In many ways, Mathew Arewa, the drummer and percussionist for Stella Ada Monye’s, Azania Band, is a metaphor for Stella’s life. Mathew was a young lad of 14 years when Stella discovered and gave him a chance. It was at that age also that Stella made her way into the entertainment industry.
One could feel the understanding between Mathew and Stella when it was his turn to be introduced. Like Stella, Mathew has matured from being a drummer boy to a thoroughbred professional whose services are much sought after. And so has Stella who has carved a niche for herself, in her chosen trade of singing; so much that not many remember that she is a trained Thespian from the University of Ife. Lately, she started a course of study at the Lagos State University towards becoming a lawyer, a goal she is determined to achieve largely satisfy the wish of her late father.
Music has taken her to places she could not have imagined and opened doors for her to stand before kings and princes and not before mean men. In the course of her work, Stella discovered the milk of human kindness in her. This led her to partner with groups and organisations that serve the needy in our communities. As her capacity to serve grew, it was natural for her to channel her energy into a self-driven effort, thus was born WINAI Women Initiative Nigeria, a social entrepreneur vehicle through which she carried out programmes like ‘1000 Mics’ that featured 250 female singers drawn from the school, churches, the night club circuit, and a variety entertainment show called the ‘Huk’ Show among others.
Recently, Stella used the WINAI Women Initiative Nigeria to present an old ‘Schull’ Party to honour the memory of the late American multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and performer, Prince Rogers Nelson. In her opinion, she sought to celebrate Prince for his profound contribution to the creative career of many women. And Stella would not let the opportunity of his passage pass without celebrating him. The premium he placed on women could be noticed in his first band, The Revolution which had the female keyboardist Gayle Chapman. Till his death, Prince was supported by an all-female backing band, a trio called 3rdeyegirl. In between, there quite a number of notable women — like Patrice Rushen, Vanity and Carmen Electra Vanessa Marcil, Sherilyn Fenn, Kim Basinger, drummer Sheila E, The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs.
But Prince was not the only person on the WINAI Women Initiative Nigeria honours scroll. Notable Nigerians like the wife of the governor of Lagos State, Bolanle Ambode and wife of the APC Chieftain, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senator Oluremi Tinubu took place of pride for championing women issues. Other awardees were owner of La Campagne Beach Resort, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye credited with discovery of the first female talking drummer, Ara. Also awarded was famous radio OAP, Dan Foster. Three past presidents of the Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria, PMAN, Charly Boy, Bolaji Rosiji and Femi Lasode were recognised for their contribution to the entertainment industry. Songstress, Yinka Davies got an award as well. Journalists were not left out of the honours list as memory of three men of the pen profession who have passed on were brought back to life through a recognition to Mcphillips Nwachukwu, Ogbonnaya Amadi and Cletus Nwachuckwu. This reporter, Nseobong Okon-Ekong was honoured as well for service to the entertainment industry.
The venue of the show, Bluesea Lounge on Akilo Road in Ogba was brought to live with stirring performances by an all-female Makossa dance troupe called, EC Concept. More dance entertainment was provided by Scott Jackson who mimicked the dance steps of the late Michael Jackson. Another dancer who brought the house down was Iyke. Fuji music’s first lady, Lady Mandela held her own on a night where her performance was warmly applauded. Upcoming singer, Tunmise showed a lot of confidence on stage, giving the audience her best.
Anchored by MC Lawrence of Classic FM, the show was attended by Charly Boy, Tee Mac, Ras Kimono and wife, Efe,, Femi Ojo of Celebrity Agecny, Yomi Peters, Barrster Silas Udoh, Bolaji Rosiji and the Kushi Indian Community and Funmi Tijani.
Stella and her band performed old school Nigerian pop to the delight of the crowd, but it could not assuage the hunger of those who longed to hear songs of Prince, the America music icon whose memory was being honoured. The inability to perform Prince’s songs was a black spot on an otherwise successful show; even if many were willing to overlook the complete disregard for the prevailing ‘old schull’ costume. Stella herself failed to lead by example by downplaying the dress code.