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Thursday, February 22, 2024

IMISI ELEWI – the Teenager and her Ancient Art

My real name is Oluwatunmise Jimoh Misturah, but I am more popularly known by my stage name – Imisi Elewi. I have just turned 19 and I earn a living from the old Yoruba Art of Oriki.

Oriki, which in English means “Praise” is an art I was born with. It is simply the use of poetic music and chants to glorify the worthiness of individuals and even institutions.

There are many different forms and types of Oriki. Indeed, Yorubas have Orikis for almost everything. But I mainly use my art to eulogize worthy individuals, especially at their special events.

My birth place is Oke – Onigbin a rural community in the heart of Isin Local Government Area in Kwara State.

My father, JImoh Zakariyah is a furniture maker who struggled alone to raise me and my three siblings. My mother had died in 2011 when I was just 8 years old.

I had my secondary school education at the Ijara Isin High School – a public secondary school which is poorly maintained by the government. My father, struggling alone, could not afford the better equipped private schools.

My father discovered my talent for chanting eulogies when I was still in primary school. He used to remark proudly that my voice rang like a bell. I am lucky that my father took my talent very seriously. He sent me to understudy and be trained by a famous Radio presenter – Abdusaheed Alafin, who had a great talent for praise chanting.

I was lucky to learn at the feet of a great master. Mr. Alafin taught me both the poetry and voice modulation. Under his tutelage, I learned how to use my voice and tone to engage my audience more effectively.

I moved to Lagos around the year 2020 to search for greater opportunities. Since my family could not afford university fees, I decided to start practicing my art first. I would chant for friends and neighbours, and I never failed to captivate them. The biggest attraction was my youthful age. Eulogizing is an art practiced mainly by old men and women. Seeing a teenager do it never failed to fascinate my audiences.

I soon began to get invitations to chant praises for newly married couples in their wedding ceremonies. I also got invited to child naming ceremonies and other social events. I had no fee at the beginning, even though I received gifts from appreciative listeners.

My first real show was at the Eko Hotel at the birthday of the famous Mama Nike Davies – Okundaye. I had been nervous before the show, because I had never seen such glamour before. But I gave a good account of myself and was well rewarded.

It was after that show that I started to see eulogy chants as part of the entertainment business.

I subsequently set up an outfit which I call “Imisi Elewi Entertainment” and now get invited to shows. The money is not always good and sometimes I don’t even get paid at all. But I love what I do.

One of my greatest moments was when I was invited by Aralola, the famous female drummer to perform along with her. I could not contain my joy. Aralola, as you know is the No 1 female talking drummer in Africa. She is even a cultural Ambassador for His Majesty, the Ooni of Ife.

I also admire a female eulogizer called Remilekun Kasali Mariam. She is a wonderful role model for me and I have been greatly influenced by her work.

My most memorable chant is Oriki Ijara Isin which is about my hometown. I am very passionate about my hometown and I am always happy when I celebrate it in chants.

My greatest reward yet is being made a cultural Ambassador by the OMIDAN ASA IBILE YORUBA INITIATIVE. It is a cultural pageant that took place at Ibadan. I am still humbled by that great honour.

Before I got into eulogy chanting, my dream was to become a make – up artiste. I still have that dream and I actually practice that by the side. I hope to save up enough money and go to the university one day for higher education.

I see the Nigerian entertainment industry as one with a wide space to accommodate many different talents. I am therefore happy to be part of the industry, even though my own art is still a tiny part of it.

My father has been very supportive. Same with my two brothers and sister. My father has moved to Ondo State and has continued to work very hard. I pray I will soon have enough to provide for him in return.

The good thing about eulogy is that you get better with age. And so, God helping me, I see a very bright future ahead!

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