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Vintage Footage Of The Lijadu Sisters Show Their Profound Impact On Feminist Culture In Nigeria And Abroad

Twin sisters Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu make up the legendary Nigerian singing duo The Lijadu Sisters.  Starting in the late 1960s and early 70s, their harmonies, unique sound, and progressive views on society, women and their place in the world, created a phenomenon that is still felt today, not only in Nigeria, but also in the States.  Their feminist views on a woman’s ability to rise up and be more than a homemaker, resounded in their music and lyrics.  Songs like “Cashing In,” brought out the social commentary they wanted to make with their vivid lyrics highlighting that they would “cash in on prostitution.”

When news spread of Kehinde’s passing on November 8, 2019, at 71 years of age, the loss was felt all over the world.  Condolences, thoughts, and prayers poured in globally.  Publications like The Guardian, Pitchfork, The Fader and more covered the historic duo in their life and now in Kehinde’s death.  The surviving sister Taiwo spoke out on a gofundme page she created to raise money for a memorial to honor Kehinde. She stated,

“A tree has fallen!!!! On Friday the 8th November, 2019, my beloved twin sister, Kehinde Lijadu transitioned at our home here in New York after a long battle with cancer.

She was 71. Kehinde was my light, my love, my soul mate… my everything. I am bereft and will miss her dearly.

Many years ago, Kehinde and I combined forces to form The Lijadu sisters in our home country, Nigeria. This came at a time when the music scene was exclusively male dominated. Our early efforts though daunting, were met with much love and success especially from our fans.

Kehinde was diagnosed a number of years ago and fought the illness gallantly until she took her last breath. Today I urgently need your kind support to honor her legacy and lay her body to rest.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported our efforts so far. I love you, and I know Kehinde loves you, too.”

Vintage footage of the Lijadu Sisters, filmed in 1979, demonstrates their views as not only artists but as progressive thought leaders in Nigeria as well.  During that time, female artists were limited to roles that peaked at the backup singer level.  Back then, there were few women pursuing music at the success they achieved.  Their lyrics about femininity, sexuality and political and social freedom earned them a distinguished avenue to elevate the female voice.  

The Lijadu Sisters were not shy about vocalizing their distrust and dissatisfaction with their label and left Decca records in 1984.  Their first studio album, “Mi Jowo,” translated to “Mother, Please” was recorded under the label in 1969.  The duo stayed with the record company until they migrated for the states in the early 1980s.  The sisters moved to New York to pursue stateside success but were only able to achieve moderate success.  In 2011, The Lijadu Sisters sat down with The Fader at home and discussed their careers and gave an intimate look into their New York home.

The sisters are regarded as legends in the industry and are often asked to perform and discuss their experiences as pioneers in music for women in Nigeria.  As part of a tribute to Nigerian music artist William Onyeabor, the sisters performed with David Byrne, Money Mark (from the Beastie Boys), Pat Mahoney (from LCD Soundsystem & Museum of Love), and Sinkane on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Their soulful sound and influential impact will never be forgotten.

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