A crowd of people, late night shows, traveling from city to city- the life of a musician. When most people imagine a drummer they often conjure an image of man, who has a “hip” look about him, and perhaps several groupies. Yet, one of Nigeria’s up-and coming drummer’s, Deborah Ojengbede, doesn’t fit this image. Deborah Ojengbede, also known as Debbiestixx or Deb, began playing the drums at her local church at the tender age of 10 years old. Hailing from a small village in Nigeria, there weren’t very many if any female drummers. Despite what appeared to be a barrier Deb credits her church members with pushing her and encouraging her to perfect her skills at drumming. As time went on she became very passionate about drumming, it was more than just fun to her. Yet, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine she would become a professional drummer one day.
Deb credits her big break in the industry to the power of social media, specifically Twitter. At the time B.O.U.Q.U.I, a popular gospel singer and rapper in Nigeria, posted on the social media platform that she was in need of a drummer. Moments later Deb began to receive notifications of tags, retweets, and DMs. Shortly thereafter Deb was contacted by B.O.U.Q.U.I and was invited to audition for her. Deb recounts, “she invited me to Lagos, you wouldn’t believe I forgot my drumsticks! Someone got me sticks, and then B.O.U.Q.U.I. said, “Blow my mind.” I had just been playing at local churches at that time. I tried to do some stuff, but I was nervous and shy… I’m sure I was totally whack.” “Whack” is definitely an understatement of how her audition went, as Deb secured a spot in B.O.U.Q.U.I.’s band!
Deb, who rarely rejects an opportunity even when she is unsure of her abilities, is grateful for the chance B.O.U.Q.U.I. took on her. Since then she has played in churches, concerts, and few repertoire bands in and outside of Nigeria. Although the experience has been exciting and wonderful for Deb, she has met her fair share of challenges. For starters, she did not learn the basics of drumming in a traditional way; she learned to play by ear. Eventually, she was required to play more complex pieces and provide explanations for her arrangements, which she had difficulty doing without the foundational knowledge of drumming. Again, technology saved the day. Deb credits YouTube videos with helping her to acquire the skills she was lacking. “Thank God for YouTube! When I started to learn the basics, it all started to make sense, I knew what I was playing.”
Being a female in a male-dominated field has also presented its own set of challenges; however, not for the reasons one might believe. “It was cool to be a female drummer, but when I started to get the little gigs here and there, my dad wasn’t cool with a little girl being out everywhere. Stepping out at 10 in morning, and not being back until 7 at night. He would say I can’t travel, I can’t move anywhere I wanted to. So there were a lot of gigs and opportunities I had to let go of because I was ‘daddy’s little girl’.” Despite the difficulties she experienced with her father, Deb doesn’t believe she’s had many other issues as a female drummer; in fact it has benefited her. “Being a female drummer has actually been an opportunity, it not been a hindrance. I have been able to go to places and perform at places where if I had been male drummer I probably would not have been able to.”
Deb has a very strong passion for drumming and this is clearly evident. Even whilst currently working as a project manager at a bank, she has made drumming a part of her lifestyle. She notes that there are moments when she is in her office and her coworkers catch her drumming on her desk, unbeknownst to her. One might wonder why someone as accomplished as Deb has not left a typical 9-5 to become a professional drummer fulltime. Deb insists that banking continues to serve as a pathway to get to where she wants to go. “Of course I would quit my 9-5. I’ve always wanted to go into business and management at some point. I just know banking is a pathway, I’ve learned so much from what I do.”
Deb appreciates the encouragement and push she received from her church family and others; furthermore, she recognizes the importance of encouraging and motivating others to follow their dreams. “So far it’s something that makes you happy or you love what you do, you have to remain consistent. Music, poetry, whatever it is keep developing your skill, be true to yourself, be true to your art, definitely it will pay off. People who looked down on you, they will one day look up to you and appreciate you. I wanted to be happy doing what I love to do which is why I am here.”
Deb, a self-described persistent, inquisitive, and positive-minded individual, does not see or believe in limits. In the next 5-10 years she sees herself owning her own music school. During a time when women continue to break various glass ceilings in various industries, Deb exemplifies a millennial young woman who has chosen to not take no as an answer and has made it a point to defy the odds. For Deb there appears to be no limit to height she hopes to attain. We look forward to seeing just how influential and inspiring Deb will be in the years to come!
Check out her skills!
Story by Natacha Lorius
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