With over 100 movies to her credit, in which she featured as actress and costume designer, Ngozi Orji has come a long way. Now, with two singles in the kitty, the wife of veteran actor, Zack Orji, is on the verge of creating her own empire in the Nigerian gospel music industry.
In this interview, Orji, who plans to drop a full album sometime next year, speaks on how it all started and why gospel musicians find it difficult to attract corporate sponsorship, among other issues.
Tell us briefly about yourself
I am Ngozi Orji. I read Secretarial Studies at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu. After my graduation, I attended the Piscean School of Fashion, Ikeja, Lagos, where I cut my teeth in Costume Designing. Thereafter, I studied English at University of Lagos, graduating in 2000.
How was your growing up, did you sing as a child?
I come from an average Christian family of about six children. Iím the first daughter; we are four girls and two boys. So, growing up was fun, but not that easy, because I come from a family where my father was a no-nonsense disciplinarian. He brought us up with an iron hand. I would say that the upbringing I got from my family helped in shaping me to become what I am today. Dad was so strict; he was just interested in our education. Any other talent was never to be mentioned. He encouraged me after my secondary education, when he felt I had matured enough to choose a career. So, I will say yes; but you know, you propose and desire, but itís only God who decides and approves.
When actually did you start singing?
All along, I have been singing. I started singing before I ventured into acting and costume designing. In fact, I have sung all my life; my genre of music is gospel. Professionally, my singing career dates back to about 20 years ago. I started as a chorister in the Full Gospel Businessmenís Fellowship. At different times at Word Base Assembly, and also Power Line Bible Church, I was either a worship leader or praise minister. I have also been a guest artiste in different churches on different occasions.
My career as a gospel artiste has taken me to different countries like Ghana and the UK. Now is time for me to do a compilation of all the songs I have written and composed over the years, and bless the world with them. I wish to praise the Lord with these songs and express my gift on a larger scale by extending it to a wider audience.
What inspires your songs?
My inspiration comes from God, because He is the giver of inspirations. The desire to praise and worship God for who He is in my life and what He has done for me also inspires me, and so does my family. Sometimes, I use songs as my own way of talking about my personal experiences Ė what I have gone through and what other people have gone through. In addition, I use my songs to encourage other people to have faith and trust in God; that too inspires me. I believe that in everything we should give God praise.
Are you worried that gospel artistes are not getting enough endorsements like their colleagues in secular music?
I think itís a corporate policy thing. This is my personal opinion; Iím not generalising. Some corporate bodies do not want to spend their money on gospel artistes. Probably, they feel they might not make reasonable returns or that the music might not give their brands the desired mileage or clout that they might get from secular artistes.
However, the truth is that, gospel music has a limited audience unlike secular music that enjoys the patronage of all segments of the Nigerian public. Another reason might be the fact that most of them want to separate religion from business. They are for business and are not ready for any religious controversy, which might have a negative spill over effect on their brands. However, I think we will get there; itís a gradual process.
How do you feel being wife of Nollywoodís celebrity, Zack Orji?
I feel good; I am blessed to have him. He is a good husband, a gentle man and a good father to our kids.
Would you say entertainment runs in the family?
I would say that entertainment is in our genes, because my son, Lionel, has also gone into music. I feel blessed to have him; he is a very gifted young man with about five singles to his credit and three videos. He is also one of my producers. He produces most of my songs. He is very talented and I thank God for him. I couldnít have a better son.
If you were asked to choose between acting and music, which one would you choose?
If you take gospel music out of my life, I will not be complete, because gospel music is what I love doing. I have other talents; but most of all, I love to sing more than anything else. Gospel music is the part of me that always connects me to God. It is that part of me that God uses to reach out to other people to bless them. So, I would say that without gospel music, I am very empty and incomplete because it is the one thing that gives me joy. It gives me a lot of joy seeing people responding and being blessed when Iím ministering. I have other talents like acting; I went to a fashion school and also train as a costume designer. I have actually acted in, and costumed over a 100 movies. Iím also a businesswoman. I run a fashion boutique and interior-decorating outfit.
When are we expecting your album?
My album debuts sometime next year. Before now, I have dropped two singles: Chim No Nso and Níime Jehovah, which are making waves. I sing in Igbo and Pidgin English because I need to cut across to everyone. Iím also going to do another one in Yoruba. The idea is to reach everybody and express the gospel. In my second single, I featured a popular Ghanaian singer, Obiba Sly Collins. Even though, the song was done in Igbo, the video is subtitled in English for everybody to understand.
What advice do you have for the youth?
Let them always believe in themselves and have faith and trust only in God; God is the only one that cannot fail them. Let them never give up on their dreams and never lose hope. When there is life there is hope; they should never compromise. They should not trade their destiny for anything; no matter how difficult the situation might be, God will always make a way. Let them always dream big and trust God; all things are possible with Him.