I’m proud to step into my grandma’s musical shoes –10-year-old Christiana Igbokwe – The Sun Nigeria

todayAugust 5, 2023 1

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From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The memories of ‘Nigeria’s Lady of Songs’, Christy Essien-Igbokwe were brought back recently during the National Diaspora Day celebration when her 10-years-old granddaughter, Christiana, captivated the audience with the unique rendition of her hit song, Seun Rere.

Despite her young age, Christiana is a seasoned performer who is set to release her 4th album. However, her path to becoming a singer was not without obstacles, as her parents initially opposed her musical aspirations.

In this interview with Saturday Sun, the child prodigy shared her story. Here are excerpts:

You are Christiana Igbokwe, the granddaughter and namesake of legendary musician, Christy Essien-Igbokwe. How does that make you feel?

Christy Essien-Igbokwe is my grandmother. My father is her second son. Even though, I never met her, I was named after her and I am proud to be her descendant. I am following in my grandmother’s footsteps because I love music.

How long have you been doing music?

I started recording when I was seven, but I started singing when I was like 3-years-old.

So, how do you feel performing before a large crowd consisting the president’s representative, diplomats, and Nigerians in the Diaspora?

I feel elated but at the same time, it was an emotional moment. I feel good. It was an honour to perform before them all.

Did your parents push you into doing music?

No. It’s what I want to do. Funny enough, my parents didn’t want me to do music. But they had to support me when they realised that they couldn’t get me to stop.

What can you say about your grandma, Christy Essien-Igbokwe even though you never met her?

I never met her but my dad told me a lot about her. She was a strong and courageous woman, and also kind-hearted. I listened to her songs and watched some of her videos.

Why did you perform one of her hit songs, Seun Rere?

It’s because I like the lyrics of the song; it inspires me.

Aside music, what other things do you like about your grandma?

My grandma was a philanthropist as well, and that inspires me. I have an NGO called ‘Santa In A Box’ where I sometimes give money to orphans, pay their school fees, and also give them gifts.

How old is Santa In A Box?

It is about four or five years old. I have been doing this since I was five, with the help of my parents.

How do people react when they know you are late Christy Igbokwe’s granddaughter? Do they give you special treatment?

Not really special treatment but people are happy with me. Some say they want to be like me; some wish they were me. They sometimes ask for my autograph.

You got some people dancing when you performed at National Diaspora Day, did you expect that reaction from the audience?

Yes, it was an emotional and happy moment for me.

How soon are you releasing your album?

The album will come out soon, but I cannot tell you the date until I am ready.

How would you describe your kind of music?

My kind of music is pop.

How many songs are in your upcoming album? Can you give an insight to it?

It’s supposed to be a surprise. I can’t tell you all of them, but what I can tell you is that I have songs in English, Igbo and Yoruba. And I can tell you that the title of the Yoruba song is Ife.

Why I never wanted my daughter to sing -Christiana’s dad

Please, briefly tell us about yourself?

My name is Chiwunba Igbokwe. I am the second son of the late Chief Christy Essien-Igbokwe. I am a civil servant and I’m privileged to be the father of Christiana. You watched her performance, that’s exactly who she is. Like she said, I wasn’t thrilled about her doing music. In fact, I kicked against it.

Can you tell us how she started playing music?

As early as three, she showed signs of wanting to do music, but I kicked against it. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic, which became a blessing when everybody was indoors; she kept disturbing me that she wanted to do music. I bought music equipment and said, ‘hey, do the music’. And to my surprise, she was able to pick out the keys. She knew how to record. That was when it dawned on me that this is, indeed, a blessing. But because I am limited in music knowledge, I enrolled her in one of the music schools in Abuja. And every time they did exams, she came out as the best in music. The same thing happens even in her school. That was when I told myself, ‘there’s no need trying to force a fish to live outside water, she’s born for this’. But I told her on one condition that she will be permitted to do music is if it doesn’t affect her education. She agreed, and later we noticed that she started doing better in school when she started playing music. She became an all-A student. In fact, this is something she wants to do and I’m very happy she’s able to express herself.

