Chigul talks about how one viral recording became a money-making act.
It all started with a voicenote that went viral on BlackBerry.
According to Chioma Omeruah, she was in bed one night, sleepless, and decided to record a song. At that time she was an aspiring actress and musician – she already had the moniker, C-Flow, picked out – who tended to do goofy accents to amuse herself, friends and loved ones. So, she recorded the song, Kilode, in her “Chigul” accent, “which sort of came on that moment,” and sent it off to friends.
“When you hear the song, you hear me introduce myself as Chioma, C-Flow, which was my singing name, and then I just thought: Oh! Chigul – because someone had called me Chigul at some point in my life. I always do these things and I send them to my friends over BlackBerry. I sent to my friends and they all thought it was funny and most of them deleted it as they usually do and then one of my friends – bless her spirit – Gloria Braimoh – bless her till tomorrow – decided that it was too funny to keep to herself and sent it off so others could listen to it. Next thing you know, I had family in the US calling me up and that was it.”
Born in Lagos, Chioma lived there for the first 18 years of her life. She attended Airforce Secondary School, Jos, Plateau State for four years before acquiring her WAEC certificate from Airforce Secondary School, Ikeja, Lagos. She went on to Abia State University Uturu “for three hot months” then moved to the US where she studied French Education at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. She lived in the US for 12 years before returning to Nigeria at the behest of her father who sadly, died a month after she came back. She worked in Lagos for two years and eventually moved to Abuja in 2008.
All the while she was pursuing her dream of becoming a stage performer – actress, singer – on the side. She did two musical plays in Lagos and prior to that she acted in school in the US and did some community theatre. But her first love was singing, hence C-Flow.
“C-Flow is a jazz singer. C-Flow came out of Chioma. Chioma was always a singer, she’s been singing since God knows when. She has always known she has that thing. C-Flow is just a… I decided to give her that name; why? I don’t know why. Because she can flow. C-Flow because I can flow smooth,” Chioma explains.
And it was this “smooth flow,” albeit under the Chigul persona that brought Chioma to the limelight and what would become her over-arching “mar-kate” as Chigul calls it in her exaggerated Igbo accent. The viral off the cuff, Kilode led to a bigger “hit song” Don’t Be a Weist and appearances on stage with top-flight comedians like Basketmouth and Julius Agwu. Soon, Chigul was jumping on planes, flying from Abuja to Lagos to Calabar, hosting live and TV shows and also private engagements.
“I didn’t decide comedy, comedy decided me,” Chigul says though she concedes that she had always been a restless child, prone to mimicking people and feigning strange accents. “I have twelve accents. I have always done the accents, since I was a child. I’ve been very good at mimicking people, friends of my parents that come to the house that talk in funny ways; shows that I see on TV. I’m also interested in languages; I speak about five. Everywhere I go I try to immerse myself linguistically into the place, learn the accent, learn everything about the people. Sometime, there is an accent, sometimes there is none. When there is, I just think: Hey! I can do this accent very well, why not?”
Her accents, a major part, if not all of her comedic act, have all evolved into characters; each with its own name and back story. There’s Modinat, the well-exposed Yoruba girl with “two Masters and one Bachelor;” Bintu is a Hausa girl who is going to school and so on. Still, Chigul remains the most famous one, the one that brings in the dollars, as Chioma says. This has by and larger caused her to put C-Flow, the character, to hear her speak, she would most love to be, on the back burner.
“It’s like you going to a comedy show expecting to see Chigul because you want to see Chigul. You don’t see Chioma coming to do some jazz songs. It’s like killing the “mar-kate.” Let’s not kill the “mar-kate.” But in the atmosphere that Chioma is needed, she would put forth that side of her,” she explains.
Already, working with her manager, she is currently creating that atmosphere; a cabaret show that would involve her singing, comedy and the accents. She also plans on releasing an album of her Chigul songs.
“I’m actually working on that now. Let me not say working, it’s actually done. I need to just tweak it a little bit; put it into tracks. On the Chigul album, it’s all Chigul songs. You don’t hear Chioma singing anywhere.”
But there are also plans to eventually release a C-Flow album.
“Sometimes, the comedy takes away from your (other) work because people don’t know you can sing. All they want you to do is Chigul all the time. I want people to know that Chioma can be Chigul and can be C-Flow.”
Her ultimate dream, however, like any other multi-talented entertainer is to conquer Hollywood and Broadway. “And I believe I will get there. I am a star already; if you don’t hail yasef, who will hail you? Lupita nwa-child (Nyong’o), I’m coming for you,” she jokes.
Meanwhile, she has dipped her toes into the waters of Nollywood. She just came off the set of a movie, still in production, called Lagos Men. She has also acted in a TV movie on Ebony Life TV called A New You where she played an on air personality. And she presents EL-Rated on Ebony Life; all of these while still keeping her day job.
“It’s crazy but a lot of the Chigul things are on the weekend. So, I travel on a Friday evening or Saturday morning, come back Sunday evening or Monday morning and go straight to the office and start my week. I’m keeping my day job for many reasons while waiting for the right time to ease off and jump into the whole Chigul act. I would really want to do Chigul all the time. It’s really about holding on to what is sure because you don’t want to jump into the deep end but I was telling myself that there was no good time to jump into the deep end. It will never be shallow so just jump in.”
Chioma considers herself lucky to have come very far with an act that started in 2011. But it is not always fun and games and lots of sunshine. There are the usual detractors or “haters,” especially on social media and the fact that, according to her, the world favours skinny. Being plus sized – or fat, as she insists on calling herself, comes with a lot of disadvantages for a celebrity especially when it comes to endorsements.
“It takes a bold, self-confident, love-yourself attitude to get through that, which is what a lot of us are trying to create in ourselves,” she says. She acknowledges the love from her fans for helping her get through some of the more pesky nastiness; like the time when someone on Twitter referred to as Princess Fiona – the love interest of the cartoon character, Shrek.
“What I always do in such a situation is to retweet it to my followers, and my people…” she slams an open palm on the top of a closed fist to emphasise the annihilation enacted on her haters by her lovers. “Whether you like it or not, we are human; these things hurt your feelings. Some people come off a bit forward because you want to be accessible, sometimes you allow it. But, seriously, I can’t really complain about that because I feel like I’m still small in the game. And the truth is on my good days, good things outweigh the bad by a hundred million and I focus on that.”
For those who would love to follow in her footsteps, she advises to find that which is natural to you and work hard at improving on it.
“You have to stay fresh and roll with the times so that you can remain relevant at all-time which is what we are trying to do with Chigul.”