I am looking for a man – Omawumi
She was the first runner up of Idols West Africa in 2007. She became really hot six months after with the release of her first album, Wonder Woman. Ever since, however, she has continued to be
relevant in the industry, contrary to her critics' insinuation. That's the brief about Omawumi Megbele. In this close up with FUNMI ELUGBAJU, the Law graduate diva reminiscences on her journey into music, how she ended up an Idol, her obsession for cars and her regrets in the industry. Excerpts:
Where did you grow up and at what point did you become a professional musician?
I am the fifth in a family of 14 children and grew up in Warri (Delta State). I graduated from Ambrose Alli University, where I studied Law, in 2005. I think that is basically it. I auditioned in a reality talent show called Idols West Africa in 2007 and that was where my journey into music started.
How would you reconcile your studying Law at the university to your chosen career, which is music?
It wasn't much of a question of a decision, although a decision still. But the fact really is I went on a reality show and became the first runner up. Before that happened, I was conscious that I could sing. I had been singing since when I was little. So, when that opportunity came I just decided to go. I think I went with the mind of hoping to win. But I never knew how. My passion for it grew daily and I felt that a career in music would be fantastic. When I finally got to a point where I had to decide whether to do it or not, I simply gave a nod to it.
How did you get into Idols West Africa?
I auditioned in Calabar on the 25th of January 2007. There were four places of auditioning: Lagos, Accra, Abuja and Calabar. I was living in Port Harcourt then and was also working. I took a weekend off and went for the audition and the rest, as they usually say, is history today. Let me also add that at that time, I was so broke. My salary was like N5,300 and I was just using it to help myself. I hadn't gone to Law school yet. So I was really broke. I withdrew N4,000 out of what I had and went to Calabar.
Where did you get the flare for singing?
It is God's gift. I just knew I could sing. I started by mimicking people.
When did your music career start?
It didn't start one day. I started singing since when I was little. But it's not something I put a lot of effort into because as a growing child, it was either you joined the choir or something. When I grew up in school, I concentrated on my education because my mum instilled the value of education in me. Even when I felt like singing those days, my mum would come, find us wherever we might be and beat the hell out of us. It's not because she didn't want to encourage our talent but because she wanted a situation where I would get my priorities right and then take it from there.
How has this decision of yours paid off for you generally?
I can only be thankful to God for everything. The experience has been worthwhile. Yes, there have been times when it was not exactly rosy. But we had to cope since life itself is a learning process. For us to know where we are coming from, we need to move ahead. On the whole, I thank God for everything.
Before you went for idols West Africa, have you done anything in music professionally?
Yes. I had friends with whom I did about two things. We were three in number and used to call ourselves the True Blue when we were in school. I did a couple of things in the choir too while in school and I used to do a lot of backups for people. I had a lot of songs that were good and pleasing to the hear. I did a lot of that. But not in that direction. I came to Lagos to try my luck in the music career. We were actually three then. Unfortunately, things did not work as planned. So, we forgot about it. That was in 1997.
What do you have to say about Timi Dakolo's belief that he was denied at the West African Idols?
I think Timi Dakolo is in the best position to give you a vivid description of what he really meant. Although I don't think his claims are false, but I believe his response will be more authentic than mine. I can only talk from my own point of view, which may not necessarily be the best. I do not know for a fact what really went wrong, but I think judging from what I have been through, I think his claims are real because I was signed onto the same record label and the process took a really long while before anything happened.
What is your relationship with Dr. Frabz?
It's not anybody's business.
When you heard about Da Grin's death, how did you take it, knowing you once had a collaboration with him?
Of course, it was very sad. I don't really like talking about it because it's not a thing to be happy about. It was very hard for me to believe. I don't like it all and don't like the fact that he is dead.
Your studied Law and you were working in a law firm before you embraced music. Does this mean that you have abandoned the law practice for good?
Law, as a profession, is very versatile. I am glad I studied Law and I intend to go to the Law School. It is not impossible to do both. I would only have to learn how to strike a balance between the two. So, I have not abandoned it. But Law was not actually what I wanted to do in the future. I was forced into it by my uncle who is a lawyer. I actually wanted to be a teacher.
