This week on Inside Africa, CNN International meets some of Nigeria’s most popular and highly successful female DJs who are challenging the status quo at home and abroad.
DJ Switch, one of Nigeria’s most high profile female performers who rose to fame after winning The X Factor in 2013, describes the modern music scene in Nigeria: “It’s predominantly filled with men. A lot of them are just scared, to be honest, of what a woman could potentially do. I am being really frank on this issue. There are very few male DJs that are happy to see you. In my experience, I’ve only met one here in Nigeria and I’ve met a lot outside Nigeria who tell you, ‘Wow, what you did is great. I want to learn what you did. Can you show me that?’ They don’t look at [your] gender.”
Brought up in a liberal family, she considered working as a geologist before deciding to follow her heart and take up DJ-ing: “I never had a mentor. If I had a mentor, it probably would have been easier. So getting into the industry, I just feel it was God’s plan. I’ve worked really hard. I’ve done it on my own.”
While there is more support for female DJs in Nigeria today, some artists have decided that giving themselves a base outside their country might present them with greater opportunities. DJ Cuppy, who is arguably Nigeria’s highest profile DJ, explains why she has chosen to base her company, Red Velvet Music Group, in Shoreditch, London: “For me it’s amazing being outside Africa because I get to play African music. It’s all about advocacy, making sure that people are aware of the beautiful sounds.”
DJ Cuppy explains how her company works to support women: “I have an all-female African team. It’s amazing. Young females doing what we’ve been told we can’t do. I really feel like women are very, very powerful. I had to leave Nigeria to realise my power because a lot of times as a woman, you are constricted to what you can do and what you can achieve. I feel like, because of what I’ve been able to achieve outside Nigeria, a lot of young Nigerians are now taking the same risks and Nigeria is modernizing.”
She goes on to describe why she has faith that African women will succeed in breaking barriers: “I feel like women are really taking things to the next level, because of our attention to detail. I will tell you for a fact, I think African women are some of the strongest individuals in the world. We just have this spirit [and] our consistency is so commendable. I feel like that’s being reflected in music. We have amazing women around the continent. I love how, in Africa, age, personality, looks, is not used against you. I do feel like the international music industry is a bit hostile.”
DJ Cuppy describes her love for performing and why she hopes she can inspire other women to also realise their dreams: “When I stand behind the decks I feel like a brand new person, I forget about everything, it’s an escape. Music is so powerful and I feel so lucky because I get to make people feel good in a world full of many issues. And as a woman, I want people to see me and think, ‘If she can do it, I can.’ Typically, when a lot of us grow up in Nigeria, we’re told if not to be housewives, we’re told to be doctors and lawyers. I feel like my brand is speaking of a rebellion movement, where we’re saying, ‘You know what? Women can do this as well.’”
DJ Cuppy tells the programme that although Nigeria has made progress in recent years, there’s still much that needs to be done: “I like to believe that I am helping to change this male domination, but we have a long way to go. I think it’s not only in music. I often compare myself to a female pilot. DJ-ing and being a pilot are two very male dominated professions. I do feel like people don’t have a lot of faith. It’s something that we have to constantly fight. Not to get cliché, but there is a glass ceiling and a very high one. It does take a lot of time. I do feel like we need more Cuppys, and that’s why I encourage females to believe they can do what they want to do.”