By KEMI YESUFU
On Sunday 17 December 2012, gospel musician, Vanessa Chenbap better known by her stage name – Vou launched her album. Vou, who holds a masters degree in architecture presented her long anticipated CD to the public during a gospel concert at the Congress hall of Alexis Hotel Utako, Abuja.
To support her, other big names in gospel music such as Abuja based musician Mo’ and Koye, the former front man of disbanded gospel group, Infinity were on hand to make the concert an unforgettable one. Many music lovers were glad to join Vou on her day of celebration. This is because the 36-year-old Plateau woman pledged to donate 70 percent of money raised from the launch of her album titled Experience Vou to widows under the auspices of her NGO, Community Partners for the Vulnerable and Excluded.
The musician who lost her husband four years ago has worked with her partners to provide other widows interested in setting up businesses with soft loans. “Widowhood has inspired me to think of ways of making myself useful to the vulnerable in the society, starting with widows like me, who have kids to raise”, she said. The dreadlocked singer who describes herself as an afro-centric gospel musician used the opportunity to call for assistance for poor widows “As part of my widow’s mite, I decided to engage my passion for music as a means to sensitize the larger society on why it should act on behalf of the less privileged among us.
I believe that by doing this, we can better the lot of those suffering with the provisions they need to live a reasonably good life”, she said. Architect and musician Vou is a qualified architect. But she chose to exploit her other talents after three years of practice. This much she told Abuja Metro. “I obtained an M.Tech in Architecture from the Federal University of Technology Minna, Niger State in 2002 after which I worked as an architect for few years. I left Nigeria for the United Kingdom (UK) in 2005, where my love for music was given the wings to fly,” she revealed. “I always loved music and stage performance through my years in school.
So I did as many shows as I could in school and sang in the church choir back then. While I was in the UK however, I found the courage and opportunity to develop my song writing abilities and from the moment I engaged it, the songs started to pour in. I remember sitting at my desk in the Marriott Hotel where I worked and humming a melody when I got a window and scribbling a few lines to it. I always just sang! My colleagues often asked me “what are you happy about again today Vanessa?”
Overcoming challenges Like it is with most new artistes, Vou contended with a few challenges. But she has since made them a thing of the past. “I have faced a few challenges,” she disclosed. “Apart from the personal doubts and fears that almost everyone is subject to from time to time, so far, the greatest challenge I have is the finance to enable me move my dreams as fast and as well as I have liked to. I find that this is a general problem for most upcoming artistes anyway. I guess I have to battle on till I get to the pinnacle of my career. Another thing that has helped is the fact that I don’t depend on music to sustain my family. I compere events and I am an event planner. I run an event management company in Abuja.”
Inspired to help the needy Unlike most women who get weighed down by the loss of their husband, despite being widowed at a young age, Vou turned adversity to triumph. “Apart from my innate love for music, one thing that motivates me the most is the need to reach out to the less privileged in the society”, she said. “My debut album Experience is a social enterprise. My intention is to build around it and use fund from its launch and its sale to support others in dire need. I also hope that with my brand personae I can solicit for, and raise fund through benefit concerts. “Initially, it was just the love for music that I started out with.
But having lost my husband and as time went by, I understood what it is to be at a disadvantaged position. I have two kids to cater for and it is a bit challenging without their dad. One of the things I am mindful of however is the fact that I am more fortunate than many, I know I am blessed. With this at the back of my mind I decided to try to reach out to other orphans. I believe that we all have one role or another to play to better our communities regardless of what position it is we find ourselves in.
I may not have as much money as I’d like to give, but I know that there are certain things I do have like my talents, contacts, goodwill and intelligence that can be harnessed and used to achieve my goal of helping the needy”. Confidence based on uniqueness Vou has no doubt that she will succeed in music business. “It is true that there are many talented acts in our society. But it has dawned on me that everyone has some kind of uniqueness and this is what appeals to the public.
I therefore have decided that as much as I observe and learn from the pioneers ahead of me, I will not short-change myself by just being another buzzing sound or just another imitated act.” Once you meet Vou, there are three things you are likely to notice. One is her bright smile, the other is her height and the third outstanding characteristic is her dress sense. She said of her constant smile, “I love smiling and laughing, so anything that could make me laugh is usually my first option.
I therefore like watching comedies and attending comedy shows. “Generally I like doing things that make me happy, like, watching movies, photography, reading, swimming meeting new people, and when I do have enough time, my favourite pastime is travelling especially to new places”. No label freak Whenever the gospel singer hits the stage, she is colourfully attired. For her, fashion is about projecting her cultural heritage as an African.
“I am not particularly designer label crazy but I love anything that is beautiful and has got quality. Also, I have my own style which is afro-centric, because of this; I design my clothes myself. In some cases, I cut, paste and blend from a few or various designers. I guess that makes me a designer collaborator.