Omawunmi Magbele, lawyer turned musician who was recently in the eye of the storm following the birth of her baby and the mystery shrouding the identity of the father of the baby, is our guest on Saturday Vanguard celebrity pages. She opens up for the first time on her career, love life and more.
By Ogbonna Amadi Entertainment Editor
What inspired the song If You Ask Me song?
Many things inspired it. I’m an ambassador for Project Alert, an organization set up by a lady called Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma. It’s an association against all forms of violence against women and young girls. First of all, I’ve heard about men beating up their girls and some raping their girls or using them for money ritual and other nonsense things.
And then I witnessed one at a particular barracks because if you listened to the song, it featured me coming out from a place and eavesdropping on a family’s conversation. There, I saw it was a small commotion. And naturally as a Warri lady, anywhere I see such happening, I’ll want to know what’ going on.
So as I was about to do that, I heard a conversation, apparently, the girl had been going around the barracks with different soldiers and her father was beating her up for bringing shame on the family. Then the girl retorted that the father had also been sleeping with her. And then she even went on to say she’d had an abortion for the father in the past.
So it was really upsetting . I was in the bathroom and the inspiration for the song started coming. And whenever my opinion was sought about the matter, I’d always reply that if you ask me, I think the father should be punished. And usually when I say that, my mother would say that she thanked God nobody asked me and that’s the way I talk naturally.
When the inspiration came to me, it came to me as a mid tempo song and I took it to the producer Cohbams but he asked to change the theme of the song because it’s very sensitive. I wanted us to talk about the travails of the country. But at the end of the day, Cohbams said we should leave it like that and that although it’s sensitive, the song would catch attention. That’s how the song came.
It’s like three of your songs are tilted towards the South African rhythm .
It’s just one song and it was a single from my first album In The Music. So, this is the single off my second album and it sounds more like the 70s twist dance kind of song. The thing is that it’s a challenge for me to write music. I always ask what’s the Nigerian way of writing music. The basic genre of music known to be original Nigerian is Highlife and Juju which breaks into different categories. I could write like that but it’s always a challenge for me because I grew up listening to Jazz because my father was a Jazz collector and my mum a veteran broadcaster. So, I grew up listening to a different genre of music that wasn’t really Nigerian original music. That’s why when you listen to my song Serious Love Wantintin, it sounds like a Nigerian song with a high life beat. It’s so because, I had the opportunity of listening to artistes like Victor Olaiya, Onyeka Onwenu, late Christy Essien, Njemanze, Louis Armstrong and others. And because I’m the twelfth child of fifteen children, and my elder ones too had songs like Anita Baker, Boys To Men. So it’s really a challenge writing songs to fit into the Nigerian setting. That’s why if you listen to In The Music,I said that whether nah Kwitto, whether nah Jazz, Afro beat…just listen to the music and enjoy it. So that’s the way it is for me
By the time you recorded your second album, you’d evolved.
No, it was something different from the norm. The thing about music is that it’s ever evolving. Music is hardly original and everybody takes one thing from one person or another. So I usually take influences and put a bit of something of me in it. Something about my music is that I use a lot of pidgin English and try a bit of my personality. And because I’m funny and love clowning around , I‘d like to have fun with my music.
So when you created this beat, weren’t you scared that it wouldn’t sell?
I’m the type that has never attributed the success of my songs to myself because whenever I’m through with my song, the first thing I do is pray to God about it, telling him that I want that song to be successful. And I pay my tithe. And sometimes, I just take the CD alongside my tithe and drop it.
Does the CD carry you name and picture?
No. it’s usually a blank CD but the original copy after I’ve dubbed it into my computer. And then I drop it.
And has it ever worked for you?
It has always worked and that’s what I call an original Jesus jazz.
Even when you went into the reality show?
The reality show was another turning point in my life. Before now, I worked in my elder brother’s Law firm in Port-Hacourt. I was waiting to go to Law school and then I earned N5000 because lawyers are not paid. So whenever briefs come, I go pick it up and drop letters for courts and from there, I earn merger amount.