How much of her grandmother does she know?

She never met her grandma but I tell her stories, I play her music and videos to her. She’s in love with her grandmother. And that’s why she picked up the project, ‘Santa In A Box’ because anyone that knew my mom will know that she was very big on charity. So, she said she wanted to do something for the children. And I said ‘okay, what do you want to do?’ She said since she’s an only child for now, every Christmas she wants to go to the orphanage homes to spend time with the orphans, bearing gifts. And for five, six years, we have been doing that every Christmas. She’d save her money from the beginning of the year, she would also force my wife and I to save some money. So, we save a particular amount every month and by December, with the amount saved, we gather friends, well wishers and throw parties for them (orphans), and pay their school fees.

How old were you when your mother died and what do you remember her for?

I was 28 going to 29 when my mom died. She died in 2011 – in the middle of that year. She had just fixed my wedding date, but she died before I got married. She died the year I got married. You know, in this part of the world, it’s when someone passes away that you will really know the impact. All that time we were staying with her, we saw her as our mother, we never saw her as a superstar; that’s how humble she was. She was a superstar to outsiders but in her house, she would man her kitchen. In fact, one day, we teased her saying, ‘you are a big woman; get a cook’. And she did. But one day, one of my cousins came visiting and the cook served him some food, and he said, ‘this cook is the best cook in the world’. The next week, my mum sacked the cook! After a while, we asked her why she sacked him? She said it’s because the man was very dirty. I was surprised and I said ‘but the man wears white on white all the time’. Then she said he wasn’t cleaning the kitchen. And I said ‘but you had a steward that was cleaning the kitchen’. At the end of the day, she said her children cannot say another person is the best cook in the world.

So, that is to show you that she was a mother indeed, her fame didn’t rob her of that virtue. She believed that her first priority was her family and not any other thing; her career was secondary. That’s why I said she was so humble that we didn’t really feel the impact of her being a superstar in the house. It was only when we went out that we saw the gravity of who she was, how people adored and celebrated her. That was the kind of woman my mom was.What do you miss most about your mom?

Her cooking.

Are you happy that your daughter is following in her footsteps?

Yes, I am very happy that my daughter is establishing herself as a musician. In fact, like my daughter said, the (forthcoming) album is going to be a surprise. It is only when it comes out that you’ll understand why we said it’s a surprise.

I’m happy my mother-in-law’s legacy lives on through my daughter – Christiana’s mom

Kindly introduce yourself?

My name is Chioma Igbokwe, I am Christiana’s mom. I am married to Kaka Igbokwe, the late Christy Essien-Igbokwe’s second son. I am also a lawyer and my daughter’s manager.

How do you feel seeing your daughter stepping into her grandmother’s shoes?

Sometimes I feel emotional about it, because everyday is as if grandma is coming to life again. I am happy that her legacy lives on because she was an exceptional woman. She added so much value to us her children, even not only her children, she also added value to Nigeria, all the children and women. So, it’s good that her legacy is coming alive again.

How does Christiana cope with her academics and her love for music?

Christiana always puts academics first. When she comes back from school, she does her assignments. In fact, she does her assignments in school so that when she comes home, nothing will distract her from going to her piano to practice.

She’s really passionate about music. As early as three years, Christiana started writing music notes. I was unbelievably shocked! I had to ask the teacher if he taught the children how to write music notes and he said no. That was when we knew something was happening, and that this child, was a gift from God. Her music has also helped her because initially, she was not able to read but when she started the music school, she started getting better.  So, the music helped her in her Maths and English. You know, creative people, if they don’t do what they love, something will die in them.

How did the audience response during her performance make you feel?

Wow! It’s such an honour for Christiana to perform before His Excellency, the President’s representative and his Chief of Staff, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the NIDCOM chairman, well wishers and those from the Diaspora. When she was performing grandma’s song, it was an emotional moment. I could see mothers hugging their daughters. I could see Hon. Abike and Hon. Gbajabiamila and the rest of the people really enjoying a blast from the past and dancing.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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