MUMA Gee, Chief (Mrs.) Gift Uwame-Eke, is one of Africa’s exceptionally talented singers and performing artistes. But what you probably don’t know is that the Rivers-born Afro-centric artiste cum serial entrepreneur has been singing professionally since 1997.
In this exclusive interview with Encomium Weekly Associate Editor, UCHE OLEHI, Muma Gee takes stock of her 18 years in the music industry, admitting it has been tough, challenging but exciting and fulfilling.
The MD/CEO, Mgee Group, who recently opened an ultra-spa and salon in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State also revealed the business side of her.
The staunch supporter of former President Goodluck Jonathan who’s promoting her latest album, Motherland, however, pleaded not to drawn to politics.
You won AMEN award for Best Fresh Artiste more than a decade ago. So, how long have you been singing professionally?
Hahahahahahaha. I won the Best Fresh Artiste and Best Female Vocalist of the year in 2001 to be precise, but have been singing professionally since 1997! A long time now, huh.
You mean it?
A global brand no doubt, what has been the highlight of your career?
Having come thus far, you will agree with me that there has been many special moments and lots of highlights, especially each time I have to perform on an international stage and Jazz festivals. But I must confess the greatest highlight was performing on the same stage with one of Africa’s greats, Mariam Makeba (her soul rest in peace) at the Royal Festival Hall in South Bank, London.
Who else meets your expectations in terms of live performance in Nigeria and beyond?
Aaah, I love what the young stars are doing when it comes to live performance but I will beg you not to push me to judge because it’s different content for different artistes. But for me, none has been able to beat the old timer Tina Turner internationally and Femi Kuti nationally.
You bring in a lot when performing and when it comes to costume, stagecraft, directing and story. Why and how do you do it?
As a trained theatre artiste from the University of Port Harcourt, I am left with no choice but to present a good stage craftmanship when on stage as I see Muma Gee beyond just being a singer but an art- piece to be admired by the spectators for their pleasure and also leaving them to their creative imagination of God’s creation in me. So for each outing, I passionately put my creativity to use depending on my source of inspiration and perception of that event or occasion, no matter what it may cost, and all this is geared towards showcasing the rich cultural value and heritage from Africa for the rest of the world to see.
We’ve been told you don’t really come cheap in terms of artiste fee. So, what’s the biggest and minimum performance fee Muma Gee has charged?
I may have to request that you direct this question to tellerAfrica.com (my management) for a more concrete and definite figure. Anyway, to state a performance fee for an Afro-centric artiste like Muma Gee can be quite tricky and not certain but it’s relative, depending on the event in question, logistics to make it happen, and the payer.
The biggest fee for me so far had been N21m where I was compelled to feature 150 dancers and the lowest has been N5,000 to fuel my car (laughs).
What has been the sweetest thing about being a star artiste?
For me, the sweetest thing about being a star artiste is having the privilege to sell the rich African culture through music, as well as the opportunity to carry out my humanitarian services and finally, the so much love I enjoy from people (thanks to my fans).
And almost 18 years on, what have been your major challenges?
Unlike in most cases, challenges are a major source of inspiration to me. No challenge can be as major as getting ourselves to believe in ourselves as Africans. Loving our own thing and patronising our own African brand as to see it good enough for investors to align especially in the area of music, thus this has posed as a major challenge.
Interestingly back then, there was no Tiwa Savage, Chidinma, Seyi Shay, Yemi Alade…anywhere near the scene. Are their looming presence a threat to your career progression?
Noooo, not at all! No artist can be a threat to me because Muma Gee is a very unique African brand with features that cannot be found in others but the ones in others can be found in me.
Yes, that of the others can’t be found with my brand. As such, I feel honoured to be the pioneer of most features and characteristics I see in most of these artistes you just mentioned and I can confidently say I created this style and genre but they took it to another dimension. And I’m back now to take it to the next level with my Motherland album. Watch out!
How many songs have you released so far?
I have sincerely lost count of how many right now. I need time to consult my archives.
Which has been the most successful album and why?
Trust me! Motherland will be the most successful but so far Kade has been.
You have been staging a comeback for years are you comfortable with the outcome?
No, I have not! You can rather say I have been on break for years now and it’s my first come back. And I will be more than comfortable and successful with it because I have more than enough research to repackage a greater and refreshed new Muma Gee brand.
Can you tell us about your last album and the next?
I don’t need to brag about it, Kade was a huge success here and beyond. It rocked Africa a great deal. My Motherland album is a calculated work of art that will soothe any mood. And no matter your personality. You must find songs that will satisfy you.
Please, tell us the business aspect of Muma Gee?
There are many sides to my person and the business woman in me is one of the existing part that gets me very active on daily basis as a CEO of Mgee Fashion, Mgee Records and a month ago just launched Mgee Spa and Salon in Port Harcourt while working on our own Mgee beauty product line which is what’s catching my fancy now apart from working on the release of my latest album.
We learnt you’ve spent over N50 million on the spa?
Please, don’t get funny. Who gave you that sort of information? Because no one has access to my expenditure records.
You know journalists don’t disclose their source of information?
(Laughs) Uche, I have known you for over 14 years in this business of journalism and entertainment but not as a liar. So please, hold the good image tight, my brother. Anyway that’s what we call comic relieve in theatre. Next question, please.
Why are you shying away from signing artistes to MGee Record?
I’m not! We’re working according to the business plan. We have lots of up and coming artistes we’re working with in the background. And in no time, you will feel them.
From your UNIPORT days, you’ve been an entrepreneur. We learnt you no longer have business in Choba, Rivers State? What really happened?
The only business I now have around UNIPORT is my property. I’m into real estate. I closed down the beauty salon business since 2005 then moved to Lagos after my studies in UNIPORT. So, nothing happened.
I know you don’t like flaunting figures, how much is the estate worth?
Jesus! Uche, wetin I do you? Free me, biko!
Would you say business has been good and has your husband been supportive?
Yes, business and life generally is good for me.
So, he has been quite supportive?
Uche, please leave the ‘he’ factor out of this.
Can you please, tell us why you chose to be an entrepreneur?
Simply because I love to sell my creative ideas, be it as a tangible or intangible product or even services and I’m very passionate about it as I enjoy the independence that comes with being an entrepreneur.
You were one of President Jonathan’s main supporters, any regret?
Not at all.
Still on politics, did you run for an elective position in the last election?
We can do politics another time, please.