The singing and songwriting beauty reigning from Bamenda, Cameroon is on a mission to be heard. For Cameroonian artist Naomi Achu, music is a way of life. Her music is not only inspiring and filled with meaning, but her true talent as an artist seeps through each one of her songs. Naomi has been on quite the journey and it’s only a matter of time before her hard work really pays off. Parlé Magazine caught up with the songstress for some insight into her musical background as well as what’s next in our Naomi Achu interview.
Parlé Magazine: How did you get into music?
Cameroonian artist Naomi Achu: I’ve been singing since I was very little. We (my brothers and sisters) would gather around in the living room at 6 in the morning and have devotions and prayers. My mother would lead as we sang and read God’s word. And as we sang, I would harmonize. I wrote my first song when I was nine. I can still remember it ’til this day. It was called “Smile”. Over the years, I wrote songs and I led A capella groups that helped mold my art.
Parlé: When did you realize that you really wanted to pursue music as a career?
Naomi Achu: My musical background started when I watched Whitney Houston sing “Greatest Love of All”. That was when my passion for music and singing greatly intensified. It was like a defining moment for me. I felt a strong connection with her energy and stage presence and I had a longing to possess that positive energy one day and to share it with the world. I believe I was nine years old or so.
Parlé: Who or what inspired you as an artist?
Naomi: First of all, my mother inspires almost everything I do. So I would like to give her the credit for the positive energy she surrounds me with. Whitney Houston has influenced me a lot. Though my music may not be all that similar to hers, it was all about the beauty that I saw in her that I wanted to possess. Coming from a Christian family, I was highly influenced by Bebe and Cece Winans, Kirk Franklin, and Mary Mary. And being a lover of energetic performers, I have to give credit to Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson, and Angelique Kidjo.
Parlé: How did working with female groups “God’s Special Teens” and “Sisters With Sound” help you grow as an artist?
Naomi: Good question! I don’t even know where to start. Well, since there were no instruments readily available (this was boarding school in Cameroon), we would use just our voices to harmonize, beat the drum and click our fingers. There was so much love among us and our focus was always making good music. A’Capella Gospel is such a pure, unadulterated sound that I hope to bounce back to in my next project. In “God’s Special Teens” I assisted a very good friend of mine in the songwriting, Yolanda Arrey. She is an amazing songwriter and fearless at the same time. She helped build my confidence as a singer and songwriter and I am very blessed to have been able to work with her. Working with groups and leading the choir taught me the importance of teamwork and positive criticism. Without these girls, I don’t know if I would be here today.
Parlé: Tell me about your gig with MTN (Mobile Telephone Network).
Naomi: That was a lot of fun actually. I was a backup singer for Emil Ngumbah, founder and CEO of M1 studio, Buea, Cameroon. Emil is known to be surrounded with talent. Therefore, many big gigs for voice-over talent, singers and contests came to him. So MTN asked him to send one of his talents. This was actually supposed to be my big sister’s gig because she had done work with MTN before. However, she had traveled out of the country to pursue her studies in accounting. So then Emil turned to me and said, ‘let’s give you a try”. I traveled to a nearby city called Douala and they gave me the prompts to read and they liked my voice. So that is how I became the English voicemail/voice prompter for MTN (Mobile Telephone Network) in Cameroon from 2004 – 2009.
Parlé: You went to college in Cameroon. What was that like?
Naomi: Well, yes. We call it college in Cameroon but it is equivalent to secondary and high school here in the States. So my secondary and high school life was for the most part in boarding schools. Boarding school in Cameroon can be grueling but instills a certain amount of discipline in the student. Our parents were only allowed to visit once or twice a month. So we had to make sure we had all we needed by the time the semester started. And then there’s this thing called seniority, which is a certain amount of respect you have to give to anyone who is ahead of you in class, and if you were disrespectful, you could be punished. And there’s the part where we had to scrub and mop the floors at 6 a.m every morning. Ha, ha! I could go on but I think I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. My “American” college life was spent here at Montgomery College in Silver Spring MD and at Marymount University in Arlington, VA.
Parlé: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Naomi: I see myself positively impacting those around me. I envision an even wider fan base that I can share my music with and I see myself blessing others with what I have been blessed with. As an artist and a Registered Nurse (I recently just got licensed) I hope to raise AIDS awareness in Africa and fight Breast Cancer. And finally, I see myself mentoring schoolchildren.
Parlé: If you weren’t pursuing a career in music, what other career paths would you choose?
Naomi: I would be working as a nurse, a TV personality, or an actress.
Parlé: You have an album dropping later this year. What can you tell us about that?
Naomi: YES!!! It’s called Living Testimony. The title is drawn from my firm belief in God and what He has done for me thus far. By Living Testimony I’m simply saying “Everything is possible.” It might probably be the most versatile album one might come across. It will have elements of R & B, Hip-Hop, Pop, and Gospel. Having lived in London, Cameroon (which is a Bilingual country), and the United States my views are a combination of various cultures and various stories and experiences I’ve come across. I believe there is something in this album for everybody. Stay tuned and check my website for updates.www.naomiachu.com
Parlé: Finally, what’s one word that describes Naomi Achu?
Our sincerest thanks for her time in conducting this Naomi Achu interview with us. Make sure you give her upcoming album a listen once it releases.
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