You have three cars already. What's the attraction?
I even have more than that. Whatever I drive and how I drive it is just simply to show you how God has blessed me. It's not something to feel proud about. I am grateful to God for all the opportunities He had brought my way, the hip hop award gift, which was a Kia product, and many more. I see it as nothing to be swelling up over because people have houses in France and Ireland and many other assets. So, why would I say because I drive one, two or three cars, I would begin to pose? What is the big deal about cars?
What regrets do you have in the industry?
I have a couple of regrets, I won't tell you lies. Those regrets, however, are something I always wish not to experience again. But the honest truth is that I don't dwell on regrets at all because regrets are not good. As far as I know, anything that happens to us in life has a reason for happening.
Would you then say conveniently that there is money in this business?
Yes o. Whether you fall into the category of those with talents and no money or those with money and no talent, the fact remains that there is money in this business. As for me, I am glad the money is coming in because it's not only through singing but from other things that I do in relation to the profession. If you have followed me well, you would have discovered that I have been involved in a lot of theme songs and all of these put together, have been very favourable to me. I am very grateful to God for it. God has been really faithful, I won't lie about that.
You were part of the popular drama, Vagina Monologues. What was the experience like?
It was fun taking part in it. It was also insightful in the sense that the play opened my eyes to the plight of women in general, far beyond what I was aware of. I think it was a selection team that put me in the cast because I only got a call asking that I take part in the play. I am grateful for the opportunity.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
It's only God that knows. I try not to see myself these days but God. Before I came into Idols West Africa, I saw myself praying to God and hoping to be in my new Golf car and new house and probably be married to my boyfriend. I never bargained for this much. But now, all of these have happened to me and I am simply dumbfounded with the wonderful way God has dealt with me. I make bold to say that it's not my will neither is it my purpose. It is what God designs for me. It is the road and path he says I should follow that I will follow.
When are you tying the knot?
I don't know. Or do you have someone for me? I am looking for a man. If I find one, I will marry.
What should your fans be expecting from you after Wonder Woman?
I think right now, there is a trip I am embarking on with my music. The only thing that gladdens my heart is that my fans are on that same track with me. I'm making my music more reachable in the direction that I am going now and it is going to be a whole lot more of natural and generally feel good music.
Why did you tag your first album Wonder Woman?
Psalm 71 verse 7 says, 'I have become a wonder onto many.' God had made me a wonder onto many people. That is how I see my life and my journey so far. How I left my house to Idols and how God blessed me beyond my imagination are all a wonder to me.
When 2face was celebrating 10 years, we saw both of you on stage. Are you planning a collaboration with him?
By the grace of God and through Christ that strengthens us, yes. But I am begging him right now and people should be begging him right now for me so he can work with me.
These days, some people believe that many young Nigerians want to be music stars rather than being professionals in other areas of human endeavour. What's your take on this?
It all boils down to what your passion is. But to make a career out of your passion requires a lot of hardwork. I think a lot of young Nigerians are passionate about music, just like some are passionate about medicine or engineering. But my advice for any young, aspiring Nigerian is to do what makes him or her happy. It is only then that he or she can be fulfilled in life.
Unlike before, so many female singers are now slugging it out with their counterparts in the nation's music industry. What do you think is responsible for this?
The music industry is evolving and I thank God for innovative minds in the music field. I would say God has given me and some other female singers the opportunity to be part of the change.
What word of advice do you have for upcoming artistes that want to be like you?
I can only tell you that first of all you have to believe in God and have faith. Secondly, you have to be patient so that when God decides to answer you, He will answer you well. Remember what I always say, unlike stones, beans will get cooked one day. All we all need to do is to persevere and hold on to God and it will be well with us.
How do you handle your male admirers?
I don't chase them away o. I keep them real so that they can be drawn to me and become my friend. Anyone that wants to be my boyfriend must come out correct.
A lot of people have taken part in singing competitions in Nigeria, but not all of them are faring well in their career. What is the secret or magic behind your relative success story since you seem to have literally blown up after the Idols West Africa?
There is no magic anywhere o! I'm not an authority here either. I don't think there's a clear cut strategy. So, for me, na God o! I just took advantage of most opportunities that came my way.