Hello PraiseCamp family. We are really excited to share this insightful piece of interview with you all. Over the past weekend, we had the rare privilege and honor of interviewing one of Nigeria’s top Gospel recording female acts, she is also the Founder and President of Women of African Origin in Music Ministry [WAOMM], Isabella Melodie. Read interview after the cut.
PraiseCamp: Please we would love to know what WAOMM stands for?
Isabella: Women of African Origin in Music Ministry.
PraiseCamp: What inspired you to start up WAOMM?
Isabella: The vision for WAOMM was really birthed during the recording of my first album in 2009. I was desperate to be mentored by a female Gospel artist of African origin based in the UK and I was horrified when my search yielded no names. There were a handful of successful African male Gospel artists but no African females that I knew of. This bothered me a lot. There were female artists but they were non-African. Secondly, even within the very few around, I needed someone who would make themselves available to me and who would be willing to open up to me and be real about the challenges, strategies and pitfalls of the music ministry. I wanted someone who could show me the way the music ministry works. I saw a real gap that needed to be filled. I also didn’t see any real collaborative working amongst Africans and again that struck me as something that needed to change.
Over the years, as I became a mentor to many other upcoming artists myself, it became clearer to me that I could initiate the change I was looking for. I believe the Lord inspired me to bridge the gap which was becoming more and more evident to me, so that’s the inspiration behind WAOMM. I initially discussed the vision with my husband and we were totally in agreement about it so I went further to discuss it with a number of key players in Gospel Music, who included Pauline Long (CEO and founder of BEFFTA Awards), Zanele Mbokazi (President and founder of Crown Gospel Awards), Victor Igbinigie (co-director of Crystal Awards) and Charles Koranteng (AGMA co-founder). I am very proud and honoured to say that they are all currently members of our Executive Advisory Board.
We also have four Honorary ambassadors: Chevelle Franklyn, Emmy Kosgei, Juliet Fletcher and Diana Hamilton. Amongst our National Coordinators are: Onos Ariyo (Nigeria), Anu Oyeneyin (East Coast USA), Priscilla Olubunmi-Awoseyi (Canada), Eloho Efemuai (Scotland), Onos Brisibi (Midwest USA), Cynthia Ukathung (Italy), Yetunde Joyce Oyeneyin (Ireland) and many more still in discussions.
PraiseCamp: In what year was the vision of WAOMM actualized?
Isabella: WAOMM was launched in March 2014 and our website launched in May 2014.
PraiseCamp: What are the basic requirements for joining WAOMM?
Isabella: Our focus is to support female gospel artists and ministers of African descent. However, we welcome membership from non-Africans if they choose to be part of the vision. They don’t have to be recording artists, they could be worship leaders, soloists, choir members etc. The key word is ‘Music Ministry’ and membership is open to everyone no matter where they are based.
PraiseCamp: Please tell us the vision and mission of WAOMM?
Isabella: WAOMM’s main objective is to act as a bridge; a springboard; a voice; and a support system in and through which women of African origin in music ministry can be supported, encouraged and empowered to discover, develop, demonstrate and deliver excellence in their ministries to the glory of God.
PraiseCamp: We are aware that WAOMM is based in the United Kingdom, how can one outside the UK to be a part of WAOMM?
Isabella: WAOMM is a global organization with membership from music ministers across the world. There is no requirement for you to be resident in the UK. We have National Coordinators across different countries who coordinate the activities within their region so anyone who is interested in getting involved is most welcome to contact the National Coordinator within their country. We are currently in seven countries and are looking to be in many more countries by the end of 2016.
PraiseCamp: How was it possible for you to assemble other great female Gospel acts into WAOMM?
Isabella: Well, really WAOMM is one of those organisations that people are either really keen on or not interested at all, so most of those involved in WAOMM have either volunteered or been approached by the team and they have willingly joined the movement. Most of the women involved in WAOMM understand that this is a ‘God’ vision and not an ‘Isabella’ vision, and so they have a Kingdom mindset to contribute to the development of the music ministry. Most of them also had similar experiences to myself and so were keen to be part of a movement that will bring about a positive change to the music ministry.
PraiseCamp: As the President of WAOMM, were things always rosy from the inception of this spectacular initiative?
