Children loved her. Her music videos enjoyed generous air-play. She travelled all over the world and parents wished their wards could be Chichi of Africa.
But just like some of her contemporaries, Tosin Jegede and Ijeoma Mouka, the University of Lagos, History graduate faded off the scene at a time when much was expected from her. Her excuse? Things took a different turn after a failed record deal.
Catching up with the artiste, real name Chibuzo Mercy-Idowu, whose last public performance was six years ago, for a chat, turned out to be an eye-opening experience.
Now in her 30s, Chichi has, no doubt, lost the innocent face which has since been replaced with a mature and confident mien. Like many stars of her time, the leggy singer, who was born into a family of singers and began singing at age seven, owes the success of her music career to her late father.
Comparing the industry today to her time, she starts off by saying, “Life is a lot easier now for child stars, when compared to my time where a lot of older artistes felt threatened that we (kids) had come to take their shine. My dad was very involved in my career at that time, and I had issues with that because I thought he was too harsh on me, but today, I am glad because his actions have made me dogged.
“It is easier now for any child star because anyone can walk up to a station and get them to play their music, if it is good. I really pray for this generation and hope that parents can be dedicated to their wards that are into showbiz.”
With six albums to her credit and another which is yet to see the light of day, the mother of two admits that she never ever watches any of her past music videos.
“I was extremely skinny as a child and those are sights I don’t want to remember (laughing); and it all feels silly today when I look back and compare videos now with what we had back then,” she says.
On what became of her proposed music comeback a few years back, Chichi simply blames it on a failed record deal.
“It all began to fade off around the time I had a deal with Femi Aderibigbe, a.k.a Kwame. I felt he had so much on his plate so he could not concentrate on the label any more. Next Level Record label just melted away and that was when I went into a hole because all of my efforts that period were sort of wasted.
“I had songs with Don Jazzy and D’banj — songs we had recorded in London. I did some songs with Jeremiah Gyang and Sheyman, contained in an album that was never pushed out. After the Next Level thing, I went into a hole. I always tell people that I am looking for inspiration. All this happened in 2006,” she recollects
While the incident did leave quite an impression on her, Chichi says she is not giving up yet, as she prepares to launch her way back into our hearts. And if you expect to see a Chichi playing Hip Hop or going commercial, then you are in for a surprise.
“I am not looking to do the upbeat song that everybody is doing; neither am I down with the commercial or upbeat. I am not doing music because I want to follow the trend. I want people to listen to my music and appreciate it the way it should be done because that is my selling point.
“You should see a mature me with regard to my music. You have listened to me as a child, now it should be better. I have plans to record an album this year. The comedian, Owen Gee, and I are very good family friends and he has been harassing me; ditto for my husband, to go back to music. This year, I want to record fresh songs.”
Growing up in the public eye can be difficult for some child stars. There is the pressure that comes with being ‘different’ from peers, constant scrutiny from the media and fans alike. And just when you are about to rejoice upon hearing the cheering news, she drops a shocker.
“I think I have seen too much of the limelight and I am not interested in it anymore. Today, I just go to events with my husband. Nowadays, I sneak in; if it is possible I sit at the back, then quietly disappear. I like it quiet. It might be a bit difficult to go back to that time when I was in front of the klieg lights.”
When she is not busy attending to the family and enjoying her job in an events company, Chichi says, she derives pleasure grooming her fashion and jewelry business. And her answer to the question on if any of her kids is taking after her?
“My first born is four years and the second is two. They know I used to sing and sing. My mum has played the last album for them but the senior one seems to sing and make up songs for my mum. If she wants to go professional, so be it.”