By NBF News
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For six weeks, multiple award winning gospel music star Asu Ekiye, famously known as the Prince of the Niger Delta, criss-crossed nine states for training, capacity building and talent discovery drive. Powered by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and tagged, Youth Empowerment through Entertainment, it came to a glorious end in Akure, Ondo State recently with plaudits from many quarters.

Ekiye happily shared the experience and gains of the project with us in a recent encounter. In his words:   'The youth empowerment project was an initiative that seeks to explore areas of human development besides the formal catch-point, aimed at empowering the non-militant youths of the Niger Delta. Film and music have become not only the largest employers of labour, after government, but also great contributors to the national wealth of this country.

Film and music have become the tools for image making, cultural diplomacy and international relations. It is also a vehicle for nation-building, character and opinion moulding. That is why we have decided to use film and music as a very vibrant medium to capture the young people and also to empower them, where informal talents are involved.' Continuing, the accountant turned music star hinted that they toured the nine oil bearing states of the Niger Delta, starting from Port Harcourt in Rivers State.

'We were able to, in the first place to train over 3000 talented persons; out of which 90 distinguished themselves and were discovered. 45 of these talented youths will be rewarded in the movie/film category, and be involved in a major movie that will be shot later on where they will feature prominently in major characters and roles. While those who were discovered in the music category will, in the first instance, have cash awards; and also have the opportunity of having their first single recorded, sponsored by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. The intention is that they can all possibly fly or launch off to greatness from that foundation or platform.

What the ministry is doing is trying to provide a proper foundation for people who are gifted to fly - when they have the minimum encouragement, which was the idea of the entire project.'

And interestingly, the entire training process was completely free of charge.   Explaning further, Ekiye said the project was an alternative initiative that will deter those who were non militants from wanting to be militants. Elated Ekiye, who described Niger Delta youths as awesome bundle of talents, also thanked them for hugely coming out to participate in the life changing initiative.

'I happen to be a cultural gospel musician. I am not a hip-hop or R&B musician. I sing more of traditional music. I have represented the culture of the peoples of the Niger Delta probably more than any other artiste in our history. I have reflected the heterogeneity of our roots in the music that I play.

Ekiye who's almost wrapping up work on his new African album said the video will be shot very soon. He's also billed for an eight-city tour of the US this March, which will see him performing in Boston , Texas City, Houston , California , Los Angeles , New Jersey and Michigan