Indigenous Yoruba music legends would not be complete without the mention of a talented woman who modernised Waka music, Queen Salawa Abeni, who rose from a housemaid to a famous Waka singer.

Born into a polygamous home in Igbogun, one of the mangrove villages that border Ogun and Lagos state, Salawa’s childhood was pretty rough, and when things took a terrible turn she was sent off as a housemaid in a neighbouring town.

Salawa Abeni Alidu was born on 5 May 1961. An Ijebu Yoruba woman from Ijebu Waterside, in Ogun State.

Salawa Abeni started singing at the tender age of 9.

She was blessed with a melodious voice which the people she worked for noticed and it was perfect for Waka music, an indigenous traditional Yoruba music mostly sung by women

Salawa soon started singing at every opportunity, when she was at play with friends or in a gathering of women. Soon enough, she started to sing at parties and social gatherings which brought her a lot of happiness.

Her professional career began at the age of 10 when she walked up to Leader recording label in Lagos and asked to be allowed to play a demo tape. She was turned down as she was seen as a small girl that has nothing to offer. The same record label stumbled on her performing in Epe with a large crowd as an audience. She was immediately taken to the studio by the label from where she was groomed to be one of the most successful artists in Nigeria.

She released her debut album in 1976 titled Late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed under Leader records which became the first recording by a female artist to sell over a million copies in Nigeria

At the age of 16, Queen  SalawaAbeni formed her musical group called The WakaModernisers in 1977.

Abeni continued recording for Leader until 1986, when she ended her relationship with the record label’s owner, Lateef Adepoju. She married KollingtonAyinla and joined his record label instead, staying with him until 1994.

She was crowned “Queen of Waka Music” by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi in 1992.

She almost became a laughing stock in the internet community after an anonymous individual threatened to release some of her unclad photos which were in his possession.

However, like the true queen that she is and a highly respected veteran act, Salawa owned the narrative by sharing the photos by herself and making it clear that no one can tarnish the image she has spent the past 45 years of her life building.

With 42 albums to her name, the music legend has said she is not slowing down just yet

Waka is an  Islamic-influenced, traditional Yoruba music  style, popularized by  Batile Alake; it is a much older genre than  jùjú  and  fuji.