By Jane Efagwu
Only one thing can make a woman leave her job as an accountant in an oil firm to become a flutist: PASSION. As a passion driven person, you chase your dreams from the very beginning till the end. You don’t compromise and you don’t look back. You keep growing stronger and you strive for excellence. This is the story of Nigeria’s foremost female flutist, Ebele Ezeamakam popularly known as Ebele the flutist. In this interview with The Boss Newspaper (TBN), the prolific flutist revealed her inspiring journey to the top. Excerpts:
Please introduce yourself
My name is Ebele Ize Amaka but I’m popularly known as Ebele the flutist. I’m the first foremost Nigerian female flutist. I’ve been doing this professionally for 8 years. I grew up in Benin, Edo state. Out of 6 children, I’m the second child. I read Accounting for my first degree and I took a second degree course in Business Administration from Benson Idahosa University. I first started working as an accountant in an oil firm before launching out my career fully.
Describe your childhood
It wasn’t easy actually. I started playing the flute at a tender age of 14. It started as a hobby because I was exposed to a musical background while growing up. We had Philipinos come around to teach us how to play instruments and create music when we were younger, so that kick started my love for music. Ever since then music as a whole hasn’t left me even when I left it for a while to work in a white collar setting as an accountant. I couldn’t go to music school because my parents, especially my mum, didn’t really believe in music for me as a young child. She really loved seeing women in suits and heels and she wanted me to be in one. Despite this, I underwent different musical trainings during my undergraduate years to be able to perfect my craft.
Starting a career out of nothing must’ve been difficult. What are the challenges you’ve faced as flutist in Nigeria
There have been challenges but the great thing is that I’ve been able to turn life’s lemons to lemonades. This because even in the midst of challenges, there are opportunities. I realized that the greatest thing I ever really needed was my passion and I had it. A major issue for me was financial strength because money is like grease to the machinery of any career path you might pick. Raising capital wasn’t easy at all. I really hustled to make the money that wasn’t there but my passion carried me on through my broke days. It got to a point that the money had to meet up with me because my love for my work carried me through. I’m truly grateful to God for giving me the strength to follow my dreams. I was just given the 2nd recognition award as the 1st Nigerian female flutist so God has been good.
Do you have any regrets leaving the corporate world to pursue a musical career
No, I don’t. This is because I had a really strong passion for music. I had to talk to my boss because I was the head of accounts which was a major position in the company at the time. My CEO wasn’t pleased at the news. He said the flute was a waste of time and that if I truly wanted to make it, I should travel out to start a career. But when he saw that I was ready to resign because of my passion, he has to support me reluctantly. I tell people that my hobby became my passion and my passion today has become my career.
As a woman in the entertainment industry, you have a lot of advances and distractions coming from different sides. How do you cope
This is a great question. Coming out in a career like this that involves the public eye, you have to make a promise to yourself for what you will stand for which is integrity, truth and high standards of morality. God has really helped me so far. I’m really close to him and I don’t joke with talking to Him always because He has been faithful. It truly hasn’t been easy at all to live a life of integrity. As an artist we have a lot of shows and performance gigs so there definitely will be those who will want you to date or sleep with them before you get a deal but I choose not. You have to just promise yourself to not fall prey. You have to know that God is on your side and He will provide your needs and it works for me. Anytime I refuse to compromise on my standards and morals, God compensates me in a thousand fold. It always works! He always opens other doors for me to encourage me to keep up the good work. It shows that He’s happy with what I’m doing.
There was this show that I was billed for. The plan was taking a shady turn that involved a hotel and all that. I said I wasn’t interested because I could see where it was headed so I pulled out of the deal and it ended there. After a short while, a very high profile organization called me to collaborate on something and there was no shady route involved. I wasn’t told to wait in a hotel or something. I was paid well. I knew it was for me and I gave God all the glory because that was Him at work. In all, the advances must come but you choose the life you want. You can either pick the life of integrity or the opposite. The life of integrity actually pays in the long run. People are watching you even if you don’t know so you have to live a befitting life.