That’s how I survived in Port-Harcourt before the reality show thing came. Before I went on that show, there was a point when I was determined to face life the way it is and my faith in God is very strong. The kind of relationship I have with God is that I appreciate him for the smallest things in my life. It’s something I learnt from my mother, that no matter how bad we are, you must understand that you can’t live your life without God. So that particular time, I went to Church on the 31st of December. The preaching was only for 5 minutes but I held strongly to it. The sermon was taken from John 3:50b that you shall see something greater than this. I held strongly to it with the conviction of a mad man and from that point, less than three months to that time, I was a millionnaire and before then, I didn’t have up to N50, 000. When I was about to leave school, I used to beg my uncles, aunties and my elderly ones for money and the total would be like N70 000 but things changed later.
I’d already forgotten about how I left Church on the 31st of December. So when I went for the competition, I took four days off work. I told my brother I was going to Calabar. I went to Calabar for the West African Idol audition. I auditioned in the first set and I was picked. Then, we were asked to come back the next day for the real judges to screen us. We were about three hundred and we sang again. They took us and reduced us from 300 to 90 and I was among. They told us we’ll move to Lagos and I called my mother and told her. And we moved from there.
How did you get the money to do all that?
By the time I sang, everyone started bringing out money. They paid our transport fair from Calabar to Lagos. I had N5,225 in my account. I withdrew N4000 because Port-Harcourt to Calabar was like N400. I wanted to stay with my aunty living at Sacramento Estate, Calabar. By the time we went from Calabar to Lagos, they started giving us allowances. They put us in hotels and we were okay.
So how did you feel about the whole development?
We were about 90 and I made it a point of duty to act in a way that I’d be noticed. From then, we moved to 47 to 24 and they gave us one month break to go and prepare well.
At that time, how much did you have in your account?
I wasn’t saving because we used the money there in Lagos. By the time I got home, I used the break to beg my brothers and family to vote for me. Timi and I encouraged ourselves and went to beg people to vote for us. Before I went back, I approached one man and begged for his vote. He asked me how much was up for grabs in , a Kia Picanto and a record deal. He told me he couldn’t operate a phone but he’d send something to me . The next day, he sent me an envelop containing $10 000.
Did you know the person?
I know him but what’s your business with it? So when I got the money, I was happy and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Didn’t you tell anybody about it?
I told anybody who cared to listen but the person who sent me the money asked that his identity be kept secret. So when the bearer brought the white envelop, I collected it and tucked it into my T-shirt and walked into my room. Then what I did was to keep counting the money all over again to make sure any piece wasn’t stolen.That was when the change started. By the time I came out from Idols, my first job was the team song I did for Malta Guiness with Cohbams Asuquo and my money ran into millions. I went around singing people’s songs I performed in Idols because I was popular. So people got tired of me singing other people’s songs and refused to invite me for shows. And because Cohbams had earlier told that my voice will be suitable for any song, I just called him and told him I needed a song. I didn’t even know when I was supposed to do an album. I’m hardworking and always in search of opportunities. So I started moving and anybody I met at shows, I would greet the person and make the person like me. From there, I’d tell him to invite me for shows whenever there was any. So I approached my manager in Febraury 2009 and told him to manage me. He agreed.
So who wrote your first song for you?
I wrote it myself.
So where did the clue for the song come from?
I didn’t have a clue that I was supposed to do an album. The first song I did for Malta Guiness was written by Cohbams while my contribution in the song was little. The second one I wrote one song. It was a new song called I Miss My Baby. And on my way to meet Cohbams on the Third Mainland Bridge the inspiration for In The Music came. At that time, Terry G was just starting his reign and I became frustrated and asked myself why I couldn’t write such songs. So I resolved that even if it’s not purely Nigerian beat, the utmost was for people to find my songs enjoyable. So I told Cohbams about the song I was bringing and the one I just got on my way to his place.
So he chose In The Music to be recorded first. By the time we recorded In The Music and I Love My Baby, I performed that for almost four months. Then I went to Clarence Peters and we shot the video for it.
The video was good. Later, people started saying that I only had two songs and refused to call me for shows. At shows, they would offer to pay me N200 000 because I had only two songs. So I decided to start recording and by November 2009, my album was out.
Before 2009, you were earning N5,000. How did you brother react to you not coming back to work in his Chambers?
Well, my family was very happy for me. His major concern was that I find a time for Law School. Although he missed me , he had others and I was just there to train. Even if I was not training, he’s a pastor and straight forward. He was very happy and he wanted the best for me. People would tell him they saw me performing at a show and would complain about my dress. He would call me and ask me to always dress well.
