Interview by Visual Collaborative
March 2019 5 min read
Chidinma Okebalama better known by her stage name Chee or the D’Voice is a Nigerian singer and songwriter based in Lagos Nigeria. Her involvement in vocal arts spans beyond gospel and mainstream music. During her illustrious career on the Nigerian scene, she has performed in front of several head of states and most recently the president of France; Emmanuel Macron. As a feature in our “Polaris” interview series we learn about Chee’s background and her future aspirations.
Many who know about your music performances may conclude that Gospel is your sole and preferred genre in music. Would this be an accurate assessment?
(Chee) Gospel is my root, and has always been with me and will always be with me. I have been singing in the choir since I was 4 years old, even before I could speak properly, but I enjoy other genres of music.
As much as I don’t practice engineering at the moment, it has framed the way I think and process.
Before I became a professional gospel artist, I was a mainstream artist, and performed many genres of music. I still occasionally perform at non-gospel events such as weddings, birthdays and funeral, and I listen to mostly everything, it just depends on my mood and what season I am in life.
As a performance artist and an active participant of music in the Nigerian’s social spaces, does your engineering background influence any part of your music or the production of it?
(Chee) My engineering background influences my whole life. As much as I don’t practice engineering at the moment, it has framed the way I think and process. I’m a lot more analytical, and always have a big picture/ top-level approach towards things. Production wise, I have been interested in sound engineering and I pretend to know my way around editing tools and post production especially videos. I think my engineering background peaks my interest.
In 2018 you welcomed the French president Emmanuel Macron. Congratulations! it is not the first time you have performed for a head of state, but perhaps a first to a representative of one of the world’s global powers. How did you feel about your performance?
(Chee) Thank you very much. Words like Surreal, incredible, unbelievable, ahhhhhh!!!! amazing, grateful, come to mind. There are so many things I want to achieve with my music career, and so much impact I want to bring to the world, but you just never vocally express the desire to sing to the French President on your turf. It was definitely an experience I wont forget in a hurry, and I’m truly grateful for the opportunities that come with my career
Does your Igbo heritage play a significant part in your creative themes or would you say you move with topics of the times?
(Chee) I was raised in a very balanced world of knowing my Igbo heritage and language, but also embracing westernization as a tool for progressive living. My music is a reflection of my nuances. There are some days an igbo phrase comes in to mind, and I put it in my songs, other days its straight and simple English
I really like the minimalism and contemporary art era, but on the other spectrum, the baroque and rococo eras are very appealing to me as well.
In your quiet or noisy moments how do you get inspired? What makes you create the work you do. Do you solely seek religion or get physiological like other secular artists for massive inspiration?
(Chee) It’s funny how you say noisy and quiet, because as a recording artist, inspiration comes from anywhere. I would admit, in my quiet times, I get a lot of inspiration on fine-tuning something I’ve been working on, and then I get general ideas from general interactions. The bible is a very good “cheat sheet” to create music, but I think the real inspiration is for creating long lasting melodies and hooks and almost trying to recreate a feeling I got when I first got the inspiration
Some mention the renaissance or the West African pan-African times as an art period they admire. If you can time-warp back to any era, what time would it be and why?
(Chee) I really like the minimalism and contemporary art era, but on the other spectrum, the baroque and rococo eras are very appealing to me as well. There is a certain opulence and richness that comes with these eras, with great attention to detail and flair and I think that is also representative of the way I sing and perform.
At this stage of your professional career and accomplishments, If you could collaborate with any other artist or public figure who would it be and why?
(Chee) For the past 2 years, the artist that has been on my collaborative wish list is Travis Greene, simply because I feel like he would be so cool to work with in the studio, I would learn so much from him, and he has an infections countenance when he’s performing that I really really admire.
I want people to listen to me and want to be closer to God , and also try and work on themselves…
I would also like to have a conversation with Chadwick Boseman because I believe he embodies a level of consciousness that seems to have been forgotten, and it would be really dope for him to do some spoken words on my track.
What kind of work can Nigeria expect from Chee within the next 5 years?
(Chee) In the next 5 years, expect 2 albums, 2 concerts and a school tour. I want to spread love, kindness, and several fruits of the spirit through my music. I want people to listen to me and want to be closer to God, and also try and work on themselves as I continue to be transformed by my music as well. Also expect me to have sung for a few more presidents, as that is now a thing! [Chee smiles]