Ogonna Chinedu-Eze, popularly known as Ogo-Mariae recently launched her debut album titled “Through the Tides”. Arguably the first of its kind, this 10 track album all done in “Gregorian Chant” style aptly blended with contemporary tunes, prove Ogo has a brave heart, as she treads a path alien to many. In this interview with our Correspondent FRANCIS OGBONNA, this legal practitioner and a proud mother of four, shares her passion; family; career and her project. Excerpt…
Can we meet you?
My name is Ogonna Chinedu-Eze; I am a lawyer and work with the law firm of Udo Udoma & Belo Osagie. I am married and have four kids
Are you serious, you’ve got four kids? You don’t look it at all; you would pass for a single lady anytime?
I actually started out with a set of twins…
Okay! When did you get married?
I got married in 2005…
Do you have an alias or some kind of stage name?
Has music always been a part of you?
Yes! I know that is what very artist would say, but you know how it is, where you just find yourself singing, I won’t say that the voice has always been there…I think I started noticing that I could do something with my voice when I was in SS1 or thereabout. But truly, I have always written songs; sang songs while growing up…
When exactly did you start writing?
I think if I remember very well it was in Primary school or thereabout, I can remember starting with writing a few lines and ultimately writing an entire song, I can still remember some of those songs. However it was in secondary school that I started writing lyrics proper.
Does any of your relative do music as well?
None! It’s just me alone…
Who were the influences you had growing up, musically?
Like I said, I just loved music, when I was in secondary school, we had need for someone to lead the choir in fellowship, so we could minister to the people and improve attendance by so doing and I filled in that gap. Music had always been a force of attraction.
Now when did music start for you professionally?
Like I said it should have started earlier, after I left law school, I had told my self that five years along the line I was going to get into music professionally. I was born and grew up in the North, I had moved to Lagos, but didn’t have a what Lagos live was about, so when I got to
Lagos everything just changed, you know how life in Lagos is, you need to wake up very early; come back very late, so everything had been in the pipeline. So this is my first Album, however when I was in the University, definitely I had this theater group and I was their president; I was in the choir and professionally we organized and sang at concerts, I would say that was when music started for me professionally.
You act as well?
Yes I do…
Do you have plans of getting into the theater as well?
Right now what I am working on is Concerts, the whole idea of what we are doing is to use concerts as a means of evangelization and our concert takes a peculiar format, we fuse into our concerts plays; dance drama; choreography and a host of other forms of entertainment and hopefully we should be able to turn that into videos.
So you are more of a concert person that a studio person?
Not really! I would say for now, because up until now that is what I have done from my days in the university, but like I said my studio work is out, albeit my first album, but in future, the plan is to do both simultaneously.
What genre of music do you do?
I would say Gregorian chant, but I have stepped back a bit, because Gregorian chants is a specialized kind of music. I am not pure Gregorian, so like most contemporary artistes would do is blend their usual R&B tunes with the Gregorian chant, so that is what I do and the type of music I like to do. But what I do is go beyond R&B and bring in pop and hip-hop and all the rest…
So you primary audience is the church?
Like I have said, you know in evangelization, you won’t say your target is the church. Evangelization is for everyone!
The average guy out there would dance readily to music with unwholesome lyrics as long as it is danceable, they are not particular about the contents, however unconsciously that has become the pattern, what is your strategy to break that supposed trend?
Rightly you have observed that people are no longer interested in content, they just want a good beat. However, I on the contrary emphasize content, so my strategy is to see how I could provide a balance; give them both a dance and the content. You can be moving your body once; twice and hopefully the third time you would begin to hear the words of the song and hopefully the fourth time they should be able to get the message and have their life touched, I think that is what music is all about.
We live inn a very fast society, with people with little or no patience at all, people want everything on the go, do you think you will be able to get them to sit down and listen to your song for that long?
You know? What is key is it being danceable; dancing is not a one-off thing. Once the beat is right, people would want to dance to it again and again. So what we have done is put all of this into consideration and create different tunes that will appeal to these people so they can still dance and get entertained. Ultimately what we want to do is leverage on music being an effective means of communication and through it, reach our desired audiences.
So we are not likely going to see Ogo get into the commercial thing sometime in future?
No, you are never going to see that…
What is your motivation?
Like I said my motivation is the need to evangelize. I want to use music as a means of communication and reach people who need it. I know that the churches are trying; they organize services and Bible studies, but what we want to do augment what the Church is doing, using a tool that attracts the desired people. Music will always be a means of attraction; our motto is “through arts to the heart”. And it has worked, because right from the days of my university and even in secondary school, we have seen music affects lives.
Let me ask, are likely to see Ogo jettison Law for music sometime in future?
