In this interview with Sunday Ehigiator, Omawunmi Megbele, staged named ‘Omawunmi’ speaks on her forthcoming tour scheduled to hold on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at ‘Freedom Park’, Ojota-Lagos, in the wake of her LP entitled, ‘In My Feelings’. She also shared her thoughts on other issues around her career
How would you introduce yourself to the world?
My name is Omawumi Megbele Yusuf. So, it is Omawumi Megbele first and then Yusuf, but I am known as Omawummi, I am a one name artiste.
I am Nigerian; my grandmother is Yoruba from Ilaje. I still have the Yoruba blood. I am Itshekiri, my father is Itshekiri, my mum is from Bonny Island in Rivers state and I still have Igbo blood from grandparents.
How was growing up for you?
Growing up was fun. I am the twelfth child of 14 children, my father was quite busy. I was the fourth out of five girls, I have a little sister. I was very mischievous and stubborn as a child. Outside of those, values that I learnt from my siblings and parent are what are helping me today. I learnt amazing values like not living above your means. We don’t do more than we have to. I learnt self-confidence, not giving in to peer-pressure and the fear of God.
Tell us about your mum
My mum was a veteran broadcaster until she got married to my dad. That is why I have fantastic command of English language. She is alive and kicking and she is very close to me and my husband.
Tell us about your educational background?
I attended Nana primary school, College of Education Demonstration Secondary School and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. Then I did a State Alliance Francaise to learn a second language.
I have always seen you as someone that is culture-centric, was this born out of your upbringing?
Sort of, growing-up we were taught to learn and relate to culture. I have always been that kind of woman. Back in the university I had boxes of wrappers, head ties etc.
But inside the industry, when I started out, it wasn’t deliberate. Usually, I have a store where I buy what I wear for shows but there was this show I was invited for but I didn’t see anything that was show worthy in the store. Then the store owner said she could sew something beautiful before the next day. She then made me an Ankara gown that had chaka-chaka under which I rocked with an afro wig; after the event a lot of people commended my dressing. From then, I stuck to that style.
So, how has it been in the industry?
It’s been amazing; the journey has been really good. I have had my ups and down but God has been really faithful and I won’t tell you a lie, I am enjoying where I am right now. I am grateful for consistency, the ability to be consistent after 12 years in the industry being the product of a reality show, the ability to still has relevance is humbling and somewhat overwhelming.
I won’t tell you lie; a lot of people tend to have high expectation when it comes to their career. Sometimes it is a very sensitive issue but I am going to tell you this much, it has just been an amazing journey for me because a lot of people will say we don’t hear a lot about you anymore or you are doing this or that which I appreciate their input and concern but I have come to find a balance.
I have a cult like following; there are people who listen to my music all the time. Recently, I posted on twitter for people to tell me the next genre of music I should do next. There was a lot of response. I was amazed by some fans; they were talking about my albums.
It was humbling and overwhelming to know I have a lot of loyalist and I don’t take that for granted. I might have expectations but I am okay.
Let’s go back to how it all started 12 years ago for you
I was the product of a reality show Idols West Africa. I was the first runner up and the winner was Timi Dakolo. And right after the show, we came out and a lot of us were very fresh in the industry with no idea to move ahead.
We got signed in a label then with four people and I was one of them but I was not the sort of person wired to wait for something to happen but as God would have it Cobhams Asuquo called and said he wanted me to come and voice a song for a campaign.
I asked him how much are they going to pay but he said he wants to pitch the campaign to a company. So, I recorded the song, but by the time we recorded the song, the company decided to pay me as an endorsement as supposed to just paying for the song.
Then I opened for P-square in four locations across Nigeria, so that was like a leap for me right after Idols. Then Cobhams Asuquo produced my first two music; ‘I Miss My Baby’ and ‘In the Music’, which won me the ‘Next Rated Award’ organised by Headies in 2009.
That came with a car. It was surreal and unexpected, I felt that I would struggle a little more after Idol but I did not. I am grateful for that.
Within that period, how was the family support system?
It was amazing from every corner. My mum, brothers and sisters were supportive, and my dad is late. Before I went into the house; I had already graduated from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, where I read Law.
I was waiting to go to Law school when I went for the competition. My mum was of the opinion that I should enjoy myself but at some point I will have to go to Law school after the competition.
It’s been a while we heard something massive from you, what have you been up to?
