She is known all over Africa as an actress, but what many people don’t know about Stella Damasus is her love for music. The Nollywood superstar has just been appointed the voice coach for the much publicised Disney’s High School Musical on Stage in Nigeria. In this interview with TOPE OLUKOLE, she disclosed her plans for HSM and the part she will be
playing as voice coach for the event. Excerpts:
You are mostly known as an actress, how does that translate to being a voice coach for HSM?
Everybody knows that I started singing long before I even started acting. I had a band before I started acting; I have been into music for a very long time, even longer than acting. So, the woman, who is in charge of High School Musical (HSM), Sheila, is like a relative to me. She also knew when I grew up; how I ran the band and all that. She remembered that I was more of a music person than an actress.
So you started music before acting?
Oh yeah! Music was like first before I went into acting.
What do you think about Nigerian kids in terms of talents singing, dancing and acting?
Nigeria has the greatest talent ever. That’s what I believe. I have travelled to different parts of the world and I have seen the facilities that they have and what they use for their children to make life easy and also to adapt. Here it’s more difficult and yet our children adapt. So, when I see things like this, I always think that when I put these children in an environment that’s conducive with all the things that they have now, would they be able to stand? And I bet you, the Nigerian talent is much better any time any day. I am proud of them; it’s from the head. We don’t use anything digital to enhance their talent; ours is natural; very natural, very direct.
Do you think Nigerian kids are familiar with High School Musical?
Most, definitely, children of families that have DSTV in their homes watch High School Musical. So, if everyone knows Hanna Montana, then you know High School Musical. Before, it used to be Barney and the rest, but High School Musical is what is going on now; the majority of kids we have now are into High School Musical and Hanna Montana, and it’s spreading all over the world.
What impact do you think High School Musical will have on the participants?
The good thing about it now is that we are not just teaching them because of High School Musical, the good thing is that Kidztrust is trying to build a new group of entertainers who can act, sing and dance. We don’t have that in our industry. We have people who dance; we have people who are trying to do different things but are not properly trained. So, now Kidztrust is giving them an opportunity to be trained in singing, dancing and acting. Hence, what they are doing is from the scratch. Not just this, for songs that we are doing for High School Musical, a lot of technique is going to be involved. There’s sound control, body movement, body language and adding passion to your movement and all that. So, they will be learning. They go away with it and it’s never lost. They can decide to be professional entertainers in future and remember all they’ve gained here. We’re also going to be bringing in team spirit, different children from different schools with different future so that the team spirit that they build will follow them in the future to adapt to any environment they find themselves.
Have you seen any of the High School Musical movies?
Of course! We’ve been made to see it; my children are fans of High School Musical, even the one that was done in Mexico and they have begun to learn the names of the characters and all that. Even before I was contracted for this job, my kids were already fans of High School Musical. I already knew about Troy and Gabriella
Who’s your favourite character?
I like a lot of them. I’m not a child; so, for me, it’s interesting because they are young people who can sing, dance and act and really make you feel like you are inside that place, and if they can entertain adults like us, that means they are doing something right. That’s the same thing we want to do here in Nigeria.
How were you contracted for the job?
I got a call from Murna, who got a call from her boss, Sheila Okonji Ashinze. Sheila has known me for so many years and she’s related to me as well. Sheila doesn’t live here all the time, but the few times she’s been here, she’s seen me performing with my band and she knows I know a lot about High School Musical because of my children. I mean she’s been bringing Disney here for a long time. So, she asked them to call me to be a part of the show they did. I loved it and I accepted the whole idea.
Will your kids be auditioning?
No, they won’t. They are just going to be watching and cheering.
Who are the other people working with you on the project?
There’s a guy called Phams; there’s another guy called Uche, who will be working with me to groom the kid’s vocals. Kaffy’s doing the dancing….so many other people are going to be here for costumes, makeup and all that.