Omawumi could have done better with her performance at the World Food Prize Event

We can't ignore this

Omawumi has been making music long enough to know that opinions on any artist’s output tends to ebb and flow. From her brilliant start and the warm reception for her vocals as a contestant on Idols West Africa to her songwriting’s appraisal in critical communities, terms such as “underrated” have been as overused as “genius” to describe her. Given her dime in a dozen aptitude with stage performance in Nigerian soundscape, the high praises were more than justified and have seen her grow to elite status, seemingly invincible to negative press.

But after years of building a fanbase with dozens and dozens of perfectly crafted songs, her performance at World Food Price in Iowa, America left a lot to be desired. The annual event, aimed at eradicating global hunger featured delegates and representatives from around the world. Omawumi was one of the acts invited by the African Development Bank (AfDB)’s, Akinwumi Adesina, the honourary of the night for the World Food Prize (the food industry’s equivalence of a Nobel Prize).

Because Omawumi has proven herself a decent vocalist in the past and she isn’t one to develop stage fright particularly in a hall that small, we could chalk her occasional fleet between keys as one of those off-nights that every artist inevitable experiences. The cringe, however, comes when Omawumi switches from a powerful entry with her own ballad, “The African Way”, to Salif Keita’s “Africa”, beaming all smiles in what easily turned into the most predictable ‘African’ performance ever. All due respect is given to the legacy and works of Malian Legend Salif Keita, but to discuss contemporary African music, one must analyse the music within the socio-political context of the times. Thus is could be said that the identity for popular African music artists from Salif Keita’s generation curated and created for the continent is largely a reflection of their era. Is it so hard to fathom then, that popular African music would have made more advancements nearly twenty-one years after Salif Keita recorded that song?

Omawumi is no stranger to Afrocentric themes; she’s constantly using her music to celebrate her culture. But never has it felt this watered down and deliberate—almost as though she considered it far more important to be remembered as the ‘Nigerian singer’ from far-away ‘Africa’, instead of simply being the amazing singer who caused all the bougee white people seated to lose their breaths. Even more frustrating is that before Omawumi’s set, a trio of women from Ibadan already opened the night with an authentic non-pretentious tribute to the man of the night, Mr Femi Adesina. Why then, did Omawu

mi deem it fit to brandish the African flag again with so much brazen insubstantiality on her own set?

Interestingly, much of the reaction from the internet to the video has been positive, particularly from Rubbin’ Minds Host Ebuka Uchendu who captioned a clip from the performance with well-meaning words to the singer. No doubt his intentions are pure, but he also falls victim to the same cultural hype machine that celebrates achievements and efforts over actual transcendental value. Omawumi’s slight work over the years has produced a fair number of deftly written classics, there is actually no excuse for not bringing her A-game with a more inventive setlist, or this average performance that could have been mistaken for a ‘UNICEF for Africa’ fundraiser theme song.

Watch the full video below.

Featured Image Credits: Instagram/Omawonder

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