Cast of Prime Video’s latest show, ‘SHE Must Be Obeyed.’
Promotional image for 'SHE Must Be Obeyed,' Amazon Prime.

Afrobeats and Rivalry: Prime Video’s 'SHE Must Be Obeyed' Plays on Nigeria’s Music Industry Antics

Funke Akindele and Nancy Isime star in the streamer’s latest series, SHE Must Be Obeyed, which pulses to its own catchy beats.

Rivalry in the music industry has been a recurring and entertaining occurrence throughout history, from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. Whether manufactured for publicity or based on genuine tension, competitiveness between artists often garners significant media attention and fan interest. ‘Stan’ wars have been a driving force on social media for the past decade, instigating streaming battles, hashtag wars, and fan edits. If it leads to more attention for the artists and drives pop culture, how bad can it all be?

So goes the thinking of SHE, the titular character in the latest Nigerian limited series from Prime Video, SHE Must Be Obeyed. Funke Akindele plays Siyanbola Adewale, aka SHE, an Afrobeats star who schemes, manipulates, and employs any means to keep herself in the spotlight. A commentary on greed and egotism in the music industry, the series kicks off when she loses an award to another artist. SHE creates a rivalry with that artist, and drama ensues.

The series builds on Prime Video’s growing presence in Nigeria. Since its launch in the country a year ago, it has produced local content like Gangs of Lagos and LOL: Last One Laughing Naija.

SHE Must Be Obeyed, which also stars Waje and BBNaija’s Veeiye, is driven by its own pulsating soundtrack. It shows the potential there is for more Nigerian series and films to make use of music. Ayinla (2021), a film that explores the life of famed Apala musician, Ayinla Yusuf, tapped into that potential by using pre-existing music to tell the story; SHE Must Be Obeyed does this by creating original music for its characters.

OkayAfrica sat down with Akindele and Nancy Isime, who plays her personal assistant.

SHE Must Be Obeyed - Official Trailer | Prime Video

The interview below has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

In the last decade, Afrobeats’ reach has spread exponentially. Why do you think now is the right time for SHE Must Be Obeyed?

Funke Akindele: Afrobeats is our music and I’m all about exporting what we have here - our culture and tradition. Nigeria has got talent and a lot of creativity so we need to keep showcasing it. Afrobeats is huge, other countries are tapping into it. Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Davido have done a good job [with exporting it]. Infusing Afrobeats in the show is a huge plus because it shows more from Nigeria.

Nancy Isieme: It explores possibilities in the music industry. I feel like it's more about drama and the spice of the music. I don’t want to speak on the music industry but for acting and the film industry, it’s a game changer. It shows that you can have proper music recorded and produced for a film, and it can look and sound good and well put together.

Funke Akindele in promotional poster for Prime Video\u2019s new miniseries She Must Be ObeyedPromotional image for 'SHE Must Be Obeyed,' Amazon Prime.

When Afrobeats is brought up, women are often sidelined or only brought up as a footnote, hardly ever pioneers or trailblazers. What message or discussion can SHE Must Be Obeyed spark?

Akindele: In the series, you see the strength of the women in it. The fact that women are taking up challenges, that they're fitting into shoes where they wouldn’t fit in before. You see women going through a lot in it, and also women rising up. You see women bringing down other women and women lifting others up, defending them. The good and the bad sides altogether.

Isime: The truth is the conversation about male and female transcends all industries. It’s a mindset, and it’s what happens in a patriarchal society.

Which iconic feud, either real or fan-driven is most similar to that in SHE Must Be Obeyed?

Akindele: I’ll keep mum about it. When you see it, you’ll decide if it’s similar to any real-life situation.

Isime: I can’t say there’s one specifically between women but from what is glaring on social media, there are some elements that are similar to some Afrobeats stars. I think even those rivalries are mostly fan-driven. Fans always want to say one is better than the other.

Nancy Isime in promotional poster for Prime Video\u2019s new miniseries She Must Be ObeyedPromotional image for 'SHE Must Be Obeyed,' Amazon Prime.

There are several songs in the series–how they came to be?

Akindele: It was cool and challenging, but this is not my first time. I did the soundtrack of Jenifa's Diary, the rap, and JJC Skillz wrote it. JJC Skillz worked on the songs in She Must Be Obeyed. He wrote all the songs, the ones I performed, those that Waje and Vee did. They're all originals, and Puffy Tee produced the songs. It was fun for me, and it's something I love to do. I think we should tap into that more.

Isime: I didn’t sing in the series. The main music was between the artists and there’s a surprise there. It explores possibilities in the music industry and it shows how great our film industry is. I’m more film industry-sided, I can’t speak on the music side because I’m not well-versed on it. It's a game changer for acting and filming because it shows you can have proper music recorded and produced in a show and film [besides the soundtracks that past movies did], and it looks good and well put together.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

Funke Akindele: You can expect more good content telling African stories that celebrate our culture and traditions. Also empowering, encouraging, and inspiring up-and-coming talents out there. We will be working more on the Funke Akindele Academy. We had the Scene One School of Drama but had absorbed it into the Funke Akindele Academy where we help them nurture and develop their talent and put them on the right path.

We're going to put them in all the TV shows and the movies we're producing and any other content. I'm very passionate about that. I really want to work on it.

Nancy Isime: I’m still working on new things and filming. I’m also working on my show and hosting gigs. For now, just keep your eyes peeled for projects I have coming up. Maybe in the future, there might be a diversion somewhere but now, I’m still very much an actor.