New Telegraph

February 24, 2024

Nigerian music has broken into every corner of the globe –Uchechi Emelonye

‘My goal is for my music to help people get through things’

 

 

Uchechi Emelonye is a United Kingdom based Nigerian. A multi-talented instrumentalist, writer, composer and singer, she recently released her first song, Little Blackbird; a song she says details the struggle of growing up as a black girl in United kingdom, as well as learning to grow to love oneself as a black girl in a white dominated community. Uchechi is from a family with inter-generational heritage of creative and performing artists. Her grandfather was a leading fine-artist in the East Central Nigeria. She is the second of three siblings born into the family of Dr. and Dr. Mrs. Uchenna Emelonye. Her dad is a senior diplomat with the United Nations and her mum, an Associate Professor of Nursing. Her uncle is the award winning movie director, Obi Emelonye. Her music skills were first discovered by her parents at the age 10, when they gifted her with a guitar, piano and ‘ukulele’. Thereafter, she was spotted at school performances and excelled to become lead singer at school shows in the United States, Italy, Macedonia and Uganda respectively. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, she speaks about finding confidence within her personality, her music career and why she is studying Law despite her exceptional music talent

 

 

You have one of the most envied dark chocolate skins. How do you maintain it to remain beautiful?

 

I always love to say I was born with it because my mum said the doctor who delivered me remarked on how dark my skin was. The essentials I use are Vaseline, and facial cleansers.

 

Also, my favourite thing to do is nap and I’ve heard sleep is good for the skin. I plan to take skin care more seriously and if I get a good routine, I’ll share it.

 

What is the inspiration behind your latest song/video, Little BlackBird?

 

I was inspired by the fact that when I first wrote it, I was on the verge of turning 18. So, I was about to grow up and I used my music as an instrument to express how I felt about that.

 

This further developed to not only expressing my experience but the experience of other beautiful black girls I had come across. I had realised that growing up in a few white-dominated spaces that my race was a big part of who I was.

I started having more conversations about this and realised I was not the only one who felt this way and even if we had varying degrees of experiences, the unifying message is that we should always love who we are.

 

Little BlackBird is a song of empowerment because the underlining message is that a black girl is beautiful, smart, can be anything she wants to and do anything she puts her mind to.

 

The song used the metaphor of “bird” because it is a colloquial way of referring to girls, but most importantly because birds can be fragile, particularly when they are young, just as girls are as they develop, but can also be powerful as an eagle if protected to full maturity.

 

You said earlier that growing up in a white dominated country, your skin colour at some point was a barrier. Were you bullied because you are black and how did you fight it to remain relevant against all odds?

 

I will say that a big part of the barrier of skin colour is being recognised as an individual. It’s so easy for people to reduce you to harmful stereotypes. Thankfully, I was never bullied by my peers but there were times where the difference in how I looked and where I was from affected me.

 

It was little things like people not bothering to learn my name because it was “too hard”, to more extreme things like people pulling their children away from me if I was walking down the street.

 

How I overcame a lot of that was due to the fact that my parents raised me to be proud of who I am. So, whenever someone made me feel bad for something I could not control, I reminded myself there’s nothing to be ashamed of. When you realise your worth, you tend to feel pity for those who don’t.

 

As soon as you devalue other people’s perceptions of you and value your own, you’ll walk the world with your head a lot higher.

 

How long did it take you to write the lyrics of that song?

 

To write the chorus probably took me a few minutes. My choruses usually come to me pretty fast. The verse on the other hand I would say took about two years. I had written a few verses that never made the final cut but during the two years, I always went back to the song to refine and change things.

 

Finally, when I got the opportunity to work with my producers, they made me throw away all that work and start from scratch. So, with the help of my elder brother, my friends who answered my two questions (1. What struggles did you face growing up as a black girl?

 

  1. What would you tell your y o u n g e r self today? ), coupled with my e x p e r i – ence, we managed to write it in a night. I wrote, c o m – p o s e d and arranged ‘ L i t t l e Blackbird’ with the support of my elder brother, Uchenna Ponfa Emelonye. The song was jointly produced by three budding Nigerian music producers.

 

What makes you different as an artiste?

The fact that I’m not trying to be anyone else, I am forging my path and trying to make my own genre in the industry. It helps that I have been exposed globally, living in multiple countries and experiencing many cultures.

 

Therefore, I’ve interacted with different genres of music that I plan to combine with the African sound that I was born into. I also think what makes me unique is what I write my songs about, which is the authentic human experience.

