BY CHUKS NWANNE
After years of nurturing her artistc career in far away Italy, Portugal and other parts of Europe, where she has made a mark as an as an actor, singer, designer and culture activist, Nigeria-born Sonia Aimiuwu has finally come up with her debut album, Mother. The new work is a follow up some of her singles, which were released in the recent past.
Already, plans are on for an elaborate album release concert billed to hold in Lagos this February, when the artiste is expected to arrive the country. She’s also expected in her home state of Edo, where she would be treating her people and fans to songs from the new work. According to plans, Sonia would be spending about two months in the country for the promotion of the new album. Already on January 31, she will be
Mother talks about the roles of mothers towards the upbringing and wellbeing of their children. Through the album, Sonia talks about the need for parents to hand over the values and norms of the society to the young ones. Some of these values include respect, dignity, humility and loyalty.
On the fli side, the album gives an insight into Sonia’s life story and the many challenges of living in another man’s country as an immigrant; the loss, the sense of distance from home and the dilemma of returning home.
SONIA’s childhood dream was to be an actress and singer but her mother would have none of that not minding that she initially encouraged the blossoming of the dream. As against an artiste daughter, her Mum prefers a respectable Business Manager daughter.
“I was in the drama group in school where I had the opportunity to work with comedian I Go Die, on the then Radio Bendel (now EBS). My music teacher, Bro Preacher, who had a school in Benin, saw my talents and allowed me into the school free of charge,” she noted.
“But my mother never wanted me to go further. For her, it was something you just have to do there and leave it there. I was learning to play the guitar but I couldn’t go further because my brother was always laughing at me. Then, my mother was very tough. She would say, ‘throw that guitar away.’ She would go to my church and tell them that she didn’t want me to come to the choir again. Sometimes, she would personally come and pick me out of the choir while singing.”
Somehow, Sonia’s mother succeeded in having her tow her way; she got into a higher institution in Nigeria where she enrolled for Business Management. Two years into the programme, 1992 to be precise, an opportunity to travel to Europe came her way.
“My luck came when I got abroad ... Oh My God! But it was tough,” she quipped.
NO sooner than Sonia jetted out of the country and found herself in Italy, the young lady resolved to pursue her dream in a white man’s country, against her mother’s wish.
“I would tell people, and they would say, ‘why do you have to think about that. Go and study some other thing.’ But I said to myself, ‘it’s my mother who wanted that; I don’t want this’. They were telling me, ‘Ah! Sonia, it is too difficult, you can’t do that’. Nobody wanted to assist me then,” she said.
Living on the outskirts of Turin then, Sonia now armed with a little knowledge of Italian language, took to the streets of Turin on a daily basis in search of an art school alone. She would knock on any office that caught her fancy and voiced her request in passable Italian language to anyone who cared to listen to her.
“Any office I saw i would just burst in and say in Italian language: ‘look, I am from Nigeria, my name is Sonia. I want to act and sing!’ They would look at me and say, ‘no, here, we sell plates... Oh! Don’t you see we sell plates here?’ They would then write the address of the place I should go to and even describe it for me.”
That was how Sonia went about, until she chanced on the Music Academy (Centro Jazz Di Torino). At the school, she regaled the fellow she met with what had become her famous introduction. This time around, the fellow, an Italian, caught on and asked her to sing something for him, which she did so well; falling back on her personal composition.
“I sang one of the songs I composed. ‘This is lovely’, he said to me. ‘Where did you get it,’ he asked. I told him it was mine. ‘Oh! Good’, he said. ‘Can you sing solfa?’ ‘Yes’, I said and I did it for him. ‘You can start with me,’ he then said to me.”
Within a short spell of time at the Academy of Music (Centro Jazz Di Torino) in Turin, where she studied music between 1992-1997, Sonia caught the imagination of the artistic community in Europe, as she became an instant theatre artiste, writer, dancer, and choreographer. She didn’t just stop at that; the Edo State native extended her artistic career to broadcasting as a producer as well as an activist.
In Italy, Sonia has had the privilege of working with such troupes as Teatro Dell’ Angolo Di Turino, Alma Teatro and Teatro Argentina Di Roma, National Television RAI 1, 2 and 3. Beside her making name as one of the few black faces, who had been able to hold their own in Italy, she has toured Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Germany and France among others, plying her wares. Indeed, her work with immigrants and minority groups has stood her out.
Aside her music career, human right activism is another area the elegant lady is passionate about. She is not just a flagbearer for the women folk only, but among Nigerian immigrants; she is held up as a role model, a saviour and the unofficial Ambassador for Nigeria. Her Alma Terra, a theatre group, is in the forefront of crusading for immigrants and minorities. They run among others what looks like a micro credit scheme to assist immigrants.
Done with aiding her countrymen in Diaspora, Sonia has also upped the stake by ensuring that issues concerning Africa are seen in a positive light and Africa voices heard, especially in the Diaspora. She is the founder and president of Afro Festival Association and she is also involved with a youth organisation known as Youth Express Network (based in Strasbourg).
Sonia runs a radio programme, known as Afromania, which was started in 2000. Aired on Radio Flash of Turin (97.6FM), the programme created a forum where issues affecting Africans are canvassed. Through the programme, Sonia engages Africans and government officials in Italy on their actions and policies as they affect immigrants and minorities group.