Kehinde Lijadu, member of the West African pop group the Lijadu Sisters, passed away on Saturday, November 9, after reportedly suffering from a stroke.
Kehinde, along with her twin sister Taiwo, were born in Ibadan, the third largest city in Nigeria. Although Kehinde was the second-born twin, in Yoruba culture, she is considered the oldest. According to legend, the second-born sends their sibling out into the world first, to see if it is the right time to be born.
The Lijadu Sisters sang together from when they were 10 years old and released their first album Iya Mi Jowo in 1969. They worked on electrifying, innovative music throughout the 70s and 80s, earning them national and international fame. Their music was influenced by other Nigerian artists of the day, as well as from western jazz, rock and soul, and reggae. These influences are heard in their eclectic, disco-funk discography.
Kehinde and Taiwo were some of the only women in Nigeria’s male-dominated music industry at the time. They rallied against the patriarchal nature of the industry in both their music and their activism. Politics became another inspiration for their music, and songs such as “Danger” reflect political uncertainty in Nigeria at the time.
In an interview with The Guardian’s Kate Hutchinson, the Lijadu Sisters said, “Music teaches us to reach out and do something about what is going on, socially, morally, financially, spiritually, and politically. We sang those songs because they [the politicians] were not listening. We needed schools, we needed roads, we needed clean water.”
The band toured internationally with King Sunny Adé, James Brown, and Ginger Baker before retiring in the late 80s after Kehinde injured her back.
The sisters moved to Harlem in New York City, where they lived in an apartment together. Kehinde and Taiwo both became Yoruba priestesses. Dedicated to their religion, they decorated their apartment to reflect their religion and life philosophy.
Amber Bravo describes it best, while she was on a visit to interview them, “The small place is festooned with ancestral shrines and silky golden tapestries that spread out across the ceiling in a blanket of life (…) We stopped by their home and were treated to some synchronous talk about the importance of peace, love, and family.”
The twins had recently begun a new album, and although the project was never completed, their name was put back into the public consciousness. Kehinde will certainly be remembered for her contribution to Nigeria’s musical industry, her fight for women’s rights, and her and her sister’s incredible music.
Image by Claus Grünstäudl or Unsplash.com