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...Why Stella Monye is angry

By Tosin Ajirire
Stella Monye
Stella Monye

For singer and theatre artiste, Stella Ada Monye, it's a new dawn as she just came out with a new album entitled “Outburst”. Since she hit the limelight in 1984, her career has maintained a steady progress, recording successes after successes even though she had had her own share of low moments.
Discovered by Prof. Akin Euba, the then Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Lagos, who also happens to be a musicologist, Stella as a dramatist, embarked on an extensive tour of Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland along with other theatre artistes. She featured prominently as Oya”, Sango's wife in a dance drama presented at the Horizonte World Festival of Arts and Culture.

Stella returned from the tour to start a new career in music, dropping an album entitled, “Mr. Right”. Her next album “Samba” was a huge success and she followed it up with other albums like “Change of Heart”, “One Nation”, and “I Believe”.
But then Stella took a break from music having joined a Lagos-based Guranga Foundation to do social service. Three years later, she quit to record an album. In this interview with Blockbuster, Stella speaks about so many issues including her new work, her challenges and her greatest moments with Sonny Okosuns, who passed away recently and for whom she has a daughter. Enjoy.

“I just came out with a new album entitled “Outburst”. A lot of people have stopped me on the road wanting to know why I have not been playing music. But I have been playing it's only that I haven't got any album in the market and people have not been seeing me on television. My band has always gone out to do one thing or the other. We have played in Abuja and other places.

Why Outburst?
“People have been asking why I called the album “Outburst”. They wanted to know whether I am angry with someone. I sat down and looked at all the songs in the album and said to myself that each song that I sang is an outburst. I also did the remix of “Okomiye” and “Kilode” because a lot of people said they didn't get to buy in the market. The album is an outburst. I am reaching out to somebody. Then there is a new song in the album called “Elefe”. “Elefe” is a man who promises heaven and earth but would not deliver.

I have eight tracks in the album such as “Elefe”, “Onyioma”, a thank you song that I did in appreciation of my fans who stood by me during my son's tragedy, “Inakuana”, “Okomiye” (remix), “Kilode” (remix), “Ajagunsegun”, a gospel song, “Why” and “Ife” (remix). However, my favourite is “Elefe” because of its creative and danceable.

Albums
“I released “Mr Right” in 1984, which has “Okomiye”. The album launched me out, “Kilode” which enjoyed generous airplay, “Change of Heart”, and “I Believe”.

Why I sang Okomiye
“As I grew up, I saw my mother enmeshed in lots of marital problems. My father married another wife and it became a polygamous set up. As a girl, I wanted to know where the problem came from. My mother couldn't cry, she's just a quiet, layback person. So, I decided that the only way is for me to make music that would sooth her pains and other women.

Why I produced myself
“I felt I have gotten to a stage in the industry where I can produce myself. Having started from a young age I should be an authority by now. As time goes on, I am sure I would produce other people's albums.

My life with Sonny Okosuns
“It's not true that Sonny Okosuns brought me up musically. He was a part of it but he actually didn't bring me into music. Already, I had been going out there to do my stuff. At a tender age I was on the Art Alade Show and the whole nation was like who is this young girl. Late, I did some acting. I met Okosuns along the way when one day I approached him that I would like to record an album. He liked the idea and both of us went to London. When we came back to Nigeria, we couldn't release the album because there was a rancour between us. He later transferred the whole songs of the album to Onyeka Onwenu who released them in her debut, “Endless Life”.
Years later when I talked about it, Onyeka said she wouldn't have touched those songs with a long pole if she had known I had worked on them.

Natural person
“I have always been a natural person, I don't really care about what some people care about. I have always believed that we came to this world with nothing and nothing we will take away. I am contented with just one car that I have. I have a daughter for Okosuns. Her name is Ebony. She is in her 30s now. She is studying in America. In fact, she has been in America all her life. Okosuns took up her responsibility since when she was 8 years-old. That's one good quality that Okosuns had. She takes good care of his children. Sonny would do anything for his own children. Sonny can be bad in anything, he can be mischievous but when it comes to his children you can't beat him. He doesn't joke with the welfare of his children.

Greatest moments with Okosuns
“I remember one day when he had a show at the National Theatre. He asked me to come and open the show which I have never done in my life. I was young, I had no experience and had never faced a large crowd like that before. So, I was afraid. The first five minutes I got on stage my hands were shaking. But I could hear Sonny back stage saying, 'don't be afraid, girl. Go on and give it to them'. That moment, I took the microphone and burst out with music.

I can never forget that day. Bad moment with Okosuns? No I didn't have any because I didn't look back. I didn't want to become a pillar of salt like Lot's wife. We remain best of friends till his death. There was a day I gave him a show worth N3 million. It was a show that had to do with human rights and I happened to be on the committee. There was a debate on which artiste has been in the vanguard of human rights in Nigeria. I just dropped his name and that was it. I saw myself fighting for him. I didn't even know why I did it but I fought for him and won. The performance fee was given to me and I gave it to him intact.

Greatest challenge
“In Nigeria, female artistes are not getting the kind of support they should get. Some people would turn around and say female musicians are not serious. How can they improve in their career, when you don't support and encourage them. It is the kind of encouragement men get that make them shine in their career.