Thursday, 8 November 2012

Differentiate or Die: The story of Omawumi Magbele

Few weeks ago I was with my BFF as he lamented the poor performance of Nigerian artistes at Basketmouth’s latest show held in London in August. He was particularly angry that he’d bought a ticket to watch Nigerian Artistes lip-sync at that event. For a Britico like him, it was big deal, for a Nigerian like me who’s seen this over and over again, it wasn’t. Although I shrugged it off, it doesn’t make it right. On the contrary, it is very sad that we have so many artistes who are acclaimed to have gone ‘international’, go on tours yet perform over a playback CD and get paid handsomely. It is simply criminal!

I do take a moment to however recognise several other great talents like Omawumi Magbele, Asa, Dare Art Alade, Timi Dakolo and others who are true artistes and clearly belong to a different league because they learnt the ropes. Today’s post celebrates Omawumi Magbele, a true artiste who knows what it is to perform with the full complement of a band. A proudly Nigerian artiste whose concert tickets are their money’s worth.

I have followed her right from her audition at West African Idol about five years ago, and as marketing people say, Omawumi was top-of-my-mind after the audition because she sang my favourite of Christiana Aguilera’s songs - Infatuation. Thereafter, she put up a great show and emerged second place at the Idols competition. After her launch to stardom, I had my first physical encounter with her at a Malta Guinness launch event. She had done a theme song for the brand and performed it at that event. Her voice was strong and she sounded even better than she did on TV. Her stage presence was also superb.

As a young marketing executive several years ago, I read an article titled: Differentiate or die. The gist of the article was the need to clearly standout and carve a niche as a business. Omawumi has done just that with her music.

From her first single ‘In the Music’ with a beat which had a South African tinge, Omawumi has continued to up the ante. But what has struck me most about her in recent times is her ability to make the ordinary the extraordinary, and her decision to sing in Pidgin English without any apologies. Call it her strategy; it is certainly paying-off. She’s entertaining but beneath it all, she communicates a distinct message.

Talking about turning the ordinary to the extraordinary, “If you ask me…” is an ordinary phase but Omawumi has made a hit track of it; Bottom belle I’m told is a re-make of an old highlife song which connects with our parents, and Kpamurege which she used in that song is a word we played with in primary school…

Like it or not, Pidgin is our unofficial lingua franca. Some people fane ignorance and would rather speak English with a fake British or American accent, but not Omawumi. She has a proudly Nigerian identity and she is not ashamed of it.

 I acknowledge that it is important to speak Queen’s English as it is our official lingua franca and Omawumi certainly does. English makes you a citizen of the world; but Pidgin, makes you a citizen of Nigeria.

No female Nigerian artiste rocks the Ankara like Omawumi, she is proudly from Warri and I celebrate her for flying the proudly Nigerian flag. And guess what, it certainly pays-off to be; it is the best career accelerator in the Nigerian entertainment industry.  If you doubt it ask artistes like Iyanya, Djinee and others whose break didn’t come until they went Pidgin or local.

To succeed in business in Nigeria, remember that it is a game of numbers, and the numbers are at the bottom of the pyramid - the Pidgin English speaking people. Marketers say “KYC” – Know Your Customer. Omawumi certainly knows them.

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