Isabella: I wouldn’t exactly describe it as ‘rosy’ but I am a firm believer that when a vision is God-inspired, He causes everything to work out for good. One of the biggest challenges in implementing the vision is the financial responsibility involved in organizing and executing events, seminars and initiatives. Every vision from the inception needs the visioneer (the vessel through which the vision has been birth) to invest heavily into the vision. It takes one who believes in the vision to invest their resources, energy, time and money into the vision, and so this is what myself and my husband have done. Of course, this is just the beginning and we have such a long way to go in realizing the full WAOMM vision but we are taking it one step at a time.
PraiseCamp: Are there any major annual events hosted by WAOMM?
Isabella: The strategy has been to launch the WAOMM vision one country at a time. We had our first international inauguration event in Dublin, Ireland in July 2014. This was followed by the US East Coast launch in October 2014 spearheaded by our East USA National Coordinator Anu Oyeneyin. In March 2015, we launched in Scotland, thanks to our Scotland National Coordinator, Eloho Efemuai. Our next stop is Canada in October 2015. This is currently being organized by our Canada National Coordinator, Priscilla Olubunmi-Awoseyi. After that, the intention is to move to Nigeria. Following that, we are looking to have a blowout event in the UK during 2016 which will involve an awards night. Part of the WAOMM vision is to hold an annual Jewels of Africa Awards (JAA).
PraiseCamp: How do you manage doubling as a wife, mother, minister of the Gospel and President of WAOMM?
Isabella: As I said, WAOMM is really a Kingdom movement and not an ‘Isabella’ initiative. I thank God that all the people involved in the WAOMM vision know this so every single Executive Board Member, Ambassador and National Coordinator has sacrificed their own time, energy and finances to push the vision. The overriding objective is to support, empower, equip and encourage others, so we are all in it together. I generally run a very busy schedule which I enjoy. All the events we have organized have really been spearheaded by the National Coordinators which is such a blessing. Of course I have an extremely supportive husband who God uses greatly to finance the vision.
PraiseCamp: Currently, which/how many female Gospel music acts are in WAOMM? Names & location.
Isabella: I couldn’t list everyone here but we do have a fair number of music ministers who are involved with WAOMM. We have National Coordinators in seven countries. We are still quite young and there is a whole lot more we aspire to do, however as I said, before we are making steady progress.
PraiseCamp: Is there any form of musical training or music seminars/workshops organized by WAOMM for its members, as regards to how professional they sound?
Isabella: WAOMM currently sponsors a weekly radio show called ‘Women of Worship (WOW)’ radio show which airs in seven internet radio stations across Africa, UK, America and the Caribbean. I anchor and present the show. Below is a list of projects, programmes we aspire to implement in the various countries where we have coordinators. We are currently investing our resources into launching WAOMM in the different countries so most of these programmes will be implemented over time.
• Television Talk show – showcasing and featuring WAOMM members
• Life Coaching and Mentoring schemes
• Vocal Coaching classes
• Songwriting seminars
• Worship Seminars and Conferences
• Ministerial Etiquette Training
• Music Industry and Business Management Workshops
• Public Relations and Branding Seminars
• Performance & Presentation Skills Workshops
• Intelligent use of technology and social media
PraiseCamp: As an exceptional Gospel act and President of WAOMM, do you have any advice for the younger generation aiming to become like you?
Isabella: I get uncomfortable when people say they aspire to be like ‘me’. I always immediately correct them. Isabella has nothing to offer you, she is just a fallible vessel like you with weaknesses, challenges and failures. Aspire to be like Christ. If you see Christ in me, that’s the highest compliment you can pay me. My advice is always to seek out God’s will for your life and live purposely to fulfil His will for you. Write down your God-given dreams and visions, and measure every single activity you spend your time and energy on, against that dream. If any activity doesn’t support the vision, let it go. Time is of essence.
PraiseCamp: Any plans of WAOMM hosting an event in West Africa soon, Nigeria precisely?
Isabella: As I said before, we are definitely looking to launch WAOMM in Nigeria. We represent excellence so we are working towards that. Our Executive Advisory Board Member, Victor Igbinigie and our National Coordinator, Onos Ariyo have been in discussions and we are looking to hold a WAOMM inauguration event in Lagos, Nigeria during the first quarter of 2016.
PraiseCamp: How can one get to know more about WAOMM and their activities?
Isabella: We have a website www.waomm.org We are also on FaceBook, Twitter and InstaGram. Follow us for updates @waommtv. They can also send us an email [email protected]. God bless you and thank you for the opportunity.
PraiseCamp: Amen! Thank you ma’am.