In a world of different languages, ethnicity, amongst others, there is this consistent argument of acceptability of ministers from another ethnic group, ministering in its language to another ethnic race.
However, Gospel singer Ambassador Emmy Kosgei, in this interview with Prince Okafor, reinstated that music is not language but a sound, she also disclosed plans to collaborate with several Nigerian Gospel artists, as well as reaching out to the hopeless across the world through her sound.
Can we meet you?
I am Pastor Ambassador Emmy Kosgei Madubuko, a born again Christian, a Gospel singer and an ambassador for Tourism, Culture for Kenya. I am happily married to Apostle Anselm Madubuko. I am born and breed in Kenya, been married for six years now. I do Afro fusion music, cultural gospel in terms of beat, I also run a fashion academy, Emmy K. My Emmy Kosgei brand represents African’s heritage because of how I dance and sing with Vernacular.
How I met my husband
Music brought me to my husband. I met Apostle in Mombasa, Kenya, a few years ago. I have been into professional music for 16 years counting, in Kenya.
Apostle has been going to this particular conference in Kenya for many years, but I have never gone to the conference. When I got invited for the first time, I meet him preaching on the pulpit, and that was the first time he saw me with my band.
He was the guest speaker for the conference, I was invited to minister along with my band, he loves our ministration, and that earned me an invitation to Nigeria for Azuza Conference. The conference happens every year.
This year’s conference will be the 17th edition. I was privileged to have attended the conference for four years. Although, during this period I was in a relationship with someone else, so it was not a relationship meeting.
We did not meet and started dating. That’s how we met. He was married then. We were not dating, we were not even friends but the fact that he saw what we did and felt like inviting us for Azuza Praise Jam.
He enjoys the fact that we are from East Africa, and our kind of music has a different sound so he invited us to add that kind of value to the concert and we delivered.
After some years, his Late wife passed on but before she passed on I came here, I was dating then and I broke up with the person I was dating.
A year after his wife passed on was when he reached out to me and therelationship thing started so it was not like we were close.
Tell us about you musical journey
I was brought up in a Christian home. My father is a Bishop, while my mother is a pastor. I served in my local church for many years while growing up as a kid. I got into official recording under the brand Emmy Kosgei 16 years ago.
I started with vernacular music which was not popular in my country then. We were having clashes during the elections period which was topical then.
However, that gave me an edge in the music world. I was offering adifferent type of sound altogether from the performance and everything. I got an entry into the music world not really as an African artist but as a Gospel artist. That was how I got into international platforms.
Why Gospel and not secular music
I am a Christian. I have been into gospel music since I was a kid. I used to lead praise and worship in the choir then, I also write songs.
After I graduated from university in 2001, I worked for like three years, but Music was my passion and I did not study music at the university because I was not planning to go into music full time.
I thought I will just do music on the side. The church I worshipped while in school while in school, one of the Kenyan Gospel celebritywas a member.
She saw me while I was backing a lead singer in my church, she invited me to be part of her band so I did backup for her for a year. She introduced me to music recording.
I have been into severe activities, I have worked in a corporate organisation, I modelled, and she looked at me and advised me that, with this great voice and your looks, why not add music to it, it will be amazing.
I was reluctant about it, but she pushed me harder, sequel to the push, I was able to come out with my first album, which was my baptism into the industry. My musical concept was unique, which earned me an invitation to America, South Africa and other places.
At a time, I had to resign my work because all I was doing was between job and travelling. I decided to resign so that I can concentrate on full-time music because that was what I loved.
I went to full-time music then along the line another company called me to work for them. I worked for like two years and resigned along the line because my program was full so that was how I moved to full-time music.
Tell us why you choose South African Makebah as your mentor
My mentor is not a Gospel musician. She is more like an African icon. Because of the line of music that I do, I usually get so inspired by Makebah and Rebekah Malope from South Africa, because they have been able to do vernacular music with excellence and pushed it to the global platform.
The fact they are women, studying their impacts on the African communities with what they do inspires me as a vernacular artist to know that it is okay to do vernacular music and still make impacts.
So, like I said contributing factors, that is one, the other one is community, where I was brought up in, has a lot of values to our heritage because I love everything about African heritage.
It gave me the passion to continue doing vernacular music and not English or even Swahili because I still feel that African song is great, it is a rare sound and then right now in the world today, it is the most sought after sound both secular and Gospel.
We have other continents trying to imitate, to borrow the African sound so that has been my journey and I love it and I am happy that it is one of the things that contributed to my appointment as the Ambassador for Tourism and Culture for Kenya. Nationally and globally all the things I push forth is the Kenyan brand.
It is our heritage, it is our brand. African themselves, appreciate our heritage, appreciate who we are to the world, so when they come to Africa, to Kenya it is not just wildlife, there is more an aspect to Tourism in terms of the culture of the people: festivals, clothing, food, beads all those. That is the angle I come from and it is very dear to me and being a Christian I use the platform to preach the gospel.
Do you think Kenya music will do well in Nigeria
I think in Nigeria even the music they do is in their languages, its either Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Pidgin, amongst other languages.
I think it would sell because music is a sound not the language, not even the way you sing it because there are people who sing in English and when people understand they do not enjoy it, they know what you are saying but they do not feel it so.
