saying as the truth. The same applies to other songs that I have written. Basically, I pass sensitive messages through my music and that shows I am more sensitive now.
With some of your recent songs, many are beginning to see you as a feminist.
Feminist is too strong a word to use, but I think that everyone should have something they are passionate about. I talk about things that I am passionate about. It would get to a point in one’s career when you are expected to do certain things. I am not a feminist, but just a woman. If I were a man, I will protect men. I have my voice and I will use it to protect everyone, especially women and children.
You also sing about rape.
Honestly, I feel all vices such as that should be harped on more. I also champion causes for cervical and breast cancer, and call for young people to be re-orientated. I try to tell them to take things easy and adopt a step-by-step approach. I believe that as musicians, we should make conscious music that would make sense to a lot of people. I am not driven by the commercial angle of our business. I want to record songs that people will sing even after I am long gone. Look at people like Mariam Makeba, Onyeka Onwenu and Majek Fashek and see how people react to their music.
What about your fight against malaria?
You need to see me dey battle those mosquitoes.
You recently toured some African countries with Mortein. How would you describe your experience?
It was splendid. I jumped at that campaign because a lot of children between one and five years, who have less immunity against the disease, are dying unnecessarily. I thought we could prevent it by cleaning our surroundings and using treated nets, which aren’t costly. There are some mosquito-free African countries and I believe we can also have that here.
What is the length of your deal with the brand?
It is still on and this year, we will also be going to Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and also spreading out to other states in Nigeria like Rivers and Ogun, among others. We are going to be sensitising people on the prevention of malaria. People need to know that malaria kills more than HIV/AIDS. It kills at least five children per day in Africa. So, we would be telling our people that it is not impossible to have a malaria-free society if people do what is required of them.
What would you say about those who view your hit song Bottom Belle as one that preaches materialism?
I believe everyone has his or her way of interpreting things. I don’t have any problem with whoever views the song from the material angle. But I was just pointing out that things have gone beyond those old ways when men used to woo ladies for long before marrying them. These days, such things are no longer in vogue. Men just want to dangle their fat wallet and the girls also care less about the wooing. That is it.
So what message exactly were you trying to pass with the song?
For every man to appreciate his woman as best as he can.
How is your daughter doing now?
She is doing really fine.
How are you coping with single parenthood?
No wahala. When I got pregnant, I told myself that I had to take things easy. And when my baby came, I told myself that my daughter would be my priority. I then rearranged myself to include my daughter in my plans. When I started out again, her nanny was always with me wherever I travelled to. There was even a time I always had her strapped to my back. She is always in the hotel room with me whenever I am out of town. My mother was also of great help, as she stayed with me for about eight months after delivery. Her dad and I ensure that she lacks nothing. If I don’t see my daughter for three days, I will feel guilty and this somehow affects my productivity. So, she gets much of the attention needed from me.
Why have you stopped taking her out?
There is no time for all that now. She has grown and goes to school. Whenever she is not with me, she could be with her grandparents or her god mother (Waje) or her many uncles and aunties. She is from a large family on both sides.
When are you going to disclose the identity of her father?
E concern you? It doesn’t really concern anybody.
Do you have plans to get married soon?
Marriage is not something one rushes into and I live by that understanding. I will never fall for the pressure of marriage because if I do and in the end something goes wrong, the same people will ask why I didn’t take my time. I don’t think it is a bad thing to take my time to understand my person before thinking of getting married.
What do you think female artistes need to do to bridge the gap that exists between them and their male counterparts?
The industry is male-dominated because our guys work hard and the women just work. It is not about our music, but our presence and that is what I am aiming at. I have heard my female counterparts complaining that promoters don’t put us on shows and all that stuff. I get irritated by this. We need to market ourselves and work very hard. I remember those days when my manager would tell me of a show coming up in two months’ time that I was not on such show. Most times, I would contact the organisers. I don’t feel too proud or ashamed to beg to be put on the show with a promise that I won’t disappoint.
By God’s grace, all these worked till I got to where I am now. But now, the female artistes are working really hard. We are going places. I commend the likes of Tiwa Savage, Waje and Chydinma. You can’t deny that they are very hardworking. And with the way things are going now, we are the ones who will be headlining shows soon.
How did you feel losing the best female vocalist award to Chydinma at the last Headies?
Without sounding egoistic, I feel awards and accolades don’t validate me as an artiste. It was not until 2009 before I won my first major award and afterwards, I won several others. Awards or no awards, I can say with confidence that I am one of the highest paid musicians in the country. I just feel that when it is time to be recognised, one will. No doubt, winning the same Headies’ Next Rated awards three years ago actually boosted my profile. At the same time, it brought a tough challenge by putting me on my toes to work harder.
What is the synergy between you and Waje?
Nothing really, it is just that we are good friends with the same values and orientation. We used to fight and play together. She has been instrumental to a lot of positive decisions that I have taken in life. And the same goes for her. Maybe people expect us to strangle each other, but that will not happen.
Do you see Tiwa Savage as a rival?
I did a song with Timaya, I No Fit Be You And You No Fit Be Me; that is the kind of person I am. I look straight without any distraction. If you do something good, I will commend you and if you do otherwise and you permit me to tell you, I will. I don’t and would never see Tiwa as a contender. Rather, I admire her guts and talent. For someone to come into the industry and achieve all that she has achieved in barely two years deserves praise.
What is music to you?
Music is a form of expression. It is a means through which I communicate.
Last year, a picture of you exposing your breasts surfaced on the social media. What actually happened?
The fact that I have small shoulders and my breasts aren’t so ugly, I tend to want to wear revealing upper body stuff. But that day, I asked my fellow artistes in same room with me if I wasn’t revealing too much of my breasts and they all answered in the affirmative. But when I looked at the mirror before leaving the hotel, I noticed that it was nearly out there and I had to tuck them back, only for me later to see the pictures of my breasts practically pouring out. It was one of my friends that would have been naughty.
Any regret about that?
No regret please.