Monday, 7 December 2009

One-on-one with Vivien Stephen

THROUGHOUT the heated discussion on gender equality involving guests at the unveiling of Mark 5 label, which also had music producers, Flo, K’ore (former member of Infinity), Michael Abdul and others, I never knew Vivien Stephen had something to do with Michael, the fuji crooner of the Midnight Crew. For the period the argument lasted, the two sat opposite each other. So, immediately after the ceremony, I approached Vivien for a brief chat, which she wholeheartedly granted.
Is Michael Abdul your husband?
“Yes, we have a kid now,” she responds.
How did you meet him?
“We met in the studio; a friend of mine was working on his album and both of us were in that production. We were introduced, but I never knew he was a member of the Midnight Crew; I didn’t even know about the group then and he never told me. So, we just started on a friendly note. We were friends for a while, then, he popped the question.”
What question?
“He was like, ‘will you marry me?’ and I answered him, ‘ok, let’s give it a trial,” she says, amidst laughter.
One wonders how both artistes cope in the union, especially when a child is involved?
“It’s been blissful; it’s been wonderful,” she says. “Yes, it comes with its challenges; he’s into music and I’m into music as well, but I think God has been faithful to us. When he’s very busy with Midnight Crew outside the country, God just fashions a way that will make me less busy. I have a band I run; we play at occasions. So, when they are busy, I’m less busy and when I get very busy, he’s less busy. We’ve been married for three years now and it’s been like that,” she enthuses.

Born to a lecturer father and itinerant businesswoman mother, Dr. and Mrs. Stephen; Vivien has been in the country’s entertainment industry for nearly a decade, though most times behind the scene. With her strong, beautiful and distinctive voice, she played a vital role in driving music groups such as Sharp Band and Perception Band to prominence in Lagos.
To the Delta State native, the decision to do music professionally was never an accident; at the tender age of four, she had already started singing in her church’s choir.
“I didn’t stumble into music, she says. “Music for me started at a very tender age, by 14, I had already started singing professionally.”
From backing notable artiste such as Blakky and others in their studio productions, Vivien joined Jehoshephat Ministers, a band owned by Funmi Ademola, touring around town.
“It got to a point that my husband said, ‘I think you’ve sown, it’s time to give back to the society. You’ve helped a lot of people, why don’t you do your own stuff and see what the Lord will do.’ That was how I started working on my debut album.”
Already on music shelf around the country, the album, which was released under Mark 5, a strictly gospel music record label, has songs such as Ijo, Good Morning Sir and others. Some of the tracks have the input of her husband, Michael, while Wole Oni took charge of the productions.
“These are songs I’ve been cooking for a very long time. I’ve always told myself that, if I want to come out as a gospel artiste, I don’t want to be like the old gospel artistes.”
What’s wrong with these old artistes that you have talked about?
“People know what to expect from them; I want to be a shock to people. I want to convey God in the best way people would understand it. I don’t do too serious music, but my songs are full of messages; they are happy songs; there’s always humour at the end of it.”
With both deeply involved in music, one will not be surprised to see the couple collaborate in one or two songs in the near future.
“Actually, we’ve never thought of it; we are not like the normal couple,” she says bursting into laughter.
How do you mean?
“Sometimes, you see couples wear the same dress, the same outfit… we hate it very much to the bone! We prefer to do colours; I could wear something like this, then he would wear a red T-shirt. As for the collaboration, it might happen; yes, it’s a very huge possibility.”

EVEN as a gospel artiste, Vivien is very confident wearing dreadlock, which has actually turned to her identity. “It’s been here for a very long time,” she says. “I’m a Christian; I love God, but I still love my freedom of expression; this is who I’m. This hair depicts my music; you will discover that when you listen to my songs.”
Just as expected, some busy body friends, have already started pointing fingers on the artiste for her hairdo. “A friend of mine once saw our family picture online and was like, s’your wife is wearing dreads, isn’t she supposed to be a born again Christian?’ fortunately, they were playing one of my songs on the radio and my husband said to her, ‘listen to this.’ After listening to the song, she was like, ‘wow, ok, it suits her music.”
Are you saying it’s not all about fashion?
“I didn’t do it to make any fashion statement, no! I did it because I just wanted to look different; I’ve been weaving and braiding hair for a very long time. It was really getting boring and very expensive. So, I decided to wear a different look to see how it goes. It has really saved me the stress and time of always going to the saloon; I just do my hair at home, wash and dry it - that’s all.”

ENERGETIC and decisive, Vivien rocked the Expo Hall stage recently, when she backed the masked one, Lagbaja, who was contracted to perform at the 50th anniversary of Alliance Francais in Nigeria. At first, it was difficult spotting her on stage, but her dreadlocks and eyeglasses gave her out. If not that I was standing very close to the stage, I would have sworn that Ego, Lagbaja’s former backup singer, was on duty that night; indeed, Vivien did justices to all the songs, especially Never Far Away, which got the crowd singing along.
An only child of her parents, music seemed to come naturally to Vivien. With her coarse and raspy, yet silky depth that would make Angela Kidjo and Asa turn their heads, Vivien’s voice places her in contention as the next big female act to emerge in the industry.

When Anabel honoured Onyeka, Shina, Kimono... others

COLOUR. Panache. Award. Yes, award has been added to the string of beauty that line the country’s entertainment industry with the introduction of Excellence Awards by Anabel Entertainment, a new unit of Anabel Group, in collaboration with MTN Nigerian Music Festival.
The entertainment outfit gave out awards to some Nigerian musicians such as Onyeka Onwenu, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Sir Shina Peters, Christiana Essien-Igbokwe and Ras Kimono. Others include Timaya, Wande Coal and, Weird MC, who all were part of the music train that thrilled Nigerians recently.
Speaking to newsmen, Mr. Nicholas Okoye, President and Chief Executive of the group, said, “we gave these awards because we wanted the world to know that the success of the Nigerian music industry today was built because of the work and efforts of a few dedicated pioneers.”
He added, “these people are giants in the industry and it is on their shoulders that the likes of D’banj, Wande Coal, P-Square are standing on. We believe these young people need to be encouraged for their talents and exceptional performance over the last few years. We would continue to recognise talent and support the Nigerian music and entertainment industry.”
Okoye noted that these artistes could compete with their foreign counterparts if given the necessary supports and exposures.
MTN Nigerian Music Fest, an innovative musical show, blends the old and the contemporary stars of diverse musical genres ranging from R&B, Hip Hop, Fuji, Juju, Afro Beat, High Life to Reggae.
The fiesta was borne out of the quest to recognise and celebrate the nation’s musical excellence.
Similarly, countdown to the Princess Anabel pageant scheduled to hold at the Genesis Deluxe Cinemas, Palms Mall, Lagos, has begun with great expectations from the public, as the pageant and reality show would use the medium as a re-branding tool and to promote Nigerian artistes.
Anabel Entertainment focuses on developing entertainment content such as television shows, film, music and documentaries.
Apart from entertainments the organisation is equally into providing quality phones and hand held computer sets and was the first Nigerian company to manufacture smart phones that runs on 6.1 mobile windows, meaning that you can walk around the town with your entire office applications at your finger tips.

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