Ehiliz: ‘Gospel music is a calling for me’
Elizabeth Ngozi Ehigiamusoe, popularly known as Ehiliz might not be a household name in the gospel music scene, but she is no stranger in the industry. From 1994, when she dropped her first album, Behold I Stand, till date, the Anambra State native already has 11 albums to her credit. She tells DANIEL ANAZIA how she became a gospel artiste and why she has remained in the genre.
Why gospel music and not secular?
FOR me singing gospel music is a calling. Growing up I discover I have flair for music, and if I hear any sound of music, I immediately begin to shake my head, dancing towards the tune.
I never knew it was a gift until 1977 to be precise, when I became ‘born again’ through Scripture Union those days. We were taught about the gifts that God gives.
The president of the Union at the time told us to ask God for a special gift. I took my very serious and started praying; asking God actually is my gift. I knew I could sing and lead praises but I never saw that as my gift.
But then, I prayed and I travelled from Asaba to Awka and I got the revelation in the night. It was as if I was in a trance.
A voice sounded and said, ‘sing unto me’. The voice repeated it three times and I woke up panting; it was around 3am. I came back to Asaba and I spoke to our SU leader then, who told me that was my gift. That was how I got the message very clearly. So I didn’t go into singing because I have a good voice.
How old were you then?
I was about 15 years old. So many questions like who was going to sponsor me flooded my mind? I didn’t come from a rich home; so I decided to remain in the church choir.
So from that time till 1994, when I released my first album titled Behold I Stand (Revelation 3:20), I didn’t do anything about the command. If God ask you to do something, it is better for you to do it immediately than to delay. I wouldn’t know if it was one of the things that affected me.
When did you decide to go professional?
I was still giving excuses and saying that I should wait till I finish secondary school. Then I said after I get married and have kids so that nothing would distract me again before I start. But in 1993, it dawned on me that I had to do this. I was married and had two kids. Then I started composing songs as the inspiration came.
By 1994, I released my first album, Behold I Stand. And from that time till date I have been dropping album every two years interval. So far, I have about 11 albums now.
With 11 albums, how come you are not as popular as you should have been?
I didn’t push to be in the limelight. It was even when we relocated to Lagos in 2009 that I decided to launch my album. In those days, if I was able to sell 2,000 pieces of cassettes, I would just be happy. My husband felt that I should see what I could do to promote my music.
Before, I didn’t pay attention, though I was still consistent, releasing albums at least, every two years since 1995. With the relocation and launch in Lagos, I sold over 4,000 pieces and I am still selling that particular album. Don’t forget that every artiste has his or her fans.
I know that there are some people who can’t do without my music and they reach out to me all the time. There has been tremendous improvement since I began promoting my music, and it is now better packaged with new producers. Now, I am featuring some gospel artistes in my songs.
Some gospel artiste often feature secular musician in their songs for commercial purposes. Do you think this is healthy for genre and is Ehiliz going to follow that line too?
I may not condemn such; it is a way of evangelising. Everything depends on motive. If the motive is just to be known, then they have missed it. But if it is to evangelise (spread the gospel of salvation) to that person and for the person to turn around it is good. I have been a musician for the past 23 years; I didn’t want to go commercial because I’m obeying the directive of God, who said I should sing unto Him.
If I had taken it up as a profession back then, I would have been one of the top famous gospel singers in Nigeria. There are some secular musicians who have turned around to become gospel musicians today, if I have a way of bringing in any of them I will. When I started, the only gospel musicians we had then were Lazarus and Emmanuel.
Onyeka Onwenu came out then but in her album, it was just one track that was gospel. So I wouldn’t call her a gospel musician then. But I’m happy today she is using her energy and skills to sing songs of praise to God.
Does this mean your fans will one day see you doing secular music?
No way! It can’t happen, not even at my age. I will be 56 this year; I can’t waste my energy to sing secular songs. Rather, I would channel the energy to praise God. I can never sing secular songs. I do more of gospel live recording/play and it is called ‘Gospel Live with Ehiliz’.
Tell us about your TV show
That is was another assignment God gave me. A friend of mine who works at a TV station visited me in 2011 and I told her I would want to have a talk show for the youth. That very day, we chose the name of the talk show and talked about the content.
She also advised me to get my own studio. I asked her how much a studio would cost and she said not less than N15m. I screamed and said I was better off singing.
But in 2014, I was sleeping and in a dream, a giant came to me and said he gave me an assignment and I refused to do it.
The voice said he would give the assignment to another person and I would face the consequences. I woke up and I was terrified, I couldn’t even remember the assignment I was asked to do that I refused to do. Before the end of that day, I just remembered all of a sudden about the talk show. And that was how I started ‘Vivid View’.
At 56, how do you cope being a wife, mother, grandmother, TV presenter, gospel singer, and managing director of a company at the same time?
I always ascribe all the glory to God who has made me strong and very energetic. I have a philosophy that guides me — plan your work and work your plan. I always uphold this and it has helped me tremendously. Again, I have the support and cooperation of my immediate family. My kids are all grown up now, so I can delegate duties to them. As a singer, if I want to go to the studio, I don’t go during official hours so it doesn’t clash with my work. God is the ultimate for giving me the strength.
You are a grandma, yet you look ravishing. What has been the secret?
I’m in my mid 50s, but I will tell you I don’t look because I take care of myself. Some people think that once they are married and have kids, they should just look anyhow; that is not proper. Why will your husband not look outside and go for younger girls if you continue to look drab and haggard because you are married and you have had kids. I still maintain my looks. Some people say I don’t look my age.
My vocation will not even allow me to look my age, I am a public figure and I have to dress well. I dress well at home because we can have a visitor at anytime. Some people believe that because they are at home they can tie wrapper on their chest.
Why, are you a village woman? For me that is a bad habit. If not for my face that is a little bit wrinkled, you would think my daughters and I are just siblings. The most important thing is that my husband likes the way I look and I dress this way to please him. I have to grab my husband and hold him very tight. I don’t want these Lagos girls to put sand in my garri.
So being a grandmother shouldn’t make me look like a hag at all.
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