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Helen Epega’s Pidgin Opera 'Song Queen' is Connecting Audiences to Africa

Once seen as an outsider, the Nigerian-British opera performer has broken the medium’s echo chamber, infusing Nigerian pidgin and other languages on the margins. She wants the world to listen.

Song Queen: A Pidgin Opera is widely recognised as the world’s first of its kind: a pidgin opera performance. This extraordinary opus, which first graced the stage in 2015, was brought to life by the visionary Nigerian-British singer-songwriter Helen Epega, also known by her creative alias ‘The Venus Bushfires’ (a name coined to mean ‘a birth of possibilities’).

Fueled by an ardent desire to bridge the gap between cultures, the opera blossomed from Epega’s passionate mission to share the rich tapestry of Nigerian and African culture with the diaspora.

Epega boldly embodies her African identity and embraces her heritage with unwavering pride. When OkayAfrica speaks with Epega, via Zoom, she is calling in from her London home; she is beautifully dressed in bright-coloured attire made from Ankara fabric, reflecting her profound connection to her African roots. Her hairstyle mirrors the same connection.

She sports six self-made bantu knots, each a testament to her own skill and creativity. Nestled alongside these intricate knots, two opposite-lined cornrows gracefully weave their way from the centre parting of her hair, framing her face with elegance. And to accentuate her authentic African expression, she adorns them with beads, adding a touch of tradition and beauty. Read more

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