It is possible for one to be renowned in any endeavour as far as the motivations are passion, professionalism, humanism and consistency, says Ebele, Nigeria’s first professional female flutist. She takes Stephen Ubimago down memory lane of her musical evolution from age of 14. Excrepts…
Who’s Ebele the flutist? How did you come about the appellation, “the flutist”?
Well, Ebele the flutist is a female (she chuckles). She hails from Anambra State, but grew up in Benin City, Edo State. I did both my primary and secondary education in Benin, while my university education was in Enugu. I’m the second out of six children. Ebele read Accounting as first degree and business administration as second degree. Music started for me quite early. I started playing the flute at age 14. It started as a hobby. My parents exposed me to a musical background, where I saw my self interacting with a lot of musicians. At the time, there was this lady from the Philippines, who was among the trainers then. She was the only female that was playing the flute, and I got very attracted to her and worked with her. I loved the flute. At the age of 14 I learnt how to make sounds with the flute. But then the challenge was that my parents began to feel I was taking my learning of the flute more seriously than my studies, because sometimes when I was supposed to go for extramural classes I found myself going to learn the flute. And my dad, especially, began to have issues with it.
Was the musical background, which your parents introduced you to at an early age, a church choir or a music school?
It was like the family/church arranged the training for us. I was in the choir then. I had a very high pitch voice. So the flute actually blended with my voice. Choosing the flute therefore was a beautiful thing for me even if it was just out of the norm among all the other instruments available then. Before my dad could be brought to buy me a flute (my very first) at age fourteen, he was always like ‘it is not music we are talking about; face your studies, because very soon you’ll be writing GCE.’ But on a certain day we had a concert. They invited our parents to come watch us perform and display how far we’d learnt or mastered the musical instruments so that they would know that their children were not just wasting their time by coming to the music classes. My parents were invited and they came. To my dad’s surprise, he saw me play Mozart. From the beginning to the end, I played it with the flute. And I did not have a flute of my own, because you know it was the Filipino lady that actually gave me the flute I used for my lessons. My dad could not believe his eyes, and that was when he ordered a flute for me. It was a strategic point for me, because I was age 14; I now had a flute and knew how to use it very well. The truth about it is that ever since then I have not left playing the flute. So, playing the flute started like a hobby, which developed into a passion; and now that passion is my career. It grew so much that, although I had finished school all this while and worked as an accountant, but I still don’t find accountancy my passion, calling or source of fulfillment. The money I’ve made from working as an accountant, I channel into my music career.
Over time while working the regular nine to five, how did you keep your passion alive? What platforms did you engage to keep your passion for the flute serviceable?
Everywhere really, but I seem to be more in church. I perform in quite a lot of programs, concerts, events, shows. While in school, I did a lot, I played a lot. In school, I belonged to a group. And after school, I also belonged to a group called Agape. With the group, I performed all the time; we go to different kinds of stage shows and this kept my act alive. But this time around I’m doing something along with a body of people. I’m often invited to different kind of shows to play, and that is how I have kept tabs with myself. I also went for extra training in music. Now I write songs, indeed I compose my songs. I actually sing and play.
Aside from the flute, what other musical instruments do you play?
I play a bit of the keyboard, but I sing very well. So far, Ebele has released singles. However, I have not been able to put together an album, because it has been a long journey for me.
It goes without saying that for a flutist, the jazz genre would naturally be your forte. But outside jazz, any other outlet for self-expression for you?
I am a contemporary person, and that is why I describe myself as a gospel contemporary musician in the sense that I play and sing different genre of songs. In other words, I do jazz, urban, and hip-hop. I do soul, and also praise. I do different types of songs. Like so far, I have four singles. And the four singles are not of one genre. The first single is more or less high praise song. The second one is classical; the third one is traditional jazz. While the fourth one, which I just released, is my latest single. It is purely urban, like hip hop. So, I want to be in the mainstream.
Are your singles currently enjoying radio airplay?
Yes. I am promoting them on radio right now. The latest single, “Dream Come Through,” was produced by Cobbams.
Have you had collaborations with other artists?
with Mike Aremu, who is like a mentor. I normally tell people I want to play my flute the way he plays his sax. I featured him and also E M G on it. In the last sin- gle, which is traditional jazz, I featured Wole Oni. He was my producer. I also featured Mike Osadolor. He plays the bass. In featuring both of them, it makes the song a high classic jazz.
Aside from you , who are the other professional flutists in Nigeria?
Tee Mac Omatsola is there. He was the first, I guess. I am actually the female version, so to speak.
Are you planning any collaboration with him, or any relationship with him?
Oh, I have a beautiful relationship with him. In fact, we performed together on stage at the Lagos Jazz Festival last year; and it was a blast. It was all flutes galore.
When are you looking at doing your album launch?
I’m trusting God for this year. It is going to consist of over ten tracks.
Is Ebele married or still single and searching?
Ebele the flutist is still single. Of course I want to get married but to the right one.
And what’s your idea of the right partner?
God-fearing, and that’s number one. And talking about someone like me that is purpose-driven, you have to be careful, because for ladies like me, many have fallen short of getting married to the right persons, and gotten their careers truncated. Some have even ended up in divorce. So it is a dicey thing; but with the help of God all things would fall in place, I believe.
Where do you see Ebele the Flutist in the next five years for starters, particularly for your career?
I see myself as being a megastar that is impacting lives positively and influencing people for good. I just want to be up there raising and influencing people. That is the major thing for me.