ARTISTE OF THE WEEK – JOHNPAUL IKECHUKWU OCHEI
A lot of people do not think he’s the ideal Baritone, but of all Nigerian Baritone singers in the country at the moment and yet to receive standard Vocal Training, his technique is next to none. With quite an impressive range, and a comic character on stage, he is a delight to watch.
JohnPaul Ikechukwu Ochei
Born JohnPaul Ikechukwu Ochei, Singing was first like a hobby as a kid. He later joined the choir of St Anthony’s Catholic Church Surulere, where he had his first training in the theory of music and voice training by his Choirmaster Irene Osuji, and later her husband Gregory Osuji.
He was formally introduced to professional singing by his friend Christie Okosun who took interest in his budding talent, when she took him to join the Laz Ekwueme Chorale and Muson Festival Choir, without any experience or knowledge of sight singing.
JohnPaul recounts that he was auditioned by Prof. Laz Ekwueme himself, during the male voices rehearsal. He was asked to sing a line or two, to check his intonation. Three male singers attended rehearsal for the first time on that day and were all tested. According to JohnPaul, Prof. Laz Ekwueme sent the other singers home and asked them never come back. JohnPaul was lucky to meet Prof’s standards, and so he was asked to stay and sing.
It would interest you to know that JohnPaul started his singing career as a Tenor Singer. He sang the second Tenor part in that rehearsal.
Passion has been the driving force for JohnPaul. Even as a student of law at the University of Benin, he was doing more Music than Law.
“A lot of the things I learned in music, I never struggled to learn them, and a lot of things I know in music today, I was never taught. It just happens in me, more like I once lived like a music prodigy in my past life. So, I basically know it’s God’s given talent in me.
I studied music because for me, music is my life. I don’t think I’ll survive or be patient if I were in a different profession. it is more of what I would passionately pursue, not minding the pain and struggles in it, but still smile and be fulfilled”
Like every other young Nigerian, JohnPaul was never allowed to study Music by his parents, especially his father. He had to finish his studies in Law, just to please him, before he could pursue what he was truly passionate about.
JohnPaul in performance
A member of Nigeria’s Finest and foremost Baritone group; The Three Baritones, JohnPaul shares his experience having sung with the group over the years;
“The Three Baritones are more than up to standard and it’s so unique because there’s none like it in Nigeria today. Its also unique cause you’ll ask how we’re able to do the harmonies and not sound too dark or boring; as most people would describe the Baritone Voice, compared to the Tenors or Sopranos who would cry out bright high notes. Whenever you listen to the Three Baritones, you always sense the fourth man between, each time we perform at events, people always say that. The blend of our voices are so rich and powerful and the good thing is we all are blessed with wide ranges. I believe we will go places with the right support, publicity and management. What people do not understand is that the range of a Baritone singer lies between the bass voice and the Tenor voice. A Baritone singer can sing as low and also sing as high. So you get double dose in a single performance; resonating low notes and ringing high notes. Basically, I would say the Three Baritones are unique, because it’s a group made up of three most experienced Baritone Singers in Nigeria currently, who are friends with different temperament, vocal quality and the best as far as the Baritone Voice is concerned in this country, Nigeria”.
The Three Baritones in a rehearsal
A native of Issele Uku in aniotcha North area of Delta state, JohnPaul talks about the growth and development of Choral Music in Nigeria.
“We’re doing quite well, but not as good. Chorale music is growing stronger but in the area of soloists, There’s a lot we still have to establish. Most times, Conductors are sentimental, no proper auditions or placement of parts in a cast for a Musical or an Opera. So much partiality, and indiscipline.
Presently, I’m working on an Opera with a bunch of super talented guys, like Jo Oparamanuike whom I call Don Josi, Ifeoma Anieze, to mention a few, but one person that seems to catch my attention is Genevieve Ogu. Sometimes I sit and wonder. The uniqueness of her voice, the passion and discipline, and she is just starting. Plus she’s quite young, I can’t wait to hear her in a space of two years”
JohnPaul also decries the lack of qualified Vocal Teachers in Nigerian Universities and strongly advised that aspiring Operatic/Classical singers attend Conservatories rather than Nigerian Universities.
He’s been working on an album and urges his fans to watch out for it.
JohnPaul is the Choirmaster of his Church and has helped train so many young singers who have participated and won the Muson Talent Singing Competition. He is also a Voice Teacher at the Muson Basic School.
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you; JOHNPAUL IKECHUKWU OCHEI
I CELEBRATE YOU TODAY!
Ifediora, Obinna Maurice
30 Adenrele Street,