XTRA TERRESTRIAL: Tyna Onwudiwe aka African Oyinbo

The Beginning

The highly talented musician, Tyna Adaora Onwudiwe made a strong impression on the Nigerian music scene in the early 90s.She was also one of the stylish Nigerian female artists of her time and known for her signature punk look. In the early 90’s when musical videos were used only as interlude on T.V, Onwudiwe’s music videos one of the few stand out videos which enjoyed massive air play. The late Nollywood actor,Model, Rapper and Choreographer JT Tom West was also a prominent feature in her songs and videos.

Born in 1954 to Justin Onwudiwe and Patricia Wilkinson,in the early 80s she was part of Prince GAD Tabansi’s ‘artists village’ crew, mostly contributing background vocals (and occasionally styling) artists recording at Tabansi Studio, Onitsha and Rogers Okonkwo’s RAS(Rogers All Stars) at Akwa, Anambra.

Around this time, she was friends with an obscure aspiring singer based, Charles Oputa, in Oguta, Imo state that would later be known as Charly Boy. She also featured on his second album,1985’s ‘Nwata Miss’, co-produced by super-producer Jake Sollo (also a part of the artists village collective) and they went to Lagos together as Charly Boy tried to launch his career on a national level.

In Lagos, she re-styled him, taking him from a Michael Jackson wannabe and giving him a new “punk look” that has since become his trademark. The two of them also staged a series of publicity stunts that finally made Charly Boy a public phenomenon. So influential was she to Charly Boy’s career that the singer was quoted as saying in an interview, ‘‘The late Tyna Onwudiwe restored my self-confidence the first time, I arrived Lagos as a nobody”

Her Style

In 1992 she released her debut album ‘Afrikan Oyibo’ which featured the moderate hits such as a cover of ‘Turn your Lights Down Low’ which was of Bob Marley The Wailers 1977 album- ‘Exodus’ and ‘Black on Black’. These songs were accompanied by videos that were considered fairly cutting-edge at the time for their cinematography and choreography. Undoubtedly of all her songs, ‘Black on Black’ remains one of her greatest hit. It had a lovely hook and chorus was heavily influenced by Hip Hop. Many will not forget in a hurry her rap on a remake of Bob Marley’s ‘Turn Your Lights down Low’. She also starred in a couple of Nollywood movies in the early days of the industry

Her exit

Typical of Nigerian artists of that time, the singer relocated to South Africa in an attempt to expand the boundaries of her musical influence. At first she maintained a low profile and at a time when fans looked forward to more hits from the siger, she was diagnosed with cancer.

While undergoing treatment in South Africa, a group of friends and colleagues in Nigeria including Onyeka Onwenu, Joan O’Dwyer, Charles Oputa (Charly Boy) and the management of Insider Weekly Magazine immediately launched a Save-Tyna-Appeal Fund. The team was able to raise some substantial amount of money to assist with hospital bills .On June 12 , when she turned 47 she hosted a couple of friends to a birthday party a couple of weeks later she passed on.

After the singer’s death, there were counter accusations of mismanagement of funds. In an interview, one of the spearheads of the fund, Onyeka Onwenu was quoted as saying ‘‘When Tina Onwudiwe died, there was plenty of money remaining.

I called Charly Boy and said let us sit down, have a meeting and do the accounting, let me bring in an accountant. Let us take the remaining money and hand it over to Tina’s children She’s still owing hospital bills, the children are yet to pay school fees and let’s declare to the Nigerian public, that was our agreement”, she revealed.

Although both parties have since resolved their differences very little is known about what became of the said funds. Onwudiwe is survived by three children, a son and two daughters Zolani, Kamala and Negiste .Tyna Onwudiwe passed on in June 29, 2001


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