 

My goal is for my music to help people get through things, express themselves, change their mood and be the gift in their life as it was in mine.

 

What should fans expect from the video shoot?

 

Fans should expect a cinematic experience that will leave them feeling emotions they did not know they had. Anyone who watches the video is either a BlackBird themselves or cares for and has a BlackBird in their life. Therefore, they should expect to resonate with the lyrics and the visuals. It details a vivid story with many interconnecting themes and characters.

The Grandma telling the story of the Little BlackBird represents all the generations that gave us life before, the little girl who grows up to do what she wants despite the adversity repre-sents all of us in the present trying to achieve our dreams in the world today. Finally, all the amazing women presented on the wall represent the infinite prospects of what we can achieve.

 

Who is the music video director and why did you pick him?

The director for the music video is the amazing Sesan. It was such an honour and pleasure to work with him. I would say that we chose each other because our artistic visions came together to make perfect harmony.

He found a way to marry my meaningful lyrics to a stunning storyboard and visual. I was connected to him through my uncle who is a Nollywood movie Director, Obi Emelonye. So, I would say no one picked the other because it was just meant to happen.

 

How has it been pushing your brand as a female artiste in a male-dominated industry?

 

The fact that the industry is male-dominated just makes me want to work harder to break into it. This disadvantage is not necessarily a bad thing because it also means I am not a commodity, I am different from the usual which will make people want to listen to my music more. I am also just starting.

 

So, I have not found it too difficult yet but even if I do later on, it will be worth it to blaze a path for other female musicians, who will come after me. It’s all hard work and I have an amazing support system of family and friends to keep me going.

 

After Little BlackBird, what else should fans expect from you?

 

Fans should expect more music that they can enjoy and relate to. They should expect sounds, beats, rhythms, and lyrics that will make them think no one else does it like Uchechi Emelonye. I have many projects in the parking lot waiting to be brought to life, and hopefully, some collaborations. Fans should expect to be taken on a journey because this is just the beginning.

 

We have seen many American based Nigerian singers come back to Nigeria to kick off their music career. People like Tiwa Savage, Seyi Shay become a success. Are you thinking of coming back to Nigeria to do the same?

 

I won’t be relocating back to Nigeria for my music because I always have been here. Whether it was physically or in spirit, I’ve never left home. My parents always ensured that no matter how far we went, we would always be back here in Nigeria for Christmas or summer. I also finished my last two years of High school in Nigeria.

So, in my eyes, even if you see me somewhere halfway across the world, I am still representing Nigeria and I’ve never left.

 

Aside music, what other career are you interested in being a success at?

 

I am currently studying Law in Lancaster University, United Kingdom and I’ve always been passionate about Human Rights. So, a career as an advocate for Human Rights would be a dream come true, whether in building my own NGO/Foundation that seeks to protect those that are vulnerable and in need or becoming an Ambassador for a cause that is for the betterment of human-kind.

 

Many musicians say it is hard to become successful abroad. Why is that?

 

That is probably because the competition is so tough. In Nigeria alone, there are so many amazing artists.

 

So, when you put the industry abroad into p e r – spective and add all their extraordinary artists into the mix, you understand why they say the industry is so cutthroat. I also feel the standards in the music industry are so high because of all the greats that came before us that made it what it is, and those can be big shoes to fill.

 

What is your view about Nigerian music industry and the kind of music super stars Nigeria has produced?

 

The Nigerian music industry is so nostalgic to me. I grew up listening to a lot of Nigerian music and I think the power of it is that it brings people together. You cannot go to a gathering and not play Nigerian bops. What’s even more amazing to me and fills me with a sense of pride is the fact that Nigerian music has transcended borders and continents.

People, who are from the most unlikely of places, have tried to put me on Wizkid when I’ve been listening to him since his “Caro” and “Ojuelegba” days. We are finally getting international recognition and gaining awards but most importantly, bringing a whole new genre to stand strongly on its own.

 

I respect the superstars Nigeria has produced because their consistency is unparalleled. They are always releasing bangers. I have never heard a Wizkid song I didn’t like.

 

Where do you dream to see your music career?

I dream to see my career growing far and crossing borders like I have. I want to see my music have a positive impact on people. I want to be a pioneer of something new and different in the industry as well as uphold the great reputation of Nigerian music. I hope to find an audience that looks forward to every single thing I drop and disturb me if I’m quiet for too long.

 

I want to work with and learn from artists that I’ve grown up listening to and respect. I want to have a decorated career that is full of achievements that I can use to inspire the next generation

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