IN CONVERSATION WITH CHIOMA OGBONNA
Chioma Ogbonna who goes by the stage name CILL, is a lawyer by profession and a singer-songwriter. Her love for music drew her into the deep waters of the industry when she quit her job in March 2016 to follow her passion music. Her music journey started at the age of 13 as a singer in the children’s choir of her church. She however carved a niche for herself when she learnt to play the guitar creating a sweet blend of rock soul music infused with splashes of Africa-ness. Her name CILL which connotes newness, freshness and uniqueness captures the life she brings through her music.
CILL uses her music as a tool for social engineering, advocacy and promotion of patriotism. Her first single Sound the Alarm released in 2013 was inspired by her experiences while volunteering with an NGO at the time. She is an act to look out for in the coming months as her music, rich vocals and song writing skills are set to take you to another level of musical experience.
You studied Law, got a good job in a multinational company and later resigned to face your music career. What inspired this bold move?
Studying law was a foundation for me and I enjoyed every bit of it. I also loved the experience while working with KPMG. However, the music had a stronger pull on me. I wanted more and to fulfill a burning desire to reach out and let the world come in contact with me through music.
How did your stage name CILL come about?
In June 2013 while serving my country under interesting circumstances, I woke up with it in my heart from a dream! I did my research with the help of a friend and discovered that the characteristics of a cill aptly represented my music personality. It was quite a discovery; a cill also spelt sill in geology is a flat horizontal mass of igneous rock, which is formed by volcanic intrusion between two layers of older sedimentary rock. I prefer to spell it as cill because I wanted to retain the first letter of my first name Chioma and besides, cill is British variant for sill. The name for me connotes newness, difference, freshness and the idea of being an intruder. All these encapsulate my music. My sound is and will always be different, new and fresh and I always find myself breaking through barriers and protocols in getting music heard. These and many more summarize my musical journey.
What’s your genre/style of music and is there any reason for that?
It is actually futile to pin me down to a style because generally, I like to experiment a lot. However, I am an alternative musician and as with cooking, I have my own recipe. In my music you are likely to find folk, soul and splashes of African-ness. Playing the guitar has also helped me to achieve a great deal as I am not only a vocalist and this makes me fall in love with the recipe for my style!
Who and what inspire your lyrics?
I draw inspiration from God and that touches on every aspect of life. I also draw inspiration from my personal experiences and maybe that of a close friend or even a stranger. These days I find myself just singing a new song while playing my guitar and recording with my phone. Before I know what is happening, I have a new song—it could be that spontaneous.
Your single Sound the Alarm is quite poignant. What inspired this particular song and is this is going to be your song writing style?
Sound the Alarm was inspired by my thoughts about Nigeria and my experience while working with an NGO in Abuja called Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement just before my NYSC. I could see my country bleeding, a lot was happening and a lot had happened. I felt there was so much to do but we were becoming complacent. I released the song on October 1, 2013 as a wakeup call.
Are you going to return to practicing Law?
(Laughs!) I doubt it though because I have never officially practiced as a lawyer. While I was at KPMG I worked as a tax consultant and well, I will always be a lawyer, I earned it. I have not stopped improving myself and as much as I can, I pay my practising fees and branch dues so who knows? I am certain that being a lawyer and having worked as a tax consultant has a lot of relevance to my future since in addition to being a musician, there are other plans I intend to execute.
Have you faced any challenges as a female upcoming musician?
Well, there are challenges everywhere. The major challenge we face especially as indie artists is how to raise funds in order to produce and push good music. Then there is still the “use what you have to get what you want” mentality but I just say what I have is great music and a great team of people behind me so I’ll definitely achieve much more than I imagine. It is usually harder at the beginning but we always surmount all. I had to deal with family adjusting to the new realities that I have decided to follow a ‘new’ path. It is not that I started doing music all of a sudden but I suppose they didn’t expect it to be a major career, as it appeared to be a hobby.
Do you believe music is a tool for social change and if so, how are you planning to reach people and change their mindset?
Music is surely a tool for social change or social reform if you will. These days, we are so preoccupied with dancing and having fun that we forget that ideas of love, trust, hope, giving, sharing are gradually fading away. We see injustice and many of us turn the other way. Not that dancing is bad as we are Africans, have rhythm and are known for dancing even when we are sad (laughs!). The truth is, there is hardly anyone in the world who is not impacted by music—just imagine if more artists sing against social vices, hatred, racism and speak of love, forgiveness, justice, truth, patriotism etc. I wonder what kind of world we want to leave for our children. I want to be part of artists who use music to make the world a better place.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a song with my friend, the amazing musician and producer, Johnny Drille and also writing amazing music with the singer-songwriter Bem Abu. I am building a team I will work with through my music career and in talks with a record label which I cannot disclose at the moment but hopefully, there might be a synergy.
How do you spend your leisure?
I love to go to the movies and spend time with family, nature and dear friends. I also try as much as possible to volunteer for worthy causes.
March 25, 2021