Saturday, 8 June 2013

People called me ‘LITTLE PROSTITUTE’ when I started out –Lamili

Lillian EngelFolk songstress, Lillian Engel, aka Lamili tells Ademola Olonilua about her life
My stage name
The actual spelling is Lhame-li and it means Lord has appointed me, Lillian. Due to difficulty in pronouncing it, I decided to shorten it to Lamili. It is simpler to pronounce.
My kind of music
My music is for the young and the old. I’m a very versatile singer. I do folk songs, techno sometimes and RnB too. I am a versatile singer, I fit in everywhere.
Acceptance level
I started professionally in 2002. I was in a band then, going all over Nigeria for gigs. I started recording in 2007, that was when I recorded my single, a folk song. I released my first album in 2008 and since then, we have been working, going for shows, doing more songs.
How music began for me
I grew up in a family where everybody does music. My mother was in a choir although she did not go professional with it. My father – in his local group – is a konga drummer. My aunty is a gospel singer. We are all music lovers; I grew up listening to lots of songs. I just had it in it.
Why I decided to go professional
I always knew I was going to be a star, an artiste. I was just waiting for the right moment. When I was still a teenager, I remember wanting to go and sing. I used to sing in the choir. I went into it after the death of my mother, she died of breast cancer.
Stage fright
I have the passion for music, when I was a teenager, I used to wear my sister’s mini clothes and stand in front of the mirror. The first time I was on stage, I was shaking. That was in 2002. I went on stage and I remember singing Celine Dion’s My heart will go on. I did it so well, but being my first time in front of a massive crowd all looking at a smallish girl on stage, I was so shy. I was shaking but I managed. With time I got used to it, I got over it. Whenever I think of that day now, it is funny.
About my mother
My mother and I were very close. I lost her to breast cancer when I was ten. I was devastated. I am the first born of my family. In Igboland, everyone looks up to you as a mum. I felt very empty because I am not as close to my dad the way I am close to my mother. It was as if my world came to an end but somehow I survived.
Challenges faced building my career
Initially, there was no support. I was the only one doing it. It was hard to get a record label, sponsors, and it was more difficult because I am a female artiste. I got kicked out of places a lot. When I started, I was the one going to bands, asking them to give me a chance and listen to me. I remember most of the people I met told me off and called me a prostitute. They told me to get out as the place was not for a ‘little prostitute’ like me. They did not want to listen. I’m a very stubborn person, so I persisted. I had a chance to perform, that was when I had the stage fright. I met people on the street and asked them to beg on my behalf so that I would be given a chance to perform. It was hard, but my challenge now is breaking out of Port Harcourt.

My plans to break into the Lagos market
I took a little break to have my son, who is now six months old. As I came back from maternity leave, I released a single, Bend down. While in Lagos, I’ll be on a promo tour; we’ll move to South Africa soon for the video. I’m already doing it.
My petite stature
Before, it used to be a disadvantage but not anymore. I started singing when I was 16. They told me that music is not for smallish people like me, I was a teenager then, so small and innocent. People find it difficult to believe that I just had a baby, I get that a lot and when it happens, I just smile. I am happy inside because I am happily married with a lovely son and people still admire me. It is nice.
My family
Right from the beginning, even before I got married, my husband had always been supportive. We always used to plan ahead because I don’t plan to stop. Music is my life. We have always been planning towards when we’ll have a child and the career, how we are going to manage it; so it has never been a problem. Having my son is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I feel very fulfilled and I am grateful to God. I am very happy with the way things are with me. I believe I’ll cope with my work and family because my husband is very supportive. My husband believes in me and in my dream. He supports me fully.
My early days
I grew up partly in Onitsha and in Ghana. When my mum died, my uncle took us to Ghana to continue our education. I grew up partly in Onitsha. I was very shy growing up, in school, in church, I was not a loud person and I loved music. I was always singing everywhere. Sometimes people ask me if I am not going crazy. Growing up was really good and comfortable till I lost my mother. It devastated my father too. It kind of destroyed the family because we separated. We went to Ghana and my dad was in Nigeria. I’d say growing up was good till I lost my mother. My mother was the one keeping the home together. My dad was always working and travelling. I used to look up to my mother as my everything. I confided in her. When she died, she dragged everything down with her.
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