In the music industry, new trends are introduced every day. How do you cope with them and do better than your previous performance
This is where excellence comes in. I’m a person of excellence and I believe in striving to be the best every day. For example, in each of the songs I record, I try to be the best version of myself. Firstly, there is no competition between you and anyone else. You must always try to compete with yourself only. No one can do anything with your flow, vibe or your drive. So when the best version of you comes out, then you’ve truly won. No one can be you at all. That is what people in the art world need to realize. I have gone to shows with so many artists in the lineup but when I get on the stage I do my best and I am distinct. I’m different from everyone. I can perform one song in 6 different places and it will come in 6 different ways because I’m trying to set myself up for excellence.
How did you get over the challenge of funds in your career
You can’t go into a capital oriented career without planning. I had actually been saving for a while from the salary I was earning as an accountant in an oil company. I had worked and saved to an extent to start off my career. I asked my boss for some part time jobs which he gave me to support me financially because I couldn’t cope with a full time job. This was as a result of the fact that my music career was really draining both time and energy and I really wanted to give it my all. My savings coupled with the part time jobs I was working at kept me going but it still wasn’t easy. I had to do a lot of shows without getting paid. A lot of show organizers will promise you a platform without pay. But now the story has changed and it is simply because of the fact that I have worked hard enough to improve and develop myself.
You have to let the passion and not money be your drive. If the money is your drive, you will be drained and you won’t be able to survive the tension. I know people who have started and haven’t been able to finish because they started for the wrong reasons. They were really talented but they lost out.
Since it is widely believed that Nigeria isn’t the place for flutists, do you have pressure to change your style
I don’t agree that Nigeria isn’t the place for flutists. Most people don’t know that Nigeria is great place to start any career of your choice. It depends on how viable you can make it. For example, I have a fan page on Facebook to which I send music training tips and tricks and inspirations. On the page, I also see how the youths are eager to start playing the flute just because I’m also doing the same. If it’s not viable, I won’t be getting these awards or recognition. I’m a contemporary artist because I do Jazz, up-tempo and a host of others
How long does it take you to write a song
It depends actually because I’m an instrumentalist so it takes time for me to compose. I don’t just sing, I actually write the songs with music alphabets called the tonic solpha. I read and write music so all these go into the creative and composure process. It takes a little time when I’m just rehearsing or free styling. However, when I’m starting from the scratch and writing the song properly, it can take several hours.
Who are the artists that inspire you in your line of work
Most of the artists I collaborate with are people I look up to. One of my mentors is Mike Aremu who is a reputable saxophonist based in London. I featured him on my very first single. He is someone I really look up to in the industry. I also love Wole Oni who is a producer I featured in one of my tracks. Cobhams Asuquo is another person who I look up to in the industry and he produced my last single. I also look up to some artists abroad like Cece Winans and Shirley Caeser.
Recording music and playing the instrument can be energy draining. How do you relax
I’m actually into health and fitness so one of the ways I relax is going to the gym. I also love sight-seeing and relaxing by the pool side. I’m not an outing kind of person so I mostly try to work on my sound and music.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years
I see myself as a mega super star (laughs). I actually see myself fulfilling and achieving my dreams. I have so many projects I’m actively involved in. I have Ebele’s world. It is a young company which involves the other parts of Ebele. I might be known as Ebele the flutist, but I have so many other parts to my personality other than that. It involves music training, talk shows and health and fitness so I’m working to bring these out.
Let’s talk about your personal life. Are you married
I always dodge this question (laughs). Well, I’m still single but I’d be getting married soon. I’m a focused, goal oriented and purpose-driven person. I want to encourage people to be like that because when you’re still single, you have time to go after what you truly want without any limits. You have to know what you are doing and create your own world so your future partner will respect it and help you build but when you have nothing going on for you, it’s easy to be pushed from side to side. This is what most young women out there don’t know. They finish school and all they think about is getting married rather than carving a niche for themselves first. It doesn’t really make sense because marriage isn’t a bed of roses. It’s about you being a significant part of someone else’s life. Purpose-driven people make the best partners in a marriage. When the two have buzzing careers, you respect each other and build each other all the way up.
What advice do you have for people who look up to you
I will say believe in yourself and do not let anyone talk you down because that almost happened to me at the early stage of my career. I remember my boss telling me that I wasn’t going to make it in Nigeria but I didn’t listen. I prayed to God about it and my passion kept me going all through. If I had let him talk me down, I wouldn’t be here today. Always be consistent and persistent. Strive for excellence and be around people who can inspire you to be great.