How My Mother Went Against Tradition in Naming Me – Tems Explains Deep Story Behind Her Name

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Nigerian musician Tems is having quite the moment right now. Since blowing up with Try Me, the singer has seen a lot of success especially with the Wizkid feature, Essence becoming a mega global smash. She’s released two EPs and is currently working on completing her debut album.

One thing that has been striking though for the entirety of her career, has been her name. For most people who don’t know her, when they hear her song on the radio and ask, ‘who is singing that?’, Tems as a name is the last thing they expect to hear. Even I when I first heard the name Tems was like Tems? It’s a monosyllabic sound that seems to end rather abruptly – Tems.

If you think the name is unusual, it is because it is. Tems is a shortened version of her name, Temilade, a name that comes with a lot of meaning behind it and quite an interesting story as well.

Here’s what Tems has said about the very interesting name.

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Tems and her mother

In a new interview with Elle Magazine, Tems gave a little more insight into her name Temilade and the story behind it. Speaking to Elle, Tems said:

I asked her (my mother) one day, ‘Why did you call me Temi,’ which means ‘the crown is mine’? The truth is, back in the day in Nigeria, your mom can’t give you your name. Your father can name you, that would be your second name. Your grandfather would give you your first name, or your grandmother, but your mother actually does not name you. My mom didn’t name my brother, but for me, she made it very clear that it was meant to be my name. And she fought to give me that name.

On Tems’ first EP, For Broken Ears, there is actually a track called Temilade Interlude on which Tems recorded a voice note of her mother explaining in her own words why she gave her the name. In the voice note, Tems’ mother says:

So I thought, hmm okay

So everybody was like, “Oh another boy is coming”

So I kept on telling them, “This is a girl”

“So why on earth can you be so sure? Ahan what’s that rubbish?”

Yes she said, “This is a girl, her name is Témìládè”

“Don’t forget the name I told you and she’s a special baby”

So I kept on telling everybody

They kept on laughing, “Yeah yeah yeah”

All those, “Yo maybe you had a dream about it Abi?””

Eh it most unlikely

Nobody can tell anybody’s you know

Eh whether it’s a baby girl or boy

I just kept telling them that God told me

This is a girl and hеr name is Témìládè

“You can’t just pick a name for yourself, familiеs give names”

Well, I don’t know, but I know that her name is Témìládè, sha

Temilade – the crown is mine. What a name and what a story as well. To go against family traditions and what everyone is saying because of a conviction you have about a name could not have been an easy thing for Tems’ mother to do. It’s good to see she finally got to name her daughter the way she wanted and in the end, it’s good to see the name working in Tems’ favor.

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