‘FLUTE PLAYING RUNS IN MY BLOOD’ – Ebele The Flutist
Ebele Ezeamakam, aka Ebele The Flutist, is arguably the first Nigeria female flutist. The Anambra State born accountant who grew up in Benin, Edo State has just released three audio and video CDs, Jawa Chineke, If You Don’t Know and Oghama. A contemporary gospel jazz package, she spoke with YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine’s GBENGA SHABA on her music, passion and more.
Can we meet you?
My name is Ebele Ezeamakam. I’m from Anambra State and the second child in a family of six. I grew up in Benin, Edo State and I went to school in Enugu. I got a BSc in Accounting and later, Master’s in Business Administration.
When did you discover you could sing and play flute?
I started music as early as 15 years old. I started from my church and I also played for some Philippines who came to our place at that time. The flute has always been part of me, starting from my secondary school days where I played in different churches, choir concerts all around the nation.
How has it been as the first female professional flutist in Nigeria?
It has been easy. Just like I said, I grew up in Benin City where the industry is still growing. But coming to Lagos like four years back, I ventured into the business professionally and that was when I realised I should not just make it a hobby by going round the churches to play my flute. I now took it as my passion and not hobby, so I have made my hobby become my passion because I took it more serious. But doing it professionally has not been easy because I never studied music either as my first or second degree and since I came to Lagos, I have been working as an accountant, but along the line when I discovered I could really make it with my passion for flute, I decided not to work as a full time staff in any establishment so that I can do more of my music which was not so easy because of financial challenges here and there, because I had to leave my job at some point.
What does it take to be a good flutist?
Whaooh! Flute is just like any other kind of instrument and every other kind of instrument takes time, determination and you need to have a personal one to be able to learn. The only difference is just that a flute is a unique and dynamic instrument because it is not so common and it’s versatile. So, I will tell people who want to be flutists to get a personal one and you have to be determined and be ready to learn. For me, it was not funny because when I was in secondary school, I used to leave my lectures and extra-mural lessons to go for flute training and my dad did not take it lightly with me because he knew it was going to affect my studies. It took a lot of my time because I was determined to learn it, but that has really helped me because I play it just like the way I do any other thing.
Looking at our environment and in terms of acceptance, how have you been able to cope?
It has been beautiful because I have been able to break even now. I have also produced three singles, Jawa Chineke, If You Don’t Know and Oghama and I have the three videos, so that has given one a lot of headway because my songs have been viral on TV and radio stations and I have been invited to a lot of shows. I have played live at different occasions which has made my fans believe that I’m truly talented because my music is the one that everybody likes and wants to listen to because of the skills and dynamism involved in it. That has really given me an edge. People enjoy my song and the flute because of its originality, which is really a selling point for me. Although, it’s gospel in nature, it is very unique. How easy or difficult is it to interpret a song into an instrument like flute? Just like I said, a flute is like any other musical instrument, but just because I’m a musician, I have to create something that is different from every other kind of idea you have in the industry. So, being someone who can sing very well through God’s inspiration, I find it easy to interpret because I compose my songs myself. I could remember I was sweeping my sitting room when the inspiration to write my second track, If You Don’t Know came, so I quickly put it down and I found time to go into the studio and that was how I got a track of that nature. Real music comes from inspiration which you are able to create something out of, but you must at least know the basic rudiments of music like the notes and all that. So, if you have all these and the inspiration of God, you will be able to play any instrument.
Do you feel any form of challenge from your male folks who also play flutes and saxophones?
Actually, they are all happy with me. In fact, when they see me, they always marvel at my talent. In one of my singles, Jawa Chineke, I featured Mike Aremu, a well known saxophonist in the video of the song because I always admire him and I used to tell him that I want to play my flute the way he plays his sax and it has really helped me. So, I’m not really under any form of challenge because I’m not just good in flute, I’m very, very good in it. As a matter of fact, they see me as a threat. I improvise with the flute a lot and it has really helped my career.
What has being a flutist done for you?
It has helped me to fulfil my God’s gift because He was the one that gave me the gift. It has also helped me to influence other people, especially the young ones who wish to step into my shoes and haven’t discovered the God’s given gift in them. When they see me, they are challenged because being the first female flutist in Nigeria is a very good source of encouragement to influence people around me.
If not playing flute, what would you have been doing?
Hmm! I’m a multipurpose person. I’m coming out with my brand name, Ebele The Flutist so as to give me the desired brand to start a talk show so as to influence the lives of the young ones. I’m also a beautician, I’m into fitness, beauty parks and routines and other stuff.
What can you say is your unique selling point?
I think one of them is the fact that I can sing and play flute very well on stage. A lot of artists sing, while some just plays the instruments. Even Mike Aremu that is my role model just plays only the sax, but for me, I do both. I sing very well; very, very well. If you hear me singing, you will prefer me singing and if you hear me playing the flute, you will prefer me just playing it on and on and when I do both, it becomes so unique and it gives me the edge over others.
Where do you see yourself in a few years to come?
I see myself being a mega star who a lot of people would want to emulate, learn from and I would be willing to mentor them so as to bring other talents just like me out of our generation.
NB: First published December 2013