Even though it’s bang on midday on a sunny day in Sydney, her smile lights up Jones Bay Wharf, electrifying the air. Add to that a husky voice in greeting and I’m instantly enchanted.

Moments later we’re swapping stories and as the afternoon unravels we find out uncanny similarities between her family story and mine. We both have parents with a strong commitment to change leadership in Africa (Nigeria and Kenya respectively) and we also both have dedicated musicians for brothers. We laugh in disbelief and gasp, ignoring our menus as we find out we have comparable experiences of being African and black in Australia.

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The queen herself.

Her name is Tabitha Ojeah (professionally known as Gazele) and her art is found in her golden voice.

Her throaty laugh carries over the dining table as she tells me of her journey of self discovery – from growing up with dark black skin in the lucky country (which led to her endless questions about her heritage to which she countered – “I am Australian!!) – to struggling with an eating disorder before learning how to accept her curves and skin colour for what it is.

Through it all, music was her first love, a passion that runs in her family (her brother is singer/dancer Tim Omaji, also known as Timomatic). She went so far as to quit her university degree to pursue her first love – graduating from the Australian Institute of Music in 2011. Shortly after came her first stint on X-Factor Australia then opportunities opened for her to perform with high profile artists; touring extensively with ARIA award winning pop star Jessica Mauboy and providing backing vocals for The Voice Australia alumni Ms Murphy.

In between it all, she got married, set up a home and pulled together her own band, performing covers to their own music that reflected the group’s multi cultural background.

By 2014, however Gazele, was longing for her own ‘original voice’, one that reflected her heritage and celebrated her sense of belonging to a dual Australian-Nigerian culture. “Creating, writing and shaping my own music was a journey in taking ownership of the fact that I’m Nigerian-Australian,’ she says. ‘This is my message and purpose.’

Add to that her victory of her body identity issues and what I see before me is a young woman who is embracing and accepting herself just as she is. “I can definitely say that I am proud to be me right now. I’ve confronted the colour of my skin and I’m loving it, my body and my womanhood.”

Watch Gazele perform ‘Ricochet’ >>

That confidence led her back into the X-Factor machine in 2015, where she made it into the top 20. This was a great achievement for Gazele especially when she got feedback from the general public that it was edifying seeing an African Australian represent the community on a national platform.

“I didn’t change myself for Xfactor this year. I was myself – bold, assertive and proud of being me!’ she says with a cheeky smile.

In June 2015, Gazele reached yet another milestone. She released her debut EP, LoveLife, which has since received radio play on Roots N All on Triple J and extensive coverage in the media.

The EP is a 4 track excursion through joyful, contemporary pop stylings that explores themes of love over live instrumentation to create a spirited, full sound.

Lovelife showcases the Gazele’s raspy, powerful vocals and strong songwriting skills, led by the upbeat single “On My Mind”, which premiered on auspOp and is best described as reminiscent of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and Beyonce’s “Love On Top”.

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Gazele with her husband, bandmates and friends at the launch of LoveLife.

I personally love ‘Sail Away’, and ‘Ricochet’, two tracks that explode with her musicality and growling vocals. With each note, the songs slink into the very crevices of your emotional being, not unlike the haunting rasp of Angie Stone and Macy Gray. People, this girl is TRRUBLE!! (In a great way!)

Gazele is definitely one to watch and as she takes her gift overseas (she’s relocating to the UK in 2016 with her husband), she’s bound to leave audiences all over the world gasping for more of her golden vocals.

Yet her power, grace and charm lies in her quiet determination to encourage others to be themselves, no matter their background, skin colour, body shape or size. ‘My purpose – to celebrate who I am with pride and inspire others to do the same. That is the message and music is my tool.”

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As mentioned, Gazele is leaving for the UK in early 2016, so to celebrate her great career in Australia so far, she’s hosting a farewell show in Sydney with her full band. Make trax to be there and support this awesome woman while being entertained with her mesmerising voice!!!

When: Thursday December 10th

Where: Rock Lily, The Star
Time: 8:30pm

FREE ENTRY

 

About The Author

Afritorial

Neva is a storyteller and media strategist with a background in PR, film, advertising and digital marketing who is passionate about technology, new media and the endless possibilities of the social and mobile sphere. Read more about her on our 'About Us' page.

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