I was very excited in the beginning and wanted to do a lot of things. From a nobody, I became somebody. And I’m very happy for the kind of family that I have because if I had done the kind of things I wanted to do in a hurry, it wouldn’t have come out fine.
So what were the things you wanted to do?
I wanted to buy a big car, rent a duplex at Lekki Phase One. If I had done that, I would have exhausted all my money.
When a woman becomes a hit and there’s a regular boyfriend, what happens to the relationship after that?
Well I thank God that I didn’t face such. I just got out of a relationship when I got into the competition. So I was very single and there was no one who could accuse me of abandoning him.
So how do you cope with men now that you’re a star?
Whenever I’m asked this question, I tell them that it’s a very wonderful thing. I’m not exactly a prude. The thing is that as a Warri girl, I grew up in the midst of nine boys. So the ways of the opposite sex isn’t strange to me. My brother could invite four girls to the house at the same time, so I already know this.
My mum told me that there’s nothing a man wouldn’t do to have sex with a woman. Some men could denounce God because they want to have sex with a lady. So the way I look at it is that if I sleep around, what is then left with me. I love it when I get to a place and I have the dignity to look into people’s eyes and relate with them.
But you were in a relationship that got you hurt.
He didn’t hurt me. We just decided it was best for us to separate. We were friends before we started dating. But we just figured out it was best for us to remain friends rather than lovers.
For me, I felt the experience you had getting pregnant was what you put into the song If You Ask Me
The song doesn’t have anything to do with me. It was about a father who got his daughter pregnant.
But it could have meant anything?
Yes. It could have, but the song wasn’t meant to be a satire in any way. I was saying it as it is. It was a sensitive subject that I had to say playfully. So it has no connection whatsoever with the fact that I was pregnant.
Was the song written before you gave birth?
Of course not. I had the song even before I got pregnant.
I thought I saw on Twitter that you were coming back with a new song after you gave birth?
If You Ask Me was already out before then. It was out on January 10. I recorded it four months before then.
But why would you keep the identity of the father of your child secret?
Because it doesn’t concern anyone. Does it mean that we’re not entitled to our privacy because we’re stars? What people should be more concerned about is the songs I sing and not my private life.
Maybe because you’re now a star
Then, it’s nobody’s business. But if someone told you about the identity of my child’s father then, I’ll be angry at such a person. He’s a very private person and doesn’t want people to know him. I appreciate that fact and would prefer people to concentrate on my song and leave my child and the father alone.
Was it the same man you broke up with who fathered your child?
No. It was a while back and all those stories about my ex, fathering my girl were all lies. It was a long time after. But the truth is that we kept it under hush hush. Before people knew we’d broken up, it was already about seven months gone, people doubted it.
I just realized that I exposed my first relationship too much. Now I understand that a relationship should be between you and the other person. So it doesn’t concern anybody.
How old is your baby now?
She’s four months old.
Who does she look like, you or him?
She took after the two of us.
After this, where are you heading to as a mother?
I have a lot of things to do. In all of this thing, I’m very happy and content. My daughter is the best thing that happened to me. She has changed my life and the way I reason. I’m happy. And I’m in a loving relationship and that’s the way it should be.
What else do you do aside music?
I enjoy acting . It’s a second love. So I started making it known that I wanted roles and whenever anybody came and told me they wanted me to make a cameo appearance in their movies, I’d ask for auditions. So the first I had was a movie directed by Fred Amata. It was exciting.
The second one was the Return of Jennifa. She told me she wanted me to make a cameo appearance but I asked for a role and it worked. I did about eight scenes and it was good. Then I started getting scripts, most of them I don’t like. I like to act in blockbuster movies because I like to associate myself with big things.
But sometimes they could come with a dull script and good money
No. I won’t accept such scripts when it comes to Nollywood. But when it comes to music, I can accept it. I hardly do collabos and most times when I did, it was organized by corporate companies who are ready to pay me, like the one I did with Power Of Naija with 2Face and Cohbams, the company paid all my money.
But sometimes, collabos are meant to help artistes grow
I believe that what will be will be. And in all my videos, I don’t have any collabos and they were successful. But my first album had Eldee, Waje, Kel, Dr. Frabs. Those are my friends and they are talented. My next album is also going to have people. Right now, I don’t think I’ve featured in any other person’s album other than Sasha’s and Naeto’s album.
But those are not too big artistes?
But they’re my friends.