Truth is I am hoping to marry the two together…
I hope you know music is demanding?
I know, with the little that I have seen, I had told myself that it feels like I am doing two full time jobs and a lot of things happen so fast. But in future I hope to have some people who are professionals to buy into the vision and help bear the burdens. That is what I am looking at right now. I know that with time, when people join this vision and we would have more hands handling this vision.
So why law in the first instance?
Quite frankly I grew up knowing I wanted to be a lawyer. So I can’t say at what point I decided to sty law, maybe at the point of reasoning as a kid I decided to study it. And I started debating in primary one and by primary three I was the chief debater in my school.
Is your album a Solo effort all through or you had some artistes featured?
The album is majorly a solo effort, but I featured an upcoming rap artist in one of my song.
What is his name?
Boogie… the whole idea of the studio work is to tailor the production in such a way that it can be used in concerts, we have a lot of concerts lined up
How many tracks do you have in your album?
I have 9 tracks and a remix.
Which one of the tracks did you remix?
The “Rosary Bead”.
What did it sound like?
It is Gregorian styled; of course with contemporary tunes. Can I sing it so you could hear?
I wish that could be reflected in writing…
It’s a Gregorian type song, with a particular message targeted at addressing a misconception around. That you can do it all by yourself without help from God. What people forget is that it is not a matter of how much effort you put into what you do, if you don’t put God into it you have practically wasted you time. It was actually inspired by one of my favourite saints, Saint Thomas Aquinas, who said “Work as though everything depended on you and pray as if everything depended on God”. So they are not mutually exclusive, you can decide that when you put in all you effort and your self will that everything will work out perfectly, no! Always remember that there is always that God factor in everything you do.
The trend in the industry now is for artistes to first of all release a few singles before the entire album comes out. Did you do any of this?
No I didn’t, all because I had a lot of time constraints. I had been postponing this project for years, so what I finally did was to maximize the little time I had. That’s number 1, the second reason is that we were particular about content, so that was why we decided to got all this out.
How supportive is your husband?
He is very supportive, because it has always been in me, long before we got married. Actually, some things have suffered since I launched into this project e.g. some quality family time. But he’s filled that vacuum up somehow.
Have any of your kids shown any sign of one who has a liking for music?
Yes! You know I actually call my first daughter my number 1 fan. Each time I come back from the studio she asks me, mummy did you bring any song? And when I play it for them they dance.
Does your husband sing too?
Yes he does. He is in the choir.
Did he sing in any of your tracks?
Why, was he busy taking care of the home front while you are gone?
Are we someday going to have a family album? Where we have Daddy; Mummy and the Kids singing?
Well lets see how it goes, you know you never say never. Lets see how it goes.
You seem like someone more relaxed singing in the choir? Is that supposition true?
Do you have a choir or a band?
I am presently working with a band and we do some stiff with a few choirs as the occasion permits us. The whole intention is that is that when the concerts kick off fully we would be working with both the band; other choirs and a dance group.
How far do you intend to go with your music? Would you sing in the club, so as to evangelize?
Quite frankly, my imaginations haven’t gone that far…but the truth is that maybe because I haven’t thought of someone extending an invitation to me from that quarter…
So far is music paying?
Like I said this is really my first full professional effort, so right now we are the one spending money, but I believe that very soon the table will turn, that’s not to mean that for us it is about the money.
Where do you see Ogo in the next four years? Musically now and not as a Lawyer?
In the next four years, I am hoping to have performed in the Vatican, that is my dream..
Wow, that’s a tall other but I know it is possible. Have you by chance met the Pope before?
Once, but in my dreams (she laughs).
Any regrets choosing music?
No! Because like I said for me it is all about evangelization, so I keep telling myself that the mission to evangelize, though giving to everybody, I have my role to play which is what I am doing now and you can’t ever regret doing anything for God. More so everyone has been giving a talent by God that they which ultimately is to help them fulfill the mission, we all have one or the other and we are going to give account of how we use ours so I have no regrets using mine to do God’s work as instructed by the master.
Is music a forever thing for you or you might just someday say, family demand is high, let me just drop music and go take care of family?
Quite frankly, this project i.e. my music doesn’t have a life span. It is something that I will do till my dying day.
What would be your advice to fellow up coming artistes that may not have as much opportunity as you have, but have dreams?
My advice would be to keep the dreams alive, that’s what everybody says, it easier said than done. But really it starts with a vision and focus. Beyond making money, let there be something you want to achieve and let this singular goal direct all the amount of efforts and time you put into what you do. if the intention is to make money then along the way you may find out that there are other ways of making money. And you will get distracted or get discouraged, but when you have a value you want to add, it keeps pushing you until you get to the end.
Thank you very much
Thank you too.