I have been doing massive things it’s just that you haven’t been hearing. During that time, 2013 was a very big year for me. I was running about five endorsements concurrently. Right now, I am working with Haier Thermorcool and Lifebuoy as brand ambassadors.
In 2011, I got pregnant, gave birth and I came back. 2016 was a very good year for me. 2015 was the year I gave birth to my second child and that time was the time I wanted to make a particular statement with my music.
So, I went to South Africa, I recorded with big-bands with over 50 horns men in 139 channels. We had orchestra strings. I went to Nashville to record that. I made this album called “Timeless” which I collaborated with Cabal Entertainment.
Cabal licensed the album to Roc Nation and distributed with Universal. It was more of an International body of work which was tailored to the International market because it was predominantly jazz, afro-jazz, fusion, and highlife.
I wanted to delve into what people will call classical music. I feel like when I started out in this industry, sometimes you have to go with wave and sometimes you have to be true to yourself about the kind of musician that you are and I did that.
I have always been a live artiste and it is something of a dream for me to perform with an orchestra and I made that happen. That was the statement I needed to make for myself. I did that, and the praise and review I got from the album was overwhelming.
However, you know Nigerians love groovy music maybe that is why people will not hear about it. But ‘Timeless’ album did very well. Early this year, after I finish putting out my film, I recorded seven tracks ‘EP’ called ‘In Her Feeling’, I didn’t feature anyone.
Before then, in 2018 I had done a song with Dj-Spinall, Slim-case, Falz and Kizz Daniel. These were singles I released back to back towards the end of the year.
In 2019, I decided I was going to write something that resonates within me. If I am talking about love, I am talking about it from experience and if I am talking about sociopolitical issues, I am talking from where it resonates.
I am not going to do anybody backstory anymore that is why I did ‘In Her Feelings’ which was released on June 14, 2019.
What inspires your lyrics?
My body of work over time has been inspired by different things. Primarily God is my ultimate inspiration, sometimes I can look at you and imagine that you have a backstory maybe with one little thing that you tell me and if it resonates within me, I will make a song out of it; like getting inspiration from people’s experience.
There is a song in ‘Timeless’ I actually witnessed driving home. I was so disgusted with what I saw that I went home and I started making music. There is this song I wrote titled ‘Today Na Today’. I saw a woman selling roasted corn under the sun happily, and then I told myself if this woman can hustle like this and still find joy, then I can write an inspirational song from the experience. That is how my music comes.
Presently, what is happening?
Currently, I featured in three movies this year. Aside from that, I released my LP ‘In my Feeling’ so I decided to go on tour. I have been doing soft performances; the last one I did was at hard rock café in July 31. This next one will be on September 21, 2019 of at Freedom Park.
It is going to be amazing because this time I am not going to be alone. I have friends that will be on stage with me; Chidinma, Brymo, Timi Dakolo, Ego, Ric Hassani, Dede Mabiaku, just to name a few.
It is still going to be so much fun, I have been rehearsing since and everybody is excited and we are still going to different places. We are trying to lockdown our date for Abuja, London, Canada and United States.
Tell us more about few songs in the album ‘In My Feelings’?
I put a lot of effort in all my songs, every song is an experience. There is a song on my LP titled ‘Mr Sinnerman’. What I am saying in the song in essence is, everything we are complaining about in this country is self-made.
We have contributed to the challenges this country is facing today in one way or the other. So, the Nigeria mentality that if you dull, you are a fool has been imbibed in us so much that we are not even patient in traffic, at the end of the day we still get stuck in traffic because of lack of patience.
There is another song titled ‘For my Baby’, I wrote this song for my husband to appreciate him. You know in marriage and relationship, a lot of people forget to appreciate what their partner is doing even if it is their responsibility.
This song is a very lovely wedding song, very easy to sing.
Is this your first tour?
This is the third tour actually. This is my third tour in Lagos. The first one was at intimate gathering at the rooftop in Twin Waters, the second was at Hard Rock Café and this one is at Freedom Park.
What inspired the tour for Freedom Park?
First of all, ‘Freedom Park’ is an amazing experience. It used to be a prison and they have turned it into something so amazing. It’s so artsy, it celebrates the Nigerian culture and it has an amazing back story.
I just figured that if I had to do something in Lagos again, it has to be in a place like that so that the vibe of ‘Freedom Park’ will merge with the energy I usually bring to my stage performances. Besides, it is long overdue.
When will the tour start?
