Certainly not of the most favoured or loved musical instruments, but an amazing young lady remains fervent in her devotion to the flute. Vanessa Obioha writes
Coming across a female flutist can be one of those rare moments you appreciate the talents the Supreme One has bestowed on mankind. The flute is one of those rare musical instruments and a woman flutist is even more impressive. And that's what the shy female flutist, Ebele Ezeamakam has cut out to be in the music arena. Dressed in beige gown, one can be misled by her meek disposition because the moment she opened her lips to speak, she was undoubtedly, bursting with vivacity.
Born into a family of six, "Ebele the flutist" as she is fondly called, spent most of her childhood days in Benin. The Anambra-born artiste was introduced to the flute at a tender age of eight by a Filipino who came to play different musical instruments at her church back in Benin. "I was exposed to the organ, which is a smaller instrument compared to the flute by the Filipino at the age of 8," she said. An ardent music lover, Ebele had always been a member of the choir in her church, stirring her passion for music unconsciously. But the young lass was intrigued by the flute instrument due to its uniqueness to produce different sounds. "The flute is a solo instrument. You can play anything with the flute unlike the saxophone. I got attracted to it because of this distinct feature."
This new-found hobby of hers somehow distracted her from her studies back in secondary school, which worried her father. He complained about her attitude towards her studies as she missed classes to attend practice but when he came into full realisation that his daughter's love for flute was dyed in the wool, he gave her his support.
Her first Performance
By age 15, Ebele was standing in a crowd of 3,000 playing the flute, which she had mastered by then at a concert in Benin for the first time.
"I was quite naïve and nobody believed that I could play the flute but the moment I got on that stage. I was overwhelmed by a strong feeling and I knew then, I was born to do this."
It was all the encouragement she needed as she pursued her passion for music. She joined a 20-member group "Agape Voices", which were a mix of singers and instrumentalists where she performed with the group at local functions and concerts across the country.
Relocation to Lagos
After her secondary school days in Benin, Ebele moved to Enugu for further studies and obtained a degree in business administration. She later moved to Lagos and as a result of this, she had to leave the group which was solely based in Benin. On getting to Lagos, she worked as an accountant in an oil firm where she showcased her talents to her clients who never hesitated to invite her to play during any occasion.
A Cry for Release
For Ebele, there was no way she could quench the passion stirring within her. Neither was she ready to compromise her talent for her job. "Despite I had an amazing job, the flute never left me. I knew I had to do something about it. I had to let it out." With that, she came to the conclusion that the flute was not just a hobby anymore, but a passion that must be pursued.
The big decision
Passion, they say, can drive you crazy. Ebele is a living proof of that, as she quit her job to pursue her love for music. She recounted her boss's reaction when she told him that she wanted to delve into music. "He thought I was insane. He looked at me and said, 'are you ok? You have a good paying job and you want to go into music.' He found it weird and never took me serious. He took him time for him to believe in me." This decision seemed a bit awkward to people around her but she knew what she was doing. She knew this was her destiny and she was willing to go down the mile at all cost. But what she didn't envision was the challenges that accompany such decisions.
Despite this discouragement she got from her boss, Ebele still pushed on. After resigning from her job, she had to look for financial support to help build her career and no one was willing to help. "I never knew I would come this far. It was not easy at all in the beginning because everyone thought I was insane. They could not believe how I could leave my job to pursue a career in music. I actually went to a company we used to transact business with to seek for support and the manager told me bluntly that how can a beautiful girl like me be into music. He told me not to waste my money in Nigeria that such talents like mine will only thrive in the Western world and will be highly appreciated. I was so discouraged that I cried out to God "asking him if he wasn't the one that bestowed the gift on me, why was it difficult for me to get financial support."
Still determined to ignite the passion in her, Ebele considered collaborating with a record label but it didn't turn out well. "The record label wanted to drive me away from my vision and I didn't want that, I believed that was not in God's plan for me."
After searching the woods for help, a ray of light suddenly appeared at the end of the tunnel through her boss, Uche Ogah who had earlier discouraged her. "He had heard about my performances in concerts and saw that I was really good. It was then he gave me his support and had been of immense help to my career financially." She said appreciatively.
Her Style of Music
It's difficult to place a particular genre to Ebele's kind of music since her lovebird, the flute, gives her the opportunity to display her creativity. But one thing you can be sure of is that you will be carried away by the sweet sound of her flute or her voice. She plays contemporary gospel jazz. "I just don't play the flute, I sing as well. I do both on stage. Sometimes when I'm performing and I start to sing, people won't want me to play the flute again and vice versa. I get that a lot from my fans. With me, you don't get to see the same me all the time. I'm unpredictable. I might perform this song today in a particular way and next time, in another way. I improvise a lot with my flute and I create anything on stage. I think that's what makes me stand out in the crowd. You always have to watch out for something new from me," she said proudly.
Why Gospel Music?
Ebele, despite her talent have no intention of dabbling into secular music. The assumption is that gospel artistes make less money, but Ebele thinks otherwise. "People go into secular music because they feel there is no money in gospel music but all that has changed. I want to make money, yes, and I will because I have good music I want to push out there, but my message will always come first. I'm inspired by God and I know he wants me to do this. My music is inspirational and I want to pass that message through my music to the world."
Besides the flute, Ebele plays the keyboard as well. She is an embodiment of talents as she is also a composer and a songwriter. She is currently working on her album which she hopes will be out before the end of the year and she hinted on plans to work with the prestige producer, Cobhams.
• Obioha writes from Lagos