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Temmie Ovwasa: My Battles With Mental Illness, Being A Queer Woman And My Music

Temmie Ovwasa - Temmie Ovwasa: My battles with mental illness, being a queer woman and my music
Temmie Ovwasa:

Words ranked higher than any precious stone for me, it has always been this way and will remain this way. Growing up, I quickly discovered just how much I loved words, they were my safe haven as being the shy, 6-year-old who was always in her head, I found solace in putting pen to paper which was why I repeatedly wrote essays on the title ‘Write an essay about yourself’. I found out I could write and use my words to describe how I wanted to be perceived or whomever I felt like being at that point; I barely needed friends, I was content being in my head and just penning down words. I could paint whatever I wanted with words, this was my power and as the universe has permitted, it still is.

As I grew older, I discovered my love for words started waning, and in no time, I was blocked. There were days I’d have my writing pad and a pen, and not even a word would slip out from me. Soon, I began to retreat into my ever cozy shell and in no time, an abusive relationship with words was formed. I couldn’t find a balance, I knew nothing about tuning into your higher self at that time and so, the power I once had over words was lost.
Over the next couple of years, I basically wandered around the world, purposeless, powerless and lost. A few times, I managed to rise above the drowning waters but of course, my wins never lasted that long. Rather, I drowned deeper and the tides swallowed me, only allowing me to come up for air a few seconds a day.

Joining the music industry in 2016 as a writer with TooXclusive, this loss of power became stronger as not only was my soul lost and barely surviving, I was consistently abused by the array of records being churned out. As artists during that period felt the need to move with the crowd and spew toxicity in the name of music. That period was not all bad as every now and then, relief came via one or two acts who knew exactly what music was all about, I am thankful for those acts.

Let’s take a little detour, I grew up in the 80’s in Festac town. Naturally, I was exposed to some great music and sounds. The 90’s saw me dancing to the likes of Onyeka Onwenu, Sunny Ade, Christy Essien, Sunny Okosun, Shina Peters, Adewale Ayuba. Then came the era of Fela, and I got introduced to the world of African China, Plantashun Boiz, OJB, Essence, Kween, Weird MC, Bouqui, Sasha, and the list goes on. So yes, I grew up with some dope music around me.

While I was being mentally assaulted by many of the songs that came out during my time with TX, my path and Temmie’s crossed. I remember the first time I listened to her music, all I kept feeling was: “she can sing but is refusing to ‘sing’.” It almost felt like I could tell she was suffocating underneath the whole ‘princess’ persona that was created to fit the brand which the label wanted to showcase. I could feel the fear, uncertainty and pain in her quivering vocals on ‘Jabole’, there was a voice trapped in there waiting to be freed and yes, she emerged eventually! Fast-forward to 2020, my spiritual awakening started and the universe, of course, has once again, brought me and Temmie here today, a coincidence? I think not!

The last few months have seen me connecting to my higher self, finding the voice that refused to be heard back then, repairing my relationship with words and just falling in love with life. This is the first time in years, I am writing, this is the first time Enitan, that little shy, quiet, and misunderstood 6-year-old is awakening once again. She tried at age 16 but was told she was just confused so she retracted into her shell. However, she is back and she is in a healthy relationship with words now and will only say the truth or as directed by the spirits.

My name is Enitan, I am a writer and I am passionately in love with words.

On November 29th, 2020, Temmie Ovwasa will launch an extensive 12 track album, her debut album titled ‘E Be Like Say Dem Swear For Me.’ She sat down with writer Enitan for this candid interview, where we covered love, self-love, sexuality, mental health, faith, creativity, and success.

Temmie Ovwasa
Temmie Ovwasa

Blessed with an array of gifts and talents which include singing, composing, poetry and art, Temmie has chosen to use her gifts to not only entertain but also inspire, and she is doing both simultaneously. With her great storytelling skills, divinity, and resolve to live truly, the 23-year-old multi-faceted musician has created a project so profound its power can be felt in every shade possible.

Signed to Olamide Adedeji’s YBNL as an impressionable 19-year-old back in April 2016, Temmie Ovwasa worked with the label for 4 years and had just 4 songs released in those years before the relationship ended.