The tour is this coming Saturday, September 21, 2019, but we have started working, if you walk around you will see billboards everywhere.
What is your goal for this tour?
One thing I have realised is that, the world is changing and the industry is gradually changing as well. You will notice that before now, most musicians will wait for one big telecommunication to pack us together and put in one show.
But now, it is not the same. Now, an artiste gathers resources to make their music available to everybody. Aside from online, streaming and selling platform, the other way is grassroots, to put out your music.
And the thing about me is that I make good music, but my work is primarily an experience, so they go hand in hand. You don’t come to a show where I am performing and you don’t get wowed, it is just like a separate human being entirely.
When you want to picture me performing, think Tu-face, Fela-Kuti; it’s just an experience, I will talk and give you everything my craft has to offer.
Where can we place Omawumi in the music industry today?
I don’t know. You can place me wherever you want to because I don’t know where to place myself. The truth about it is that, there are no boxes. Music is not supposed to limit you, it is supposed to expose and broaden your horizon.
Look at the people that we emulate today for example, Whitney Houston sang different types of songs. I don’t agree with that notion that you must fit in a particular category. In my first single, I said just get in to the music.
Today I can sing a ballad and tomorrow I can sing something else, just enjoy the music.
Outside music what else do you do?
I am a business woman as you can see. I dabbled into one or two business, and I produce now. I produced my first song with Waje. These days I even produce my video. I am learning on the job of course, at some point I am going to get an education.
I am also an actor. I was in Chico Ejiro ‘Night Bus to Lagos’, I was in Ebony Life production that will come out in December, and I also have a couple of TV shows coming up.
I have plenty ‘egbon’s’ that are always holding my hand, motivating and telling me what to do. Even if you don’t hear a lot things I do music wise, I have multiple streams of income by the grace of God.
What has been your worst experience on the job?
Honestly, I don’t dwell on them. I don’t remember my most embarrassing moment. I hardy dwell on them; I will focus on the positive. I have a lot of support from fans and industry moguls.
Recently I said if my husband cheats on me, I won’t leave the marriage, I will rather sit him down and we talk things out which stirred mixed reaction on social media. But, that is me.
I believe there is always a reason behind action. If your husband cheats on you, find out from him, why? See if it was truly his intentions or not; if he is remorseful or not and all of that; before knowing the right actions to take. That is my personal opinion.
Who is your role model in the industry?
I have plenty. First of all, if you are a woman and you are breaking barriers and stepping up the game every moment, you have become somebody that I admire a lot. One of those people surprisingly this period is Mo Abudu.
Angelique Kidjo is one of my mentors, I did a song with her on my third album called ‘Play na Play’. Aunty Joke Silva, Aunty Adesua Oyenekwe, there are some quiet people like Elvina Ibru that has always been an amazing person from the onset; Ndidi Obiora.
How has it been marrying motherhood with your career?
Most people ask that question; like how are you coping? I don’t see it as coping, I enjoy it. It is a privilege for me to be able to find that balance and I see it as a blessing in my lifetime that I am able have these loving children and also a job I love doing.
How old is your first daughter?
My daughter is eight; I gave birth to her in 2011.
For the benefit of upcoming artists, what’s the secret to your successful career?
I don’t have secrets; there are no blueprints when it comes to music and making music. There are two components you need; knowledge and hard work. You have to know what you are doing, the kind of music you are singing and work at it.
Many upcoming acts are not patient, always in a haste to want to make it. They forget Morgan Freeman started acting at a young age but became famous in his late forties. Even Jay-Z released seven albums before fame.
Understand the journey, seek for opportunities to showcase your talent because talent is not enough, learn the craft and enjoy the process.
How do you unwind?
I love to read. Although, these days I am so lazy, I don’t really read serious books again. I just download online romance novels but before, we will be comparing Adoms Gracias, James Paterson, Dim Coms. I do a lot of reading, I spend a lot of time watching television, sometimes I am on the Internet and sometimes I am not. I watch a lot of series. I don’t like sports so I do a lot of board games in my house like snakes and ladder, ludo, monopoly and then I spend a lot of time with my children, we can decide to do dancing competition and winner gets cake and gifts.
Last word for your fans
Yes, I want to thank all my fans, friends and family for the love and concern. I really want to thank them for loving the brand Omawumi, I don’t take it for granted, I appreciate every one of them and I am thank them.
They can always reach out to me on my social media platforms, @Omawonder on Instagram and Twitter and, on Facebook, Omawumi.