Ikem Mazeli, known as, Material, Onye nwegwu, Igwe Egwu, is an award-winning traditional highlife musician and a political stalwart. In an insightful interview with Okey Obiozo of Inlantown.com a society and culture website of Onicha people, he reveals his inspiration, passion for music; culture, and plans on taking his music to the next level.
ILT: Let us meet you?
IKEM: My name is Honourable Ikem Mazeli, known as Material Onye Nwegwu. The honorable that is attached to my name is because I was once a supervisor for Works and later, Education in Onitsha-North Local Government Area. I am a politician cum musician.
ILT: How was your growing up?
IKEM: My growing up was modest because right from childhood, I have been focused on life, knowing quite well that I was from a poor background, therefore I had to focus on working extra hard to forge ahead in life and ultimately aim at upgrading my family’s status. Thank God, today such dream has been achieved and I have put my family’s name in the forefront through my music. That notwithstanding, there were some hitches along the line but being focused helped tremendously in charting the right course.
ILT: your educational background?
IKEM: I had my primary education at Nwora Umunna Memorial Primary School, Onitsha, and proceeded to Washington Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha for my secondary education. My higher education was at Edo State University, now Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Edo State for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science.
I had a post-graduate degree in Business Management at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State.
ILT: How did you venture into music?
IKEM: I had been into music right from a tender age. I started with cultural music. As a kid, I used to be the lead dancer for Ncheta Ka Cultural Group. Interestingly, wherever we performed, I used to entertain the crowd. It was from there that I graduated into being a flutist, specializing in the local flute called, Oja.
Later, I was attached to Nkolika Cultural Group as their flutist. I still play flute professionally till date but my singing career actually started from the gospel band; while in secondary school, I joined the Anglican Youth Fellowship (AYF) Band of Emmanuel Church. It was during my membership in that gospel band that I discovered and nurtured my singing talent. In the process, I became the band’s lead vocalist and we eventually released two gospel albums that were hits and commercial success in the early 1990s; Ocho Mma and Asi n’arum abulu s’onu.