Musical paradise anyone?

You want to know what it feels like taking a deep dive into a musical paradise? ‘E Be Like Say Dem Swear For Me’ is the portal. Her insane vocal command brought to the fore via the robust dynamism of her voice is nothing short of awesome. Deep-soul-inspired vocals are employed on many of the songs affirming her faith in this genre which is often thought to be reserved for big, flamboyant voices. By the time I was done listening, I was on a natural high. The next couple of days saw me diving deeper in the melodic and rhythmic tune employed on the project and her lyrics, oh her words!

Rather than rehash her past musical steps or follow the crowd, Temmie Ovwasa put into motion a surprising yet overdue strut towards more adult-oriented content on this new project, and even though she dabbled a few times in that deeply rooted vintage sound, she created a balance between two realms to achieve varying degrees of success. From her love notes on ‘Ayanfe’ and ‘Osunwemimo’ to her vivid description of passionate sex on the vintage-sounding ‘37 times’ down to tracks like ‘E Be Like Say Dem Swear For Me’, ‘Existential Crisis’ and ‘Never Gon Blow,’ Temmie Ovwasa’s debut album is finely structured around the chunky casserole of the everyday struggle of an average queer Nigerian.

Temmie Ovwasa
Temmie Ovwasa

Temmie explicitly asserted her independence with this album, a move I was a person is proud of beyond words. She is out and proud, and will no longer be bullied into silence. This project which I have chosen to see more like a break-up letter addressed to the hogwash societal norms and beliefs that insist on hate, prejudice, inequality and a love note addressed to the liberated self and God. This project is nothing short of art in its purest and most vivid form, it is also an album that re-introduced us to Temmie the adult human being, and Temmie as the ‘God’ she sees herself.

Favorite tracks:
E Be Like Say Dem Swear For Me
Existential Crisis
Elejo Wewe
Never Gon Blow
Ayanfe
Osunwemimo
37 Times
I Don’t Give A Fuck About You
Elejo Wewe
Malaika

Ready for the interview? Let’s go!

Who is Temmie Ovwasa?

Temmie: Temmie Ovwasa is a Radical Queer Feminist, a thinker, a person who constantly questions and makes a point to challenge the status quo. Art just happens to be an outlet.

The album title ‘E be Like say dem swear for me,’ What inspired the title? Also, can you mention one or two of your favorite tracks and how autobiographical they are?

Temmie: At a point in my life and sometimes I still feel like “dem swear for me”. I’m a hypersensitive thinker, living in a society that has constantly refused to update its philosophies, I’m an empath in a violent country sometimes also contributing to the mess because you need a certain level of privilege to totally detach from the mess…A Non-binary Queer (woman) person living in Nigeria, living with mental illness in a country that still stigmatizes mental illness. It’s just a lot of things, to be honest. Sometimes “E be like say dem swear for me”. My Favourite is ‘Osunwemimo’, I love black women and singing about one was the most liberating experience.

Eroticism is a central theme on this album, your flawless depiction of sexuality, sex as the art that it is, is celebratory. I personally must commend your brilliant depiction of this form of intimacy. Can you shed light on why this was a major theme on the album?

Temmie Ovwasa - Temmie Ovwasa: My battles with mental illness, being a queer woman and my music
Temmie Ovwasa:

Temmie: I think it was important for me to sing from the perspective that women hardly ever sing from. A place of being in charge of my body, my sexuality, owning the fact that I’m a sexual being and my sexual decisions are mine alone. Men have made sexual music forever and that’s normalized. As I said, I’m challenging the status quo. Taking up space.

Quick one, what role do you think porn plays in how people understand, consume, and express self, & sexuality?

Temmie: Porn… as much as I think the concept is beautiful, the way the system is set up, that industry has been nothing but violent towards women. Most times the content is for the male gaze and women are fetishized, they’ve normalized poorly disguised pedophilia and the industry has, in turn, shaped our relationships with our bodies and others.

What Is your definition of self-love?
Temmie: Self-love for me, means showing up for yourself as much as you can. Extending grace to yourself. Being kind to yourself and others.

