Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Melody… On a mission to save

THE very first brief I got on Melody Unuakpor simply described the Abia State native as an artiste, whose debut album would be launched today at the Agip Recital Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. So, through our telephone conversation, I had concluded that our meeting would purely focus on her yet to be released album.
Minutes after I had arrived, her SUV rolled into the Surulere venue, where we had scheduled to meet; she was a bit late. “I’m very sorry, the traffic was much this morning, I’ve been struggling to get here,” she says putting her bag on the centre table and dropping into a seat. However, the meeting, which I though would last for few minutes ran into hours. By the time we were through, it was obvious that Melody’s plan is beyond the usual album launch. How come the name, Melody? “Melody is my real name though many people have asked if it’s my stage name. My father actually gave me that name.” …As if he knew you would end up in music? “Well, my Dad said the way I cried when I was born, sounded like a sweet melody to his ear; that’s the explanation he gives. But he’s really very glad today that I’ve taken after that name,” she enthuses. THINGS were moving on fine for Melody and her husband, Henry after their wedding in 2002, until few months later she became pregnant. Along the line, her blood pressure started rising. The couple tried their best to manage the situation, but with the pregnancy, things got out of hand around the fifth month. “I remember that day we were trying to move into another accommodation; I was going to the market to buy some things for the house. On my way, I stopped over at the hospital to check my blood pressure. The doctor looked at it and complained that it was on the high side. In fact, he insisted I stay back in the hospital for proper attention.” However, what was expected to be a day or two of treatment, turned to two months on the hospital bed. According to the doctor, Melody had developed a condition in pregnancy called preeclampsia, which kills a lot of pregnant women. “Most pregnant women don’t even know when it starts. For instance, if I hadn’t gone to the hospital that day, I wouldn’t have known that something like that had started. They tried to manage the situation, but they did not do that well, because not all hospitals know about that.” As a way of checking the situation, Melody was on medicament that was supposed to gradually be bring down the blood pressure. But unfortunately, it was going up and down and as a result of this, she started retaining fluid, blowing up by the minute. “I was not passing out urine anymore. At that point, it has got to preeclampsia stage. I became so big, filled with water to the extent that when I stepped my legs, I could hear the sound of water in my body.” And your husband? “Actually, my husband was very courageous; not all men could stand such situation. Many people could not look at me without crying or shaking their heads; I was moved to a personal room, where I stayed alone. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I knew the situation had gone very bad, despite my pregnancy. At that point, we were trying to move the baby to seven months.” According to medical experts, the only way things could things will only normalise was when the baby is born. But in Melody’s case, her baby wasn’t yet full term; she still has two more months to go. “What the doctor did was to give me some injections to help the lungs of the baby mature, so, that if anything happens, they could bring out the baby through operation. Unfortunately, some of our hospitals don’t have equipment that could be used to monitor the heartbeat of the child. I had to travel all the way from FESTAC Town, to Surulere to use the machine. By the time the woman was checking, the heartbeat was hiccuping. I did a bit of health in school, so, most of the things they were doing were not new to me. With the heartbeat of the baby slowing down minute by minute, Melody was instructed to return to the hospital, but due to the usual Lagos traffic, she couldn’t make it back on time. “The doctor was waiting when we came back, but after a scan, we discovered that the baby had died. It was painful, but after then, I was inducted to bring out the dead baby. If that machine had been there, the child may have survived.” NOW with three kids, Melody is partnering with Centre for Women’s Health and Information (a non-governmental organisation) on a mission to sensitise women, especially those in rural areas, on the dangers of preeclampsia, and possible ways of managing the situation. “The concert is tagged Reality of Divine Dialogue. The basic thing about this programme is that, I looked back and asked myself, ‘what can I really do? How can I give back to the society?’ I approached them (the NGO) and I made it clear that I don’t have any money for now, but that part of the proceeds from my album launch will be given to them to start up a campaign on preeclampsia. The idea is that through the campaign, women, who don’t have access to this information in big hospitals, could get it. I’ve seen a lot of women go through this; they don’t even know how it starts. I believe that all women, especially those that are still giving birth, to have a BP machine at home, because preeclampsia does not ring a bell. There are other sicknesses that affect pregnant women, but I chose this one because I’ve been there before.” Aside Melody and her band, the charity concert will also feature other artistes such as Cobhams Asuquo, The Chord, Extreme Crew, Ige, Sankay and others. THE title track of the new work, according to the mother of three, was written for her by a friend, Femi Adewunmi. “The song talks about different hardships people pass through in life. But in all, God still helps us out. While I was in the hospital, I knew the child had gone. It could have been me! I cried unto God to let me live, so that, I can tell the world about what I’ve been through and what I know now.” Asked if she intends running an NGO in future, Melody says, “somebody had actually suggested that to me, but for now, I don’t have that plan. Basically, I love to sing; I’ve been singing for more than 10 years. I sing gospel quite all right, but my music is the type that touches people; I always sing with a message. Getting an NGO is not on my mind now, that’s why I had to reach out for my partners. But I will really follow up with them; I will be part of their campaign. Many people had gone through the situation, but they’ve not said anything about it.” MEANWHILE, the campaign billed to start in September, will take off in Ibeju Lekki and Makoko areas, with radio programmes and leaflets to back up the campaign. “I’ve been able to get in touch with the Lagos State Commissioner for Health and he has promised to support the initiative. For now, we are funding the show on our own. We’ve actually been looking for sponsorship, but whether it comes or not, the show must go on and we would still give them what we had promised; that’s what we want to do.” THOUGH a talented singer, as she proved in the album, Melody has always been skeptical about making music. “I was more interested in singing at events. Meanwhile, I do more of cool songs, so, I never thought that people would patronise my kind of music; I write cool songs. But I think God has allowed it, so, this is the right time to release the album. Over the years, I’ve been writing songs and storing them, hoping to put them together someday. I just want to share it with the world now.” FROM all indications, an hour seems inadequate for Melody to describe her husband. “Words can’t describe my husband oh,” she says with laughter. “Before I married him, I saw a young man full of ideas; somebody that can help me get the best I can ever be in life. He’s somebody that supports his family all the time; with him, I don’t miss anything. After God, I think he’s next. He’s one in a million; I’m yet to see someone like him,” she sings.

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