Isabella Ogo Uzodike
Rhythms and Sounds:
Isabella Ogo Uzodike, a UK-based Nigerian gospel artiste is currently in Nigeria to promote her very first African gospel album titled “My Tori Don Change” consisting of songs in Pidgin English and Igbo language. The melodious and extremely catchy songs are sure to get your feet moving and your hands raised in praise, she tells Mary Ekah
How long have you been singing?
I have been singing all my life. I have always loved singing the worship songs but until I gave my life to the Lord that was when I knew there was a potential inside me and I knew it was a calling that had to fulfilled one day. In terms of singing professional, my first album titled “Lost Without You”, was released in the UK in 2009. The album is a gospel worship album with 12 worship songs. I wrote my first official song in 1996 when I gave life to the Lord and that was really when I knew that there was a gift in me.
You started with gospel songs right from the onset. Was there a particular reason for this?
In my growing up days, I noticed a pattern in me and by that time I didn’t understand what it was. By then I wasn’t born again but every time I walked into a church and they were singing, it stirred up something in my heart that I could not stop. I was always crying every time I walked into a church and they were singing. I would break down in tears. I got so much embarrassed and so I started avoiding church because when I went with my friends and then break down in tears, I will ruin my makeup and everything. It wasn’t until I got to know the Lord in 1996 that I started noticing that pattern there was a pull always; it was like a magnetic pull to worship music. It is a heart of worship that Lord put inside of me. But then when I was a teenager, I used to be in a girls’ group in the secondary school that sing all the secular and party songs like Michael Jackson’s but we did it more or less for fun and I never released any secular song or sang it in a professional manner. I went straight into gospel music because for me it wasn’t just about singing. This is a calling. For me, is this my purpose; this is what God created me here for – to be used for His glory.
How do you intend to sustain this talent of yours?
My husband will tell you that I write songs on a minute-by-minute basis. I don’t think I will ever run out of songs to sing because as I speak now, I have over 400 songs waiting to be sung. I have written them by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Anything inspires me – when I am happy I write songs, when I am sad, angry or even crying, it is an outlet for me. It is just a gift that is inside, so in terms of sustaining it, I know I have more than enough songs to outlive me. More so, I get inspired to write songs every day. I have come back home to promote my latest song and since I have been in Nigeria for a few days now, I have already sang so many songs into my iPad because as I am going along, God is giving me new songs. So it will never run out by His grace as long as I keep focused and keep serving Him.
What particular message are you sending out there through your songs?
It is message of hope and love. I want people to know that there is a God there that is looking out for them. There is a God up there that loves them and that wants them to worship Him. My ministry is a ministry of worship. I love to draw people to God. For the last four years, I have been a worship leader in my church but it is not just about leading worship, it is about transformation in people’s lives. I would like to walk into a situation where someone is going through a really bad experience and minister the word of God effectively to see people healed, delivered and set free to walk in divine authority and be free from bondage. You know people in this age are going through so much and my purpose here is to deliver the love of God whether is through music or preaching the word of God to someone and even extending a hand of help to someone out there, juts to let them know that someone up there cares for them.
A lot of people out there need this message but don’t you think you are restricting the outreach by religion?
I believe that God is a strategist and a master planner. He has a roadmap to everything and has a way of navigating through things. I started my ministry by singing pure worship songs – the kind of songs that you just want to be in the spirit because God wanted me to be established in that. Now my third project, which is “My Tori Don Change – the African”, consisting of songs in Pidgin English and Igbo language. The melodious and extremely catchy songs are sure to get your feet moving and your hands raised in praise. When you see the title it doesn’t really shout whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever you are. My Tori Don Change is universal and can relate to anybody and I believe that it is God’s timing – He gave me this song because He wanted to bring it to encourage people no matter the religion that you are. My Tori Don Change is an inspirational song that raises hope in you and it crosses boundaries but as you go along with the songs, you would hear of a God. I am singing the praise of the almighty God but those songs will be used to bring you in and then you would hear the message of His love. So in terms of how I intend to reach others - music is a universal language and knows no boundary. So my job is to put it out there then the Holy Spirit would the convict. So if people hear it, the spirit behind the song is what will convict them.
You have released two albums before “My Tori Don Change”, how has the reception been?
My first album, “Lost Without You” was absolutely well received in the UK. It did very well in the UK but it was not officially launched in Nigeria because then my kids were a bit younger and so I couldn’t really take the time out to come back home and promote it properly. After my first album I have released two more, one being a worship album titled “Heavens Anthem”, which I have about 12 worship songs in it and some of these songs I sang with my daughter, Sharon who is 17 and then of course the one which I am promoting right now, which is “My Tori Don Change”, a collection of ten African praise and worship songs. My songs are worship song and they are well received mostly by churches. With the release of “Heaven’s Anthem”, which again is made up of worship songs, it is well received across, mostly by Christians but “My Tori Don Change”, has crossed boundaries, it is being so well received both in Nigeria and in the UK. People may think that because it is African and because I speak pidgin, Igbo or Yoruba that it will not appeal to others. That is not true! African kind of music is making a big weaves up in the western world at the moment. I am pleasantly surprise how people receive “My Tori Don Change”.
You seem also to be selling African culture to the world through your music maybe that informed your Afro-centric costume in the videos?
I love my culture and I love being African. I think we are so beautiful and our outfit, culture, tradition – and so for me I wear the African attire with so much pride. And fortunately for me, I am blessed to have a sister that has a fashion house, Loissonell Ventures in Lagos and she makes awesome outfits for me, which I wear with so much pride and I want to showcase how graceful and elegant, the African woman is. For me it is an honour and when I wear them, I feel in my element and I am so proud. So I am proudly Africa, proudly Nigeria and proudly Igbo woman.
How do you market your songs?
Back in the UK, we have the online outlets, like the iTunes and the rest of them. It is available on Amazons and we have some promos running on TV and radios and that way we have been promoting the songs and people have rushed the CDs like hot cake. In Nigeria, we have got outlets in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and currently we are negotiating with some promoters who want to take over marketing it but in the meantime, if people want to get hold of any of the songs on the CDs, they can go on iTunes.
How would you compare doing music here in Nigeria and in the UK?
I think that Nigerian music videos that are coming out now are world-class and I think we can hold our own anywhere. However, in the UK with technology being a little more advanced, we can readily get good quality there but it really depends on who you work with. I think that in Nigeria in terms of the technology with the music industry, we can stand side by side with any country. We have got what it takes here. But what we are lacking is the support we need to have for one another – the platform to showcase what we have. The mainstream stations and radios are not playing gospel music; they are not promoting gospel artistes because they believe it is not commercially viable, so they discriminate against the gospel industry. I think that we have so muchmessage for the world and anybody out there should promote gospel music because people need to hear this message of hope. It is most needed at this time that the days are evil and people are hopeless, running from pillar to post. They need to hear this message of hope and know that there is hope in Christ Jesus.
Who is Isabella?
I am from the Eastern part of Nigeria - Anambra State. I was raised in Nigeria, until 1988 when I relocated to the UK. I am an associate pastor within my home church. I am a gospel artiste and a songwriter. I am very happily married with four kids. I am a certified makeup artist. I love to make people look good and I love to look good. I am also a qualified fitness instructor.