ALA alumna Osaruwa Nwokah ’18, now studying in the USA, has released a new music video Pepempere. We caught up with the budding young singer to reflects on her artistic journey, and the role which ALA played.
I am a 19-year-old singer and songwriter from Lagos, Nigeria. My musical background was shaped by my family, being surrounded by singers my whole life. My experience living in different places around the world has also contributed to my musical style, specifically growing up in Uganda and the US, and living in Nigeria as well.
Apart from music, I am a second-year student at Oberlin College in the US pursuing a biomedical degree. I am also passionate about natural hair care, and if I wasn’t pursuing music or medicine, I would probably be a makeup artist.
I have always been incredibly shy, so even though I loved to sing, I didn’t like to sing in front of people as a young girl. The first time I really started singing in public was during my first year at the African Leadership Academy when I joined my band Malkia. Singing with my friends helped me to build my confidence and get over my stage fright to be able to eventually do it alone.
My sound comes mostly from the music I listen to, which is primarily R&B, Afrobeats, and a bit of reggae/dancehall. Sometimes my sound can be completely in one category, and sometimes it can be a blend of all three. My look and style correspond with my sound in the same way that it varies, and I guess I am still trying to figure that part out. I would say, though, that I have a lot of influence from icons such as Beyoncé, Tiwa Savage, Victoria Monét, Doja Cat, and many other black female artists that I look up to.
I started really singing in public at ALA. The school gave me the space to grow into myself in a way that I hadn’t experienced before, and gave me the opportunity to perform in front of a supportive community. I was also part of ALApella and became a deputy director in my second year, which helped me develop different musical skills and learn how to better work with people to create something beautiful. Since graduating in 2020, I continued with Malkia virtually and also started taking my own music seriously. The support and push of the ALA community has to be one of the biggest contributions to my success in music so far.
Right now I am an independent artist. My dad knows a lot about music, so he has been helping me to mix and master my songs and connect me with other people in the music industry. I do hope to eventually get signed with a record label within the next few years and I will keep working to make that happen.
I spent this past summer writing and recording a lot of songs – I probably did around 15 songs. I was very dedicated to working on music this summer because I felt ready to start releasing songs and start a new chapter in my life that was exciting to me. When I wrote Peperempe, it was during a time where I was feeling good and confident about myself, and I used that feeling to come up with all aspects of the song. Peperempe is a Nigerian pidgin word meaning ‘fine girl’ in a simple English definition. At a first glance, the song may seem like it’s about someone else, but it’s more about knowing yourself, being comfortable with yourself, and having fun.
Working with Sesan was a great experience. He is such a visionary and was the mastermind behind the look of the music video, along with all the editors, set designers, stylists and everyone who contributed. He was very friendly as well which I appreciated, and I hope I get to work with him again.
I am always writing new music, and I have a lot of plans! But as of the next coming months, I will be releasing another song as well as doing a few radio interviews in Lagos. Stay tuned!
If you are passionate about something and you know that that is what you want to do, don’t be afraid to just start doing it. You don’t need to wait for a specific milestone or achievement to start doing it. With music, there are so many different avenues you can take that can combine with other skills you might be interested in. Even if it looks scary, or you don’t know where to start, or you think it might not be successful, you just have to believe in yourself and put in the necessary work, and it will happen for you. Also, don’t let your failures define you. Persistence is the one thing that will for sure get you where you want to be.