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TOMI OWÓ: BEAUTIFUL


Words by Nelson CJ
Photography by Ruby Okoro


As media partner for ART X Lagos 2020, Nataal talks to Tomi Owó about her new music performance at ART X Live!






Tomi Owó has been working hard for this moment. The Lagos-bred singer whose sound oscillates between soul, jazz and R&B, seems tailor made for a time when afrobeats is expanding its palate and taking on a more global front. Her sound is youthful yet timeless. The themes she chooses to explore in her music are wrapped around the most pedestrian parts of what makes us human as well as our inherent complications.

You can split Owó’s journey leading up to her current musical standing into four phases, each with their own struggles, joys and lessons. The first would have to be her early love for music. Owó grew up writing poems and listening to everything from gospel to R&B and with a mother who was an accomplished singer herself. Coupled also with two brothers who matched her creative energy and with whom she spent most of her time, her childhood nurtured and sustained this original passion.


The next phase was her job in a bank, a necessary responsibility she had to take on as the first born. “I did enjoy working in finance, and that’s the thing with following your dreams, it doesn't mean anything else you do will be out of place,” she muses. “I feel like I had a good time, it helped me learn discipline and a lot of other things I wouldn’t have picked up if I hadn’t worked there.”

While working the 9 to 5, Owó came up with a plan to record and release at least one song a month, something that was necessary to help her keep in touch with what mattered most to her. This commitment, which birthed her first EP ‘Pieces’ in 2018, was made possible with the help of her family, who allowed her to transform a small building they had in their compound into a mini studio. And from then on, Owó has been navigating the murky and uncertain circumstances that taper around making alternative music as a young, unsigned singer - releasing songs on SoundCloud, holding her breath in the hopes that people are listening and reminding herself that she is doing the right thing.

Then there is the third phase, an interesting time in her life where she is growing into her own and making music that is not only true to her, but holds immense promise. “It’s about me creating worlds people can carry around with them,” Owó says. “I feel like we are all spirit beings and when we find our calling, it is something our bodies and spirits often agree with and we are willing to go through the obstacles to get it done.”


All of these learnings have been instrumental to her recent signing to Universal Music Nigeria, to her current promise as an artist poised for fame, and to the stories she chooses to tell through her songs. Her latest single ‘Beautiful’ is an ode to vulnerability and softness, particularly as it is found but discouraged in men. “I was at a point in my life when I was transitioning, in a waiting space and I was thinking of other people going through that phase. And although I understand that gender is personal, I just wanted to tell it from the perspective of a boy and a girl,” she explains.

The song exudes a moving soul/alt-pop sound accomplished in its lyricism and masterful in its production. The song opens to a brief moment of giddy strings before the lush fullness of her voice is given space to fill every part of the song. It is fuelled by some undeniable afrobeats elements and yet still rich in an otherworldly sound that is hard to pull away from with each replay.



The song exudes a moving soul/alt-pop sound accomplished in its lyricism and masterful in its production. The song opens to a brief moment of giddy strings before the lush fullness of her voice is given space to fill every part of the song. It is fuelled by some undeniable afrobeats elements and yet still rich in an otherworldly sound that is hard to pull away from with each replay.

A lot of Owó’s work is rooted in introspection, in being in touch with herself and trying to make music that feels genuine and carries the power to connect to listeners. Introspection is how she powers her creativity. And as someone who is involved and interested in the arts (she draws and makes some of her own accessories), it is only fitting that she is playing out the year by performing at this year’s ART X Live! alongside Oxlade, King Jesse, Uranta and DJ Camron. Themed ‘Like Someone’s Watching’, the digital happening will see her and her peers share their music as well as their aspirations for liberation and self-determination as part of a performance film directed by Omowunmi Ogundipe.

“When I was asked to be one of the headliners for ART X LIVE! this year, I was over the moon,” she shares. “To me, art is like creating life out of a hundred thousand feelings, and when you weave them all into one movement, and bring it to the people in the way that ART X Lagos has done, that's iconic. As the fair is a fully digital experience this year, we can't gather the way it's usually done, but I'm excited that it's virtual because even more people from all over the world can be a part of it. It's been super special working with the team and my fellow amazing headliners to bring the vision of this film to life, and I can't wait for everyone to enjoy and be inspired by all the creativity that has gone into making it.”

‘Beautiful’ is undoubtedly an opener to a delectable new mind that has so much to say and would stop at nothing to make sure her voice is heard.



This article was originally published on Nataal.com on 3 December 2020, and republished in partnership with ART X Collective on ARTXLAGOS.COM