NIGERIA: I know when to sing and when to shut up – Essence

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Uwale Okoro needs no introduction in the Nigerian music scene. She is a graduate of Performing Arts from Delta State University, Abraka. Wale Adenuga soundtrack “This is Super Story” launched her into limelight. Essence as she is fondly known by her fans and colleagues has used her sonorous voice to dazzle her fans and put smiles on their faces as well. In this chat, she talks about her latest R n B single, her pasttime as events compere, her ushering outfit and perhaps her launch into standup comedy and many more.
How did you come into music?
My foray into music was borne out of passion and not for the fame and glory.
What is your advice to up and coming artistes who see your consistency as a source of inspiration?
My advice to them is to first ascertain what they really want and if they are convinced it is music, they must go after it with all their hearts. It is not about your being sexy or about your looks. The most important thing in this trade is the talent. This is not a career you can pursue without talent. You can dazzle for a while but if you don’t have the real talent you can’t last for very long.
How did you come about doing the theme song “This is Super Story” for the Wale Adenuga’s sitcom ‘Super Story’?
I was contracted to sing the song for the sitcom when it was about coming out. I had always been a fan of the comic book so when it was adapted for television I was thrilled to be part of it. The song becoming a hit was due to the popularity of the sitcom, more than anything, I think, and it was something that came at the time, as a breath of new life and thank God it is now a classic.
You have strong vocals. What do you do to manage your voice?
My voice is a gift and I treat it as such. I have over the years, by trial and error, come to know when to sing and when to shut up!
Has there ever been a time when your voice failed you when you needed it most?
Oh gosh, yes, my voice has failed me once or twice due to overwork but nowadays when my voice is not in good condition I simply don’t sing.
You seem to be one of the oldest artistes in the Kennis Music label who has stayed put. What is the magic?
Having been part of the industry in the capacity of backup singer to Kenny Saint-Brown and a few others, I was priviledged to see first hand the follies of artistes before me. If your aim is to get money or fame at all cost then you will be a rolling stone that will gather no moss, so I advised myself when I finally got signed on, not to make the same mistake. Many who left, left because of greed and impatience.
Who is essence on stage and in the music terrain?
Essence in the Nigerian music terrain is an artiste that is gaining steady momentum and is getting better like fine wine.
What are your dreams and aspirations?
My dreams and aspiration are to, by God’s grace, be relevant in my chosen profession in many years to come and of course make more money.
Let’s talk about your new hit, ‘Facebook Love’. How did you come about that song?
’Facebook Love’ was a song gifted to me by God Himself. I prayed for a song that would impact on my environment positively and God gave it to me.
Having been in the music industry for a long time now, what do you wish could be changed in the industry to make it better?
What I wish changed is the lackadaisical attitude towards female artistes. We need level playing grounds. Women should be given same opportunities and accorded same rights as men because we work as hard as the menfolk, if not harder.
Are you cooking up anything for your fans soon? What should they be expecting from the Essence collections?
I’m working on a reloaded album of my second album ‘Essential’. It will feature new songs and remixes like ‘Facebook Love’ where I featured Neato C and also a reply to Goldie’s ‘You Know It’.
What is the next big thing for the Essence brand?
The next big thing for Essence is not what I can say. Only God knows the ‘big thing’ He has in store. I always say “You don’t force what is not broken”.
What is music to you as a person?
Music is much like breathing to me and even when the low times come, because they always do, passion and love for music sustain me.
Most artistes are coming up with new stage names; do you wish to change your stage name anytime soon?
I have worked very hard to build the brand name ‘Essence’ and I don’t know of any Nigerian artiste laying claim to that name except myself. Anyone with knowledge of branding knows that it is foolhardy to change names, especially, when that name has become a brand. Of course, I have right to explore as an artiste, but I do not plan to change my name.
You were an outstanding R n B artiste; especially when you did the award-winning soundtrack for Wale Adenuga’s Super Story; why are you doing more of Hip- hop these days?
If a person is afraid to try new things then that person would remain a failure or that person would be missing out on the growing processes that are expedient to holistic growth. Nevertheless, I am still going back to R n B. At the moment l have a new single ‘See Love’ , an R n B track; R n B is my true love so l haven’t left it as most of my fans are thinking.
You are so down-to-earth. Tell us a little bit about your family and educational background.
I keep hearing I’m down-to-earth. Is there another way to behave? Well, I’m just being me. That’s all. No fuss, no fight! I’m a graduate of Performing Arts from Delta State University, Abraka and the last of seven children from Delta State. Itsekiri by tribe and a true Niger Deltan!
Naturally, as an entertainer it is expected that you diversify into other areas of the trade, are we expecting anything like that soon from you?
Diversification is necessary in any industry and the entertainment industry is no exception. Watch out for different facets of the brand Essence.  I do have an ushering outfit, I compere events, I have a proposed television show in the works, aside the fashion show I was working on which is currently on hold. As for comedy, I think l infuse that into my MC thing, which is only pastime thing for me now, but there is no saying I might not take it up full time sometime soon.
Do you think you are using your strong vocal to the best effect?
I honestly think everybody has more to them than they are offering and my prayer is for God to grant me the grace to keep doing what I do and evolve as music evolves and thereby give more and more of myself as the years go by.
You have been long in this industry although you are very young; how would you score the Nigerian entertainment industry as against other music industries across the world?
As a stakeholder in the entertainment industry I hope for every branch to exhibit a high standard of professionalism and not as a ‘molue’ that everyone sees as a free vehicle to hang on to, without paying their fares to get to their destination. If we don’t take ourselves seriously no one will.
What is your favourite food and drink?
My favourite food is fried rice and chicken plus salad and of course, a bottle of Coca-Cola!
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