Every track on this project differs greatly from the kind of music you made before now, can you shed a bit of light on your journey to being?

Temmie: I’ve always loved to play with different sounds, words, my voice, so I was basically just doing that.

What were your first musical steps? Was there music in the family?

Temmie: Most of my family on my mother’s side are into music and I grew up around a lot of musical influences.

The song ‘Ayanfe’ spoke on forbidden love, a similar theme to the song ‘Adehun’, what inspired that song, was it created with a sole aim in kind?

Temmie: I wrote ‘Ayanfe’ for my future partners, what I’d imagine an ideal relationship to feel like. Understanding that it might mean having to fight just to be able to love these women, understanding that the world hates people like us. ‘Ayanfe’ is a big middle finger in the face of the world and Nigerian queer love. Deal with it. I didn’t intend to achieve anything, I was just mostly tired and angry, I’m a vessel… the music uses me.

‘E Be Like Say Dem Swear For Me’ bellied this robust sound deeply rooted in soul, rich, illuminating music, how was this achieved on the project?

Temmie: Again you’d find that I can be pretty vague about questions involving my process because I don’t necessarily have one. I have a message I want to pass and I write or imply it in a song. That’s the only thing my songs have in common.

Spirituality came into play on many of the songs on this project, so let’s talk spirituality, what’s your take on it?

Temmie: When it comes to spirituality, I believe it’s your personal relationship with whatever keeps your spirit grounded. I don’t necessarily have a doctrine I follow, I’m not religious and I think that preaching belongs to religion. My spirituality is my personal relationship with the universe and whatever system is out there; for others, it’s a form, for some it’s nothing, for me, it’s limitless, boundless. I don’t know it, I’m just questioning and listening to my blood, my ancestors, my gut. I can’t preach what I don’t know.

Elejo wewe is a broad and deep song, and you channeled that ejo wewe spirit, what were your feelings while recording the song?

Temmie: I wrote the hook after rapping for close to 3 minutes and realizing that I was saying a lot. I always say a lot, there’s so much to say (and do).

How did you decide on the producer(s) who worked with you on this project? What creative process was employed for this project?

Temmie: ‘Type A’ understands my voice and it’s easy working with him. He recorded most of the songs. The process seems stressful to talk about for some reason, so I’ll skip that.

There were no collaborations on this project, is there a reason for this?

Temmie: I didn’t collaborate with anyone because this particular project is my story and nobody can tell my story for me.

Is there any artist out there you feel their energy will work perfectly with yours to create another masterpiece?

Temmie: Yess! Her name is Majesty Lynn and her music is beautiful. We have a few songs together already (unreleased). Same with Rolay Bondo, I think we make beautiful music together and I can’t wait for people to hear them.

‘37 times’ saw you vividly painting a sensual scene with a female lover. I’d like to know, which part of a woman’s body do you find most beautiful?

Temmie: I think women, black women are beyond their bodies, I’m in love with black women, They’re God and you don’t disrespect God by reducing her to body parts.

What was your best and worst day in the last 4 years?

Temmie: Everyday is just the same day with different activities, the world feels like a time loop so I can’t say.

For people out there who relate totally with your brand, musically and personally, can you share with me one thing you failed at and what you learned from it?

Temmie: Adulting. I’m failing at adulting. I haven’t learned anything yet. When I do, I’ll let you know.

Tell me something you have done that you are particularly proud of?

Temmie: Getting rid of social conditioning and becoming my authentic self.

 

Temmie’s new album will be out on November 29th, a must-have for every artist and every creative out there looking to create from within and just let self lead.

Written By: Enitan – @shetweetsher

 

Creative Direction: Olaide Kayode Timileyin – @OKtimileyin
Editors: Anwar Danjaji, Adeyinka A. Ayomitide – @ayusco_
Stylist: Temmie Ovwasa – @THETemmieOvwasa
Makeup: Temmie Ovwasa – @THETemmieOvwasa
Photographer: Prince Ileleji –
Graphics: Idowu Adewale Qudus – @sbmdesigns

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