18th October, 2013
Samba Queen, Stella Monye, remains one of the leading ladies of her era in the Nigerian music industry. She recently celebrated her 30 years on stage and spoke with FUNSHO AROGUNDADE about her pet project “Women Help Initiative Nigeria”, her new album and readiness to give love all it takes
What is happening to Stella Monye lately?
Oh, lovely question that will have required a long answer but I will cut it short. Shortly before my three decades on stage celebration took place, I was shuttling between Paris and some Asian countries to perfect the plan on the perfume line that I wanted to start called STELLA. Of course you know I was also into Samba Wears. At this same period, I was in the studio recording an album. This album has been in the making like four years ago when I left the faith-based NGO that I was working with as a social service worker.
Why has it taken you so long to drop the album?
When in January some of my friends came together to celebrate my 30 years of active showbiz, not many people knew that I have contributed nationally and internationally to boost Nigeria’s image outside the country. While other artistes were enjoying fame, money and recording, I was seriously engaged in representation of Nigeria outside the country. I must say though that I am grateful to God for choosing me amongst many to do this job. I would have loved to drop albums every six months as a good song writer, but God gave me another responsibility completely.
Tell us more about the album…
I would describe the new work as a gospel album.
Yes. When I started out, I was supposed to do a gospel album because I started singing in church and the response was always awesome. Then I could also see the hand of the Lord in what I was doing in church then and each time I finish performing, my Pastor will call me aside to remind me that it is high time I accept the Lord’s call. So, I think the time is here now. Everything in this album is gospel; there is also a very danceable unity song in the album. I am also collaborating with a popular Fuji artiste whose name I won’t want to mention now. I am really looking forward to the release of the album. It will blow everyone’s mind. I can assure you of that.
So when will the album be released?
That will be after the re-packaging of my Women Help Initiative Nigeria, WHIN, Concert.
But this concert was supposed to take place this weekend.
Yes, it was supposed to take place this weekend but it has been put on hold for obvious reasons.
I think the idea behind the concept is being grossly misunderstood. The aims and objectives were totally mixed up. Some people think the concert is a money-making venture for me, while some think it is just about coming to dance to King Sunny Ade’s beat. It is far more than that. WHIN is a process and a dream with the main objective of having a WHIN CENTER that will cater mainly for women and some other serious issues plaguing people in our society. I want to use WHIN Concert to sensitise the public and to drum up support of any kind from the larger society. I plan to bring people together, tell them about this project through beautiful music which is my first constituency. But some minor challenges are cropping up that would not allow me deliver the first-class music concert that I had in mind. But I will use your respected medium to inform those already invited to the show this weekend to hold-on. I am going back to re-package the show and give them the very best of me that they have never seen before. I have no regrets holding back the show, it is for the best after 30 years on stage anything I touch should be world-class and with my experience in event planning, I should be able to beat my chest and say yes I did it. No one knows about my wealth of experience in event planning; very soon I shall unfold that part of me. But most importantly, I am happy to say that I have the support of most of my colleagues for this project and that is a plus for the WHIN Concert.
How do you intend to combine all these activities with your music career?
I will cope because I am always passionate about everything that I do. The project is something I will pay heavy attention to because of some very gruelling experience that I had in the past. In my growing up days, everywhere you turn, a baby or two is being dumped in a canal, it was so rampant so much that we looked forward to seeing a new child that has been dumped. It got to a point that we checked the canal before we go to school. To us as children, it was exciting even though sad. But looking back now, I want to ask why? Why was it so rampant? Many girls are also rape victims who are afraid of stigmatisation and because of that feel reluctant to report such abuses. These are some of the things we shall deal with, and it will be given needed attention.
Given your status in the Nigerian music industry, are you satisfied with the respect accorded female artistes?
Yes and No. I still believe we don’t have enough representation of female artistes. When I was doing the Harvest of the Unique Knowledge Show, “HUK Up Show”, which was a monthly live show, I realised that we have a lot of female singers yet to be harnessed. During that period, I was parading them alongside other great singers on my show.
Who among the contemporary female singers really impressed you and you will love to do collaboration with?
I think right now, we have three main female acts that are on the fame lane. They are Omawumi, Tiwa Savage and Chidinma. They are all great and I will like to work with them. And I also will like to work with some very talented artistes of my era like Queen Salawa Abeni, I think she is very gifted.
How have you been coping as a single mother?
Well, individual difference. I never knew how to change diapers for one day because my mom was always there until she died. I never had the opportunity to spend time with a child; I was always on the move. My children spent more time with my mom. I must say I was lucky because my mom is a true representation of a very married and stable African woman and I give her kudos for that. Unfortunately, my own life didn’t turn out like that due to occupational hazards.
At over 50, do you still believe in love?
Yes of course. I believe so much in love. Why won’t I believe in love? I have never been heartbroken by any man. So, why won’t I make myself open for love?
Do you see yourself getting married one day?
Why not? People should understand that my being single is a matter of personal choice not because the guys are not there. At my age, you won’t believe the numbers of suitors that I get daily. If I really want to be married tomorrow, the suitors are there and my heart is still very open to conjugal life.
What advice do you have for the up-coming female acts?
I must say that they should be consistent, focused, and strong. They have to first go through the realisation of knowing that they are truly talented because it is the talent that is going to help them. They could fall down flat on their face, but have to get up and move on. They will get liked and disliked, but with consistency they will win at the end of the day. They should realise that things are not going to be easy or life a bed of roses, but they should build on their self-confidence because they will need it along the way.