By Olive Ejang Tebug
In a few weeks Mary Mandi, the Cameroonian Gospel singer from Kumba, will launch her sixth album. In this exclusive interview, Mandi tells The Post that she uses her music to promote Cameroonian culture. She also talks about her recent album, the Cameroon music world, her aspirations and much more. Read On:
The Post: You have just released your new album; Me Siki Ete. What is the meaning of this?
Mary Mandi: Me Siki Ete means I am not there. Looking at our society today, most people are involved in occult practices just to get money. But as a Christian, I am no longer in the evil world. I want to serve the Lord Jesus with all my heart. I don’t want to resort to jealousy, gossip and immorality.
In what language is it sung, and why did you choose that language?
In my recent album, I sang in five languages, Ewondo, Pidgin English, French, Duala and English. The title Me Siki Ete is in Ewondo. Since I am Ewondo and married to a Bafaw man, I thought using several languages would extensively pass across the Gospel message to the Cameroonian public, and even internationally.
Besides, I think using several languages would also promote the Cameroonian culture through the message of God.
What inspired you into Gospel music?
My inspiration came from my parents. When I was a little child growing up, my grandfather was a musician who used to play the xylophone. My mother was equally a good singer and dancer. So I grew up to love music. I started composing at the age of seven. When I got born again in 1975, I joined the church choir. It was from there that God singled me out. The Holy Spirit inspired me to transform people by singing the words of God.
How many albums have you released so far?
I have released six albums. My first album Na Wati Be Man? was released in 1989, the second Na Pala Pala, in 1990, the third, No Chakara in 1996, the fourth Write My Name, in 1998, the fifth, Ready To Serve in 2002 and the sixth, Me Siki Ete, this year.
Have you already launched your new album?
It will be launched on February 18 at the Yaounde Hilton Hotel. I am inviting the public to attend because other great artists will be there.
How long did it take you to release this album?
It took me four years. I hadn’t enough resources to release it because I was struggling alone. Then the power of God opened the eyes of my present producer; Roger Luc Assembe Mbarga, to answer my prayers. I had intended to go only on CD audio and cassette, but I am blessed with all. I have CD audio and video, cassette, VCD and even DVD. I thank God for his grace.
How is this album different from the others?
It is more professional and the promotion is superb. It is really taking me to another level. In the other albums, especially the first, people loved it very much, but I could not produce many copies because my former producer never went far.
Nigerian Gospel musicians are more advanced than their Cameroonian counterparts. What do you think is the problem?
The problem with Cameroon Gospel musicians is the lack of producers. We have good Gospel singers but no promoters. This makes our Nigerian colleagues to be more advanced. If we can get good producers, then the sky would be our limit.
Is Mary Mandi your real name or just a show name?
Sister Mary Mandi are my real names.
To what extent do you think you will go with your Gospel music career?
So long as God gives me breath, I will continue to spread His words and transform people through Gospel music. I also use my music to portray the Cameroonian culture, like Ewondo and Bafaw.
What is your religious background?
I became a born-again in 1975. My parents are Christians. My mother is now a born-again. My father is dead. I worship in Full Gospel Mission, Mbonge Road, Kumba. However, I am not limited only to my church, but open to other churches when I am invited. I have also attended crusades, conferences and marriages organised by other churches.
Have you received any awards?
Yes. In 1997, the Government Delegate to the Kumba Urban Council, Caven Nnoko Mbele, gave me a special award for participating in the EKOMBA Cultural Festival in Kumba. In 1998, I was also received a certificate of appreciation for promoting Cameroon’s cultural heritage. In 2002, I was awarded Tambour de L’Assurance Trophee of the HOC at the Yaounde Hilton Hotel. And in 2003-2004, I was a jury member and performer during Les Brasseries du Cameroun’s singing competition in the Southwest Province.
Besides music, what else do you do for a living?
For now, I am a full time musician. I was a trained to teach the deaf, but I resigned when I got into music. I also used to be a seamstress but have stopped because of my call.
What special message do you have for the public?
I want to thank my producer for making it possible for this album to come out. God will richly reward it. I am appealing to the public to listen to the lyrics of my music and put it into practice, because their lives will never remain the same. They should also be careful in what they listen, see, hear and speak because it affects the human mind.