In this interview compressed in profile form, Afro Fusion queen diva ; Nnena Omali speaks with Haitian – American blogger ; Sandra Jules Sendze http://africansonthemove.wordpress.com/page/2/ on her musical journey. She also shares reflections on her childhood, family and the music business.
On stage, I am known as Nnena Omali. However, off the spotlight, my full names are Nnenna Ezeakunne O’ Dele. I’m from the eastern part of Nigeria; graduated from the University of Nigeria Enugu campus at the department of Estate management and had also attended the University of Nigeria Secondary school respectively. I am the last child in a family of five. Raised in Coal City; Enugu, by my widowed mother as I had lost my father when I was twelve. I always thank God for aiding us through the rough times as a family. They say ‘Tough times don’t last but tough people do’. Well yeah, I’m still here!
My growing years were basically spent in Coal City albeit I currently reside in Lagos now. Many times I do miss the allure of nature in the countryside. Lagos is a hub of commerce, nightlife and noise but it is also a central point of entertainment in Nigeria and the music business. And music is what I do. Therefore, I am drawn to live here by virtue of necessity. My basic style is Afro Fusion. In my works I try as much as possible to showcase flavorings of ethnicity on the contemporary. Be it jazz, soul, pop or reggae they sometimes find their way into my artistry in a defined African unit creating this distinct style that I’m comfy with. They become me. Over time, I’ve managed to use my versatility to my advantage without seeming like a directionless doppelganger. We have a rich, diverse culture in Africa. The land is indeed my musical playground.
I’ve been in the music business for about a decade now, not counting the years I spent in my childhood dreaming, writing…It all began with stories scribbled on sheets, then rhymes and poetry. Thereafter, the songs came.
I was ten when I wrote down my first ever melody. Joined a singing group but never took it seriously. Who wants to be on teevee anyway, jeez my Dad would freak out! I remember telling my fellow singing buddies. Indeed my love for music was strong but I wasn’t yet ready. I was a shy little girl, scared of the big picture but during my teen years I found myself writing more and more songs. The passion grew stronger and the dreams became divine. It was no longer me by then but God positioning me towards my destiny. The more I fought it off out of the basic fear of attention and publicity the more my world gravitated towards that direction. God showed me that this was His plan and that I couldn’t run from it. When I sang, people would query; And when are you recording an album young lady?
I was practically spirited into the studio in 2002 by concerned neighbors who had a sit down with my family on what they intended to do about my musical talent and how they could be of assistance. That was the year I recorded my first work. The singles “So” And “Missing” received quite some airplay in the eastern part of Nigeria.
Udo, my brother, was my manager for a while and later handed me over to Mr. Gbenga Sokefun’s SpiritRose A&R management . The latter was famous for the role he played in the success of the then UK based Nigerian gospel group called KUSH. Through his affiliation with Questionmark Records – where he later became vice president, Business Strategy – I got a deal in 2004. I parted ways with the company in some years later.
Questionmark was the label that originally brought Asa, the Nigerian-French international to the world as well as Africa’s most respected lyricist, Modenine. They gave me my first major exposure via “Cry”, a feature spot on Modenine’s hit.
The tide of time and circumstance can toss one from island to ocean but with every surge of its wave we gain knowledge and truth. It is my aim to be a voice of positivity, guiding our hearts to love, light and God. As the Almighty continues to churn the inspiration, I intend to remain His willing instrument. The track “Oluchi” for instance had struck me as ordinary when I wrote it but then it wasn’t. People heard it, saw the video and said they were moved beyond words. The lyrics are deep and powerful, they said. The response confirmed my latent inkling that God brought that song for someone. On the day I’d penned down “Oluchi”, I simply couldn’t shake off this image of a woman or girl who had been through so much physical or sexual abuse , attempting suicide because she could no longer with it or herself. “Oluchi” was a song telling her that she had 101 reasons to live. Rape and battery has become a grave societal problem and it’s painful that the perpetrators seldom see what it does to their victims. It is my hope that the message of that song got to the person it was for.
In my musical journey, I’ve battled with unforeseen delay, disappointments, unmet expectations and yes, I’ve seen hardship. But in all these things I’ve come out stronger and intrepid. In a sort of funny peculiarity, even peril provided leeway for diverse messages in my writings. For instance, my latest release, “Palava” was a song written in righteous anger and it’s getting splendiferous love.
I blow a kiss to heaven for having a family so supportive, a husband so loving and fans who believe in me. All these years they’ve stood with me in unison making me lightheaded in appreciation. They are my beacons of strength and hope.
Over time I’ve accomplished inner growth. I still pen down some prose and poetry. I was a columnist for Mode Men magazine at some point. I do intend publishing my books and poems sometime in the near future by God’s grace. At the last count, I have nine unpublished novels. Own a magazine one day? I’m working towards that.
At the moment, I’m facing the music. However, I’m also a producer and budding composer. I’m working with a production company, Signaenuke Media on contract basis in my capacity as a writer and co-composer and also doing stuff in their business development department.
My accomplishments in entertainment?
Some would expect that I begin to enumerate awards won or nominations et al., I’d rather state matter-of-factly that my greatest accomplishment is earning from a career I enjoy. I derive my ultimate work satisfaction from performing. Music makes me happy and sharing it with others makes me even happier. Platinum sales, award plaques are no motivation for me, at least not anymore. They are good though. But they aren’t the rationale for my music. If I can hold down a following with my message and inspire them, that’s more than enough for me.
Life along this path has taught me patience, steadfastness and doggedness. Rushing will get you nowhere when God wants you to sloooow down. Family comes first. My household is my world. I don’t joke with my kids.
For anyone with the intention of becoming a musician, I have this question for you? Is it for love or money? If for love, go for it. For the money, forget about it. There are other lucrative ventures. Music is not an easy profession. Look beyond the glitz and glamour and you’ll see hard work and longsuffering before breakthrough. Your talent may be your qualification but only true love for the art will paddle you across seasons of void to eras of stardom.