It is not about the language it is about the sound and it is the spirit behind the song. I have seen people sing songs that they do not even understand but they love it.
I have been studying music from West Africa it is very grooving, I believe that the East African sound is very different but it gives another variety. It may not be familiar, it is another different sound of music but I believe that they would love it.
What is the difference between East Africa and West Africa Sound Nigeria is a bit different from Kenya. East Africa has a different sound to that of West Africa. The approach and presentation of the music are also different so in terms of presentation I mean the messaging and delivery is different.
East Africa is laid back. Marrying the two to me is a very powerful thing in terms of sound. I recently produced a song “Champion” it was produced in Nigeria, by a Nigerian producer, the texture in the sound, the groove in it and the East African language the combination is so amazing. I realized we offer variety when we bring them together, it is still an African sound but it is sweeter. So what I have seen in the last five years now is the fact that Nigerian Gospel artistes are receiving audiences in East Africa especially Kenya. I have attended a concert and witness Sinach ministered in Kenya, she is my friend though, and when she performed it was amazing. Marrying East Africa and West Africa sound is great. We have had so many West African artistes there, so being here now is a great opportunity for me.
Nigeria is a big market with large population and we have many Christians here, so I believe we enjoy the advantage of the African music is both.
What is your take about Gospel artist doing collaboration with Secular artist
It depends. When they are doing project songs, you can bring secular and Gospel but a collaboration as per writing songs for praises would be very difficult. It will collide.
I do not see it as being impossible. Songs are not languages it is a sound and every sound is given by a particular spirit so when you bring two spirits that are colliding and I do not know what message you want to pass across.
Tell us about your Albums
I have five albums, the sixth one is coming up early 2020. It is a compilation of several songs I wrote in Nigeria. I have recorded some here and some in Kenya. I have done a collabo with Onos Ariyo, also with Sinach which is yet to come out. I have done a song with Mercy Chinwo, which should come out early next year.
So, I am excited about this album in particular it has so many songs that I have mixed with the West African sound. I have worked with Nigerian producers. I’ve worked with K-Solo, amongst others.
Do you have any contact with Nigeria before you came?
No, even Nigerian gospel artistes have also not come to Kenya before. So, I believe that coming here as a gospel artiste was also an opening to know more about Nigeria and since that period till now, I can actually record concerts that have been done in Kenyan with the Nigerian artistes now invited to Kenya. There are only like two secular artistes that used to come to Kenya before.
What do you think about tourism and culture in Nigeria?
The Nigerian culture and tourism is so powerful mostly in the movies. Movies are where people get to meet Nigerians globally. I will say in Kenya, Nigerian movies are the most viewed in East Africa. Apart from that, I believed there are beautiful scenes I have seen in Nigeria. I am not sure of wild life because Kenya has more of that. But when you talk about sceneries and culture, Nigeria has very rich heritage
in terms culture, music, and all that. The various cultures are very strong, that is what I have noticed since I have been attending one event here and there. So, that’s the strongest part of here.
In Kenya, our wild life is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world. And what we are building now is the heritage in terms of music, culture and people. I’m looking at many Nigerians visiting Kenya for tourism. I realized people in this end love holiday, traveling and all that and there are opportunities for that in Kenya.
We have schools in Kenya, I mean beautiful—America and British—and I’ll say that right now, there are many Nigerians in some of the institutions. We have education, and we have hospitals that we are trying to introduce to the Nigerian market instead of flying to America and other places for medication. We have facilities in Kenya that are very good. There are very good hospitals and the prices are affordable. So, we have schools, hospitals, holiday destinations and all that. We have universities in Nigeria that are globally competitive. And now are building music. For the past five years, I have seen so many musicians that are operating in Kenya. They are invited. We are bridging inter-culture in terms of music, so I want to believe that being here now, it is time we introduced Kenya music to Nigeria.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From the word of God which is the bible. My songs are purely inspired by the word of God. You know we all write songs differently. There are people who write songs out of experience but mine is the word of God. If you check out my songs they have interpretation in the bible scriptures which I know the word of God is life, read it and listen it will inspire and bless anyone that listens to it.
What are Nigerians expecting from you, coming into the Nigerian gospel music space?
One is the sound. They should expect sound from East Africa and with a bit of blend from here (Nigeria). I have songs that are coming up from January right from the beginning of the year. We would releasing the songs, especially my collaboration with Mercy Chinwo. That with Sinach is on the video is also on the way. My champion song is geared towards many activities especially sports because it focuses majorly on Olympics. It is a thematic song.
Then I am releasing my sixth album next year. I plan to do a concert here in Nigeria next year in Lagos just to introduce my songs to the people.
So we are up and doing and I have been privileged to perform on different kind of events here. So, I am really excited and looking forward to giving that different sound of African music.
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You cannot make yourself acceptable to the people, but providing the music, the sound to the people so that they can hear it and buy into it, by making my music available and visible to know who I am and what I do will leave them with an open option.
Right now, I am really excited about next year because I would be doing a lot of things. I would be launching my album. I want to embark on mental health to be able to reach out and use my platform and add my voice to ongoing campaigns on mental challenges.
People who are almost committing suicide, people who are going through one thing or the other, many people are looking for a platform or people to talk to maybe because of economic issues. So, I want to embark on a campaign to make a difference and use my platform to reach out to people who are going through one thing or the other.