9 February 2014

Nigeria: Muma Gee - Controversial, Weird but Focused

At a time that she is heavily pregnant, you would expect famous Nigerian artiste, Gift Uwame Prince-Eke (better known as Muma Gee), to slow down, but there is no dull moment in the dictionary of this restless singer who deliberately hugs controversies and loves to set tongues wagging. Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports that her shocking marriage to Nollywood actor and director, Prince Ike, was the first surprise with which she announced her relocation to Port Harcourt a few years ago. She has since released more bombshells from her bag of tricks

Muma Gee has done everything from singing, acting, trading and designing male underwears, to living a roller-coaster celebrity life that has traversed Nigeria's major cities of Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt. Bolting out of Government Girls Science School in Kuje, FCT, over one decade ago, she has been unstoppable, moving from that little teenager who mingled and sang in the nightclub at Abuja Sheraton to one of the most recognizable faces in Nigeria.

The notion in some quarters is that Muma is an empty publicity seeker who talks more than she has done. To be sure, her only known hit song is 'Kade'. But this does not mean that she has not been making good music. Arguably, Muma is one of the few female Nigerian musicians whose strength lie in their enigmatic live shows rather than studio albums. On stage, Muma assumes the persona of a consummate entertainer that highlights every little fraction of her training as a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Port Harcourt. Her weird appearance is usually accentuated by her costume, which she spends some good time creating by herself. A couple of years back, Muma was the only female musician contracted to perform in the annual Nigeria Breweries-sponsored concert tour - Star Trek.

Because of her proclivity towards African stuff, her costumes, set and instrumentation are deliberately designed to connect with her Afrocentric statements. Thus, she is always an amazing spectacle to European and American audiences who long for authentic African entertainment. Always focused, Muma's love for her community was noticed right from her debut album in which she sang songs in her native Ekpeye, a little known ethnic group in Rivers State. For giving such a massive exposure to her native land, she was rewarded with a chieftaincy title by her traditional ruler. Two years ago when floods sacked the better part of her community, Muma was on call again, going everywhere, cap in hand to raise funds for a return to decent living by her traumatised people. On her return to Port Harcourt, she documented her observations about the wonderful and new things that the present administration was doing. She could not hold back. She went to the studio and recorded the song, 'Port Harcourt is Back'.

One controversy that many would not forget about the musician is the accusation that she slept with actor Emeka Ike on the set of Gulder Ultimate Search (Celebrity Showdown). As one who is used to riding on the back of a tiger, Muma was unperturbed by the rumour and she left the reality show as one of the best known participants. Again, it appeared that her strategy to generate debates worked in her favour. But for her strength of character, Muma is one of the female celebrities that many had given up on, believing she is destined for a boring, loveless life well into her old age without a spouse. It was a surprise, therefore, when she announced her wedding to the type of man she had always wanted - a tall, handsome man who can complement and understand her temperament in the creative industry. She also went on to have her dream wedding in December of 2011 and a Christmas honeymoon!

In a period of pregnancy when many women can scarcely lift a finger and some have to be confined, Muma is up and about in readiness for the release concert of her current album, 'Motherland', at Asia Town, Forces Avenue in Port Harcourt. If the babies (and she said babies whose arrival we expect very soon) in her womb could hear, they would jump for joy to know their mother has dedicated the Motherland album to them. After many years of living in Lagos, Motherland celebrates Muma's reconnection with her cultural heritage. She explained how the title of the album came spontaneously. "Seeing happy people live in peace and unity, the communal way; the food, the warmth, the atmosphere, the fresh breeze from the forest, the dew on green grass, noise from the rivers, the frogs and crickets at night made me scream, 'oh, my motherland!' The inspiration is my root."

It's been over three years since the last Muma Gee album saw the light of day. She said she was not under pressure to release a material that might be considered below standard. "Having emerged a very strong brand and pioneer of the Afrotastic style of music, which produced the hit 'Kade', I asked myself 'what's next?' I had to go on a research to upgrade and validate the authentic Muma Gee brand without losing the originality and unique elements that make the brand."

The Muma Gee message has become staple. It hardly changes from one album to another. It is all about self-awareness. It may sound simplistic, but it is a message that she believes goes back to the core of everyone's existence and can answer to problems confronting our individual and corporate existence. Her one clarion call is for everyone to know himself: "Trace your origin, your lineage, then prepare your future. Arise and contribute to the growth and development of your motherland and your people so that others can also migrate to yours and not you moving from one already developed city to another. Your little effort can bring about a great change and consequently a better living for all."

If she sounds like a politician, it is because Muma has recently gone back to study aspects of Law, Sociology and Marketing at the Rivers State Polytechnic in Bori. These are courses she believes will stand her in good stead in the next phase of her career which she believes will go beyond 'mere entertainment'. Muma may not be a card-carrying member of any political party at the moment, but she is not in doubt that in the future, her people may make an offer that she will be unable to reject. Having championed the cause of the Ekpeye people at several fora, it would not be out of place to have her as their representative at political caucuses. All of that is still in the future, what has taken up all of her interests at the moment is how well her team at Geeklips - her promotional company - would sell the classic event that she hopes her album release party would be. The gathering of VIPs at the album release concert would be the first to have a thirst of the contemporary and creatively infused elements in the album packaged to bring out the best of mood in listeners. The 12-tracker Motherland album will be the Muma Gee dance package. So get ready to dance!

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