First Nigerian female flutist; song writer, gospel singer and instrumentalist, Ebele Chukwu popularly known as Ebele the Flutist, in a recent interview with EMMANUEL BABATUNDE, shares the story of her career as a flutist. Excerpts…
How did your music career begin?
I am from Anambra State, but I grew up in Edo State. I come from a Christian home, and my parents are disciplinarians. They took us to Sunday School, and taught us the Bible. I was also exposed to music education, where we had white people coming to teach us how to play musical instruments in the church. At that young age, I loved music, and it has always been a part of me. Playing instruments was another part of me because there was a Filipino lady back then who played the flute, and I loved her so much. She told me that I have a high soprano voice, and that the flute would blend with my voice, so she taught me how to play the flute. I started playing the flute at a very tender age, and the beauty of it is that when I got into secondary school, I used to continue learning how to play it at extra-mural classes.
Are your parents supportive of your music career?
My dad was angry at a certain time and he said it couldn’t continue in his house. However, when I was 14 years old, I played the flute in front of a crowd during a music examination, and I performed a Mozart and I played the whole sequence. Immediately after the program, my father ordered a flute for me.
What challenges have you faced while playing the flute?
Well, the flute is a complex instrument, and that is why it is not common, but you can actually see people playing it in music school in a hulk extract. It is believed that the flute is not an instrument you can use on its own. People believe the flute should be used to accompany another instrument. I am known as the first female flutist in Nigeria today because I can play different genres of music, and that singles me out from other people that use the hulk extract. When playing other instruments, you blow into it, but when playing the flute, you will have to tip.
The air comes out in the middle of your lips; that means your lips and hands will hurt you while playing it. Teemac has been the only person playing the flute before now, and I’ve been fortunate to play with him at the Lagos Jazz Festival. At the festival, he told people that I challenge him.
How was the experience like when you were part of Agape Voice, and why did you leave?
I want to say there is time for everything; I believe it was time to move on. When I was with them, we traveled to different places for concerts, but when I came to Lagos, I started thinking of branching out on my own. In short, I was an accountant and all of a sudden, I no longer found fulfillment in it. I even had a job in an oil company, and when I told my boss I wanted to quit, they were saying I’m out of my senses. My boss told me specifically, ‘Ebele, you can’t make it in Nigeria. If you want to be a flutist, travel to America or London; that is where they play flute…they don’t play it in Nigeria.’ I didn’t listen to them because the passion in me was very strong.
Which of your songs do you think brought you to the limelight?
I just dropped a new single titled “Dreams Come True” produced by Cobhams Asuquo, and I believe it will go places. I will say all my songs are good on their own, because during my Abuja tour, I saw people singing ‘Jawa Chineke’ at House on the Rock. I was glad to see radio stations there playing the song heavily on air too.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m trusting God to get married, and it’s going to happen very soon. Because of who I am, most people will be asking why am I not married. I have a calling, so I have to work with God and do it right to find my bearing. God made me to understand something when I started; he said, ‘You are going far, but if you want to maximise the gift I’ve given to you, you have to do it my own way to get my reward so choose which one you want. That means, it’s one thing to use the gift that God gives you, and it’s another thing to use it the way God wants you to. However, I know that my time has come, and it will happen soon.
What should you fans be expecting from you?
My fans should be expecting a full album and a concert from me. I’m also planning to open a music school and launch a TV show soon.