By Damilola Fatunmise
Funkè Ojo-Emesiri aka Uniek Grace has been to hell and back. Now she’s telling her story to everyone, most especially, the youth to hear and learn from.
The urban-Afro cum gospel artiste is currently in Nigeria from her base in Belgium to promote her latest effort, ‘I’m a Survivor’. Recently, she paid a visit to the corporate headquarters of The Sun and opened up on her ordeal in the hands of an unreliable family friend.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Funke Ojo-Emesiri. My stage name is Uniek Grace. I am from Imesi Ile in Osun State. I grew up in different parts of the world namely Nigeria, Italy, Switzerland, Angola, North America and then Belgium where I now reside with my husband and four children. In 2006, I went through my first series of vocal training under the tutelage of Ms. Kitra Williams, former lead of Oprah Winfrey’s ‘The Color Purple’ and Tyler Perry’s ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’.
I am an urban-soul singer/songwriter, and I have been doing music professionally for the past five years. I started having more interest in music when I was about 16 years old; then I started with writing lyrics.
What actually motivated you into becoming a singer?
The funniest thing is that I didn’t even want to become a singer; I wanted to just write lyrics and give people to sing. But somebody challenged me that if God can give me this gift to write, then He can also give me the voice to sing. So, from that day, my next step was to look for a voice trainer. I remember I was in America then and my first coach taught me how to make use of my voice and all that singing entails. So, I took it up from there. I then realised I could actually manage some vocals. So, when I moved to Belgium, I started serious music recording.
Since then, how has music been for you?
Music has been my method of survival. I have shared same stage with some amazing artistes I admire a great deal, artistes like Lecrae, Ron Kenoly, Marylyn and legendary Emjy. I have also performed in several nations across the world including the United States of America, United Kingdom, Belgium and Nigeria.
But now why gospel music?
I’m a Christian. But as an artiste, my message is not for only Christians in the church. The message you find in my music reaches out to people outside the church, people that are still undecided on their faith, because my message is all about empowerment, motivation and upliftment.
What’s the title of your first track?
The title of my first song is ‘I’m a Survivor’. It’s a song I wrote because of my journey in life. When I moved to America about 16 years ago, it was a decision by my parents. When I got there, something happened to me. A family friend sexually abused me. I was drugged and raped. He drugged my drink so as to perform his act. The trauma was unimaginable, I lost my identity and I lost myself. It was hard for me at the time, because no support system or guidance for rape victims that I knew about at the time. During the period I joined a school dormitory choir – that was the beginning of the healing process for me. Gradually, music took deeper roots in me, and when I sing, my spirit moves on to a higher level and no problem or burden can get to me at that moment. That’s how powerful music is when I sing. Today, by the grace of God I’m still alive.
Was the rapist arrested?
No. I didn’t file any complaint against him. And why I didn’t do that was because I was a teenager.
And your parents couldn’t take up the case?
Hmm yes. I went there myself to school and so I wasn’t in anyway close to my parents then because we were not staying together. The situation made me to know what it looks like to be abused. Victims go through certain processes like blaming themselves, and asking why they were in that particular place at that moment. And so, it took a while for me to come out of it, to know it wasn’t my fault, because it was as if I was caged. But on a faithful day in my church, a minister was invited and he mentioned my case; that was how I was delivered from that bondage. I was able to move further in life. That is it. So, with all of these, I was able to come out with ‘I’m a Survivor’.
How many singles do you have now?
I have four tracks. They are ‘E Go Better’, ‘Mu Jojo’, I’m a Survivor’ and ‘Follow Follow.’ What we are pushing right now is ‘I’m a Survivor’.
For how many years have you been married?
I have been married for 10 years now and I have four children.
Wow! But you don’t look it at all
It’s the grace of God.
So, how are you coping with motherhood, your job and music career?
Honestly, it’s has not been easy. But I like to say that I’m an organised person. My husband is also very helpful; he has his own job and a business that he’s running. As a nurse, I work full time. I’m on permanent night duty so I can take care of my family. During the day I focus on my family. To the glory of God things have been working perfectly.
Is there any of our home-based artistes you would love to work with?
Yes, I would love to work with Praiz, Simi and Yemi Alade. I think they are wonderful artistes. If I want to work with any of them next week, I have a contact to do that. It’s only that for now, I want to focus on my own art. After the EP, there will definitely be an album, and in that, I would like to feature those I mentioned.
What’s your unique selling point?
I would say it’s the uniqueness of my music to be honest with you. I do Afro pop but it’s not really the normal Afro pop but yet I could be classified as gospel not church music. The message that I’m pushing is positive and inspirational. I encourage those who have heard about God and fully trust Him to still try God. I hope you are getting me. Like ‘I’m a Survivor’ is what I went through to get to where I am today.
How about your parents, are they pleased with your music career?
Yes o, you know Nija now. They will first insist on your education and after that anything you want they’ll support. My parents are actually based in New York. My father is a diplomat; he travels around a lot. I actually grew up in three different continents because of the nature of his job. It was when I got married that I said ‘okay I’m married now, let me stay in one place and raise my own family’. So, they are in full support. My father gave me his driver to take me around and mum is always calling to ensure I don’t stay late night outside in Nigeria. And my children are wonderful because they also love what I do.
What do you have to say to rape victims out there?
That was why I wrote ‘I’m a Survivor’ so that it can stand as an encouragement to them. It’s just a song to let people know that God can help them through any situation. I must say you are a very courageous person to come out and say it. Don’t stay with your pains, come out and speak about it and you will see the healing process come fast. Don’t trust anyone with your secret, tell it all to God.