Charity Ekeke is an artist that has traveled the world. Her debut album, “She”, is a collection of songs based on her observations about how people are treated in different locations, cultures and within various societies, especially women.
NFZ: You have a very interesting history. Could you tell us about yourself, where you’re from and what you do?
Charity Ekeke: I was born and raised in Nigeria. I came to the United States after the Civil War in Nigeria. I have been a United States citizen for over twenty years now. I am a single parent of four well-adjusted, self-directed young adults. Coming into this at this stage in my life, I am more mature than most. In my day job, I am an Independent Critical Care Registered Nurse.
NFZ: So, you’re originally from the Nigeria. What was it like growing up there?
Charity Ekeke: When I was growing up, Nigeria was a British Colony. There was no conflict until about 7 years after independence from Britain. Biafra, mostly the Ibos, wanted to secede from Nigeria. This started the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. At the time, I did not know it, but retrospectively, I believe Nigerian women self-liberated because there was no law or policy to support their liberation or actualization as a gender, Nigeria being a patriarchal society. The women did what was necessary to maintain their families or pursue a career. Nigerian women are usually not full-time homemakers. Even an illiterate speaks broken English. This comes in handy when they are selling their merchandise or produce from their farm at the market.
This was how I saw women; assertive, enterprising, and industrious. For instance, during the civil war, our property was commandeered by the military. So, we moved to our house in the village. My father’s exporting business was no longer in existence. My mother found a way to continue her business though on a smaller scale. My mother’s income sustained us as a family through the war and beyond. The educational system at the time was structured like that of Britain. The schools were excellent and education was highly regarded. I did not know racism existed until I came to the United States. While in the US, racism did not make sense to me hence, I did not understand it and still don’t understand it.
NFZ: You now live in California. Do you like it there or would there be somewhere else you’d rather be?
Charity Ekeke: I have lived in different parts of the country since coming to the United States. I very much appreciate the diversity in California and the accessibility of being within a 30 to 33 mile radius to ski, surf, or hiking. California is a wonderful state. Like other states, it has its problems.
NFZ: What’s the music scene like in area around where you live in California?
Charity Ekeke: The music scene, specifically in Los Angeles, is quite vibrant being the second to New York in size. Everybody wants to play in Los Angeles. Musicians travel from afar to play here. Whatever your musical tastes, you will find it in Los Angeles. There are lots of talented artists here. I live in a somewhat quiet part of LA.
NFZ: When did you first get into the music business and what started the ball rolling?
Charity Ekeke: Music has always been there for me. Although I did not take any music lesson growing up nor had any musical instrument, I was in a choir in an Anglican Church in Nigeria. This brought joy to my soul. As a child, I used to get down close to the floor in an effort to see into our turntable, wondering how they squeezed human beings to make music inside the turntable. As a preteen and teenager I saved my gift money to purchase a Record Song Book every six months. Learning these songs, singing them, and making clothes for my dolls were how I spent my free time. In the eighties I made a demo and met a producer in New York who said to me, “you have to move to New York”. My first thought was, what do I do with my children? While doing an MFA in Cinema/Television Production, I wrote the sound track to some of my student films.
NFZ: Is your music influenced by any traditional African musical styles or culture?
Charity Ekeke: The influence that I will attribute to my music is varied, but British recording artists of old, like The Beatles, Cliff Richard, Peter Gabriel, and some Americans will be up there. There is really no one in particular that I look up to.
NFZ: The entertainment business is always evolving, so what do you think about its present state and would you like to change anything, or things, about it?
Charity Ekeke: Although technology has democratized the ability to get your music out there, it is still a challenge. As technology has democratized the ability to get you music to the public, it has also made it easy for new comers to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous, 2-by-4, fly by night internet music pros as they call themselves.
NFZ: You’ve completed and released an eleven track album called, “She”. It goes into some pretty deep, and quite frankly, dark directions. What inspired your work for this record?
Charity Ekeke: It was my upbringing. Growing up in Nigeria the woman that raised me, my mother, had great foresight and was very progressive considering what women in Nigeria were able to do without any law to support their efforts. Also, raising my children as a single parent to be the human beings they are today. I hear and see what is going on in our country and around the world.
I am a fervent NPR listener. Some of the lyrics for “If the Roles Were Reversed” were from statements made by an executive. I am tired of women being relegated to the back of the bus and taking a back seat in everything. So, I put my thoughts and feelings in songs.
NFZ: That music video you made for the single off of “She” called “If The Roles Were Reversed” sent chills down my spine when I saw it. What’s the background on that song and the making of the video?
Charity Ekeke: To tell a story with images. I studied cinema. The video was directed by Michael Gray. We had lots of discussion about my expectation for the video. I want men to see some of the things that they put us through. I want them to stop and think how they would feel if the same was done to them.
NFZ: Some composers may embrace a method to write music while others may rely solely on inspiration. What’s your process in this area?
Charity Ekeke: For me, it is inspiration. It is really a blessing from God because the music comes to me. That is the only way for me to explain this. I did not study music. I am forever grateful to God for his many blessings. Some songs I wrote over 20 years ago. Most of the time, the lyrics come with the music.
NFZ: Possessing such a forename as Charity, and releasing such a socially conscious album as “She”, may we assume that you are indeed actively involved with any charity organizations, activist issues or political causes?
Charity Ekeke: At the core of my being is what “She” is all about. I contribute when I can.
NFZ: Could you tell us about yourself that people don’t know about you and would probably surprise them?
Charity Ekeke: I came to the US, earned a BSN, an MFA, and an MBA without completing Standard Three in Nigeria before the Civil War. Standard Three is the equivalence of tenth grade in the US.
NFZ: Wow that is not only surprising but also something indeed to be quite proud about! Is there any artist, living or dead you’d like to collaborate with in the recording studio or writing songs with? If so, who would that be and why would you like to work with them?
Charity Ekeke: I only knew Michael Jackson through his music but I believe him to be an amazing talent. I remember how he single handedly resurrected the music industry from the grave in the 80s.
NFZ: What about for live performances? Who would you have on your bucket list that you’d love to share the spotlight on stage with?
Charity Ekeke: I have not given that a thought as the opportunity has not presented itself. As you know, I am a newbie.
NFZ: How can people follow and stay in touch with you?