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Conscience music and more …meet Fada Omega

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BEHOLDING a man of such immense creative currents and spiritual steep Emmanuel Umezinwa is as much thrill as it is a challenge. Not many would be in his audience and fail to ask themselves ‘what’s happening?’

  Rev. Fr. Umezinwa, a Catholic priest, composer, performing artist and Professor of Music in Nnamdi Azikiwe University goes with the stage name, Fada Omega, a name with which he electrifies his audience and inflames the stage as he did last Sunday in Awka, Anambra state when he starred in Testimony House and turned up a lot of dust with his pop music works.

Before he laid bare his art and views on issues in the world of music and entertainment in an interview with me, he had got the over 50 of us in the exclusive soiree soaked in his deeply conscience music.

  The evening began with fada Omega talking into his first number in a line of three numbers that waltzed from country music to reggae and a dexterous remix of a Negro Spiritual hymal and a Catholic encantatory in latin chant. One of the stick-to-mind pieces the priest and performer whose height, charm and cautiously served gait on stage made even those who hitherto, never behold him in any show hive him in their mind was the track ‘Don’t Fool Yourself’.

In another of his presentations he bemoaned fake orientation, ‘foreign mentality’ the so called independence of Africans who have taken their nations from colonial masters but are still tied to their colonial masters’ apron stringes by their mindsets and acts. At some points, he called for ‘revolution,’ and when one paid attention, his call was for a social re-orientation.

  Fada Omega’s reggae has a lot of root-rock instrumentation. Given his rich baritone, use of the call-and-response mode of singing with back-up singers and very active guitar and trumpet sessions, he connects like Lucky Dube or Alpha Blondy.

  Yet when one thought, reggae, in the good old roots form was his domain, he put out some country music numbers that turned his audience to the numbers that tuned his audience to the 1960s through 1980s era of deep story telling with guitar and drumbeats. But unlike the Don Williams’, Jim Reeves’ of that country music era, even accordions, saxophones, trumpets and piano feature in hos work. There are also viola and the strings.

  His, like the pop music of Fada Omega characteristically encompassed a full orchestra. Over 15 pieces actively featured in the performance, and it was an engaging evening of rich music.

  The joy of the event was not lost in the convener of the evening with Fada Omega, the young UNIZIK music teacher, Gerald Abichi Eze, who informed that getting the very busy priest and artiste to perform was an uphill task. When it was learnt that some of Fada Omega’s numbers of the evening were over 30 years old, the audience urged the recording and commercial  promotion of the works. Omega was also urged to perform in more public functions.

  A chat with the very cerebral and charismatic act revealed a lot about his rich artistic philosophy and deep root in music Excerpt: 

WHAT is your major genre? Is it reggae, country music or a blend of both?

  I have a very large appetite for music. It’s beyond the two. Growing up in the urban city of Onitsha, my childhood days were influenced by the influx of disc jockeys at the time. So, my destiny with music started from that time. Hence, I do not limit myself to a particular genre. I do music as a tool to inspire and reform society.

Your knowledge of the metrics and instruments of music is superb. What is your key to the dexterous use of the stage, instruments and your performance mannerism especially when you present reggae?

  The nature of music is unlimited. You cannot limit what is varying possible.

  I have a recorded album and there is a section for the brass. Music spreads like a wind; it reaches far depth to appeal to every soul. Sometimes, what the musician does is a job of midwifery – he adopts the sound of waves that has already been created by the complete sounds of the instruments on play and helps to birth a new breed of music. He brings out the music because it is clear in his mind.

Would you say that you do conscience music?

  A musician will always come from a point of view. There’s a way you see the world or understand it. You share things that represent a larger part of society. Music is the way it is and paves way for a dramatic change in the society.

Would you regard yourself as a rebel or a revolutionary, an inspirator or teacher?

  According to my definition of a rebel, I am not. There are people’s perceptions of what i do. However, these are labels. It’s not easy to label a man a rebel anyway. In the light of a revolutionary, I am. In fact, we all are revolutionary in nature. Inspirator? I would agree because a show like this is an avenue to inspire and ignite passion in young talented and old artists to keep up the good works. However, I would agree that I am a teacher. Teaching is my major purpose to pass information and inculcate value system to others.

You have a very engaging vocal power and a showstopper performing mannerism, do you accept that?

  Some years, specifically in 2005, I went for voice training at a studio in US. The studio manager revealed that Nigerians are excellent and original in singing exceptionally. People talked about false voice. Interestingly, there’s nothing like false voice. Every voice you hear is your voice. A lot of people understand me as a baritone. When I sing country music, my voice sounds different. There is voice for every song. The way you sing reggae is different from the way you sing RnB or any other type of music.

How do you combine your duties as a priest and as a musicologist? Do they affect your choice of lyrics or especially and why do you not sing highlife?

  In 2003, I recorded a highlife for an age grade; to numbers specifically for them. The motivations for most organisations are different. The goal of musicians is different from each other. Highlife music is a very acceptable kind in this part of the country but many musicians have taken to the hunt for money than the need to feed the public with quality music.

When we do music, we should ask ourselves discreet questions such as, will it change the environment and impact values? For me, doing music is to reform. I sing to appeal to a sect of the conscious society who recognises the quality of classical works.

Sometimes, it’s not for everybody to know your music but the message it sends to every heart that hears it. You don’t work hard just to do music but work smart to accomplish whatever you plan to do.

Are you more comfortable with composing music, singing or teaching?

  I enjoy teaching if the right audience is there. I write my songs especially. I hardly use notes when composing my songs. The sounds come as music and you should understand that sounds are existential. The music comes naturally and I take it down. Though, I find it challenging as a young seminarian to write and perform reggae music. My consistency spurred me to develop extreme dexterity to do both exceptionally.

What next? Would these your works we enjoyed today be published and recorded soon or will be let to lay away your closet?

  I am open to every genuine move to impact society. I have a lot of works and l won’t stop writing. Any move to take it to the upper echelon is acceptable to me.

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