SONOROUS Isabella Ogo-Uzodike is a renowned Nigerian born UK-based gospel music crooner. A pastor in Father’s Home International Church, also in the UK, Isabella already has three albums after about 13 years in the industry.
Although she started off professionally few years back, Isabella has won the prestigious and highly coveted UK Gospel Music Award as a Newcomer. Back in the country to promote her songs and Tory Don Change album, ENCOMIUM Weekly had an exclusive interview with the mother of four children on her career, family, ministry and so much more…
How long have you been singing?
I have always been singing. I wrote my first official song in 1996. The song was entitled Hero. That year, when I sang it in church, the congregation was amazed. But thereafter, it took me 18 years to release my first album, that was in 2009 entitled Lost without you.
Which church was that?
Back in those days, it was called TCCC, but it is now known as Hilltop International Christian Centre, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. That was where I launched my third album.
So, how did music start for you?
Like I said, I have always loved music. I love singing. I love listening to love songs. I grew up listening to Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson and many other acts. But as I grew older, I noticed something there was unusual. Anytime I went to church, I always broke down in tears and people would ask me to come and sing for them. It was only when I wrote my first official song that I knew that it was not just about singing but a calling.
What do you generally sing about?
I sing about the love of the Lord to encourage people to know the Lord. That is what my ministry is based on. I sing inspirational songs, songs to lift up people’s spirit, from depression and inspire them.
Can you please tell us about some of your previous albums?
My first album was Lost without you, which is made up of 12 worship songs in 2009. And after the release of the album, it was well received in the UK. By 2010, I got nominated by the Gospel Music Award, UK, as Best Newcomer. I later released my next album, Heaven Anthem. It is also a collection of 12 worship songs. The last one is my first African album which God inspired. I always say this to people, God is the greatest master planner, master strategist. He knows when to open doors and He told me, it’s time to come back to your motherland. So, He gave me some songs that He knew will engage the people so that they will be drawn to that place of worship.
My Tory Don Change is a collection of 10 praise and worship songs and songs of inspiration. One of them, Back to sender is like a warfare song. Tory don change is a song of grass to grace. It shows how God has favoured me. There are others like Baba you dey lailai, What can I do without you Jesus, all produced in the UK.
Mainstream gospel music does not really fly in Nigeria, are you not going to be discouraged by this?
No. The motivation behind my music is spiritual. I’m not into this for money, I’m not into this because I want to be famous. It’s a kind of thing you are just called to do. This is my purpose in life, if I get no penny, I will do this until the Lord calls me to His place. If I don’t make any money from it, it does not bother me. I do not lose the vision because if the Lord gives you a vision, He makes the provision, He provides all I need.
Interestingly, traditional gospel music artists make it in Nigeria. So, what difference would you make with your songs?
I believe there is a gap in the market. We have people in the Western world, people like Cece Winans, Kirk Frankline, they have a wide audience. Many people listen to them. On the other hand, we have African gospel artists like Sammie Okposo, Buchi, people that are more or less household names here. But they are not really known out there. I believe in my heart there is a gap out there that the Lord wants me to bridge, not just me, there are other people that the lord wants us to minister to. Not just in Africa, but in the Western world. We can minister effectively on both sides.
Apart from music, what else do you do?
For once, I have a secular job as the senior manager in a public sector in the UK. I’m also a qualified make-up artist, though I don’t do it as a profession. I do it for charity more or less. I’m also a qualified business instructor. I have people that consult me. I’m currently writing a book which is a worship manual. I’m looking forward to releasing it in six months. I’m also a very happily married woman. I have four wonderful children, two boys and two girls. My two daughters are 17 and 15 and the boys are 11 and 9. So, I feel blessed and I do not take God’s goodness for granted. My first priority is to glorify the Father through my music and preaching the gospel. I have been invited to minister in America and UK, by so many churches and conferences. I have also ministered here in Nigeria. I’m just one of those people that wherever God sends me, I would go.
What is the secret behind your beauty apart from being a fitness expert?
It does not have anything to do with being a fitness expert, people say you are what you eat but in essence I watch what I eat. I know I’m naturally prone to putting on weight and I have that consciousness in my mind because I know my man have issues with weight. So, I know that and have been growing up with that consciousness. I try to get to the gym and if I could not go, I have some equipment at home even if it means jumping on them. I drink a lot of water, eat fresh fruits and take care of my skin.
Are you finally back in Nigeria?
No! I only came to launch my third album at Hilltop International Christian Centre, Port Harcourt.
Nigerians abroad are currently coming back to pursue their dreams at home, what do you think encourages artists and entrepreneurs to return home?
Nigeria has potentials. I love being a Nigerian, I love to be called a Nigerian. You know why? We are resourceful and very industrious and tenacious, we can go through the hardest of situations and we bounce back. A lot of people have been out there and they know there is no place like home. Even though we have all the good life abroad, good roads, electricity, even the poorest man can afford to eat good food abroad. Many people are relocating to Nigeria because of the potentials we have and they are bringing in expertise, the knowledge and the experience they gained out there.
So, do you have the plan to relocate with your family soonest?
Yes, we have that plan but not so soon. The children are in school, we have to plan for that but ultimately this is my home and where my heart is.
How supporting is your family to your career?
They are extremely supportive. My husband has been so supportive of me. He backs me to the extent that anything that comes to his hand, he will give me and say it’s for the work of the Lord, take this. There are times he ends up taking care of the kids while I am out. Let me say to all the ladies out there, if your husband is supporting you and you go out there and people are hailing you, don’t go back home and start misbehaving. Remember where God brought you from because your husband is your first ministry. My husband remains my head and I am fully submissive to him. My children are awesome. One of my daughters, Sharon even sings with me. She has a wonderful voice.
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Nsukka, a small university town in the Eastern part of Nigeria. We grew up there with my mom. Unfortunately, my parents divorced when we were very young so, I grew up with my mom and my sister. We were three but I lost my first sister at an early age. My mother loves people, she is generous and she imbibed that spirit of generousity and the ability to welcome people into my home. So, that upbringing is what has kept me.
Do you have any plan to collaborate with any Nigerian artist?
(Laughs) I will collaborate with anybody that has a heart for the Lord or wants to glorify the Lord. We will consider it and we would do it. I don’t care if it is a known name or not, all I care is let’s have the same vision and push the dream forward.
Are you an ordained minister?
Yes, I am a pastor. I am an Associate Pastor. My home church in the UK is called Father’s Home International Church. My senior pastor’s name is Rex Johnson. I have served in that ministry for 12 years. So, I and my husband are pastors in the church. But it’s not our church.
How do you intend to promote your album in Nigeria?
God has hoonured us so much. He has been so gracious towards the ministry both in the UK and Nigeria. I only came into Nigeria few days ago and there have been so much help from many quarters. It’s like God is drawing people from everywhere. If you want to be useful to the Lord, make yourself available first. If you want to be a leader, be a servant first. In terms of promotion, I have done a lot of interviews. The music is on, the CDs are available. It is also on my website, www.isabellamelody.com, the videos are available on youtube.
- JOKE ONITOLO
This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, July 10, 2012