3 January 2023
After serving as a Navy chef since 2019, things were starting to cool down for Able Seaman Utibe (Daniel) Ekpe, who became an enthusiastic musical participant in this year’s ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills (ARRTS) program.
Able Seaman Ekpe, originally from Nigeria, had joined the Navy as a chef on the advice of his Australian parents, based on his previous working background.
“All my jobs had been in food service, working as a butcher, in the fruit markets and as a kitchen hand,” Able Seaman Ekpe said.
Overall, he enjoyed the role, especially when going to sea, but has been land-based ever since a medical downgrade. This contributed to depression and led to the Defence Rehabilitation Consultant encouraging him to apply for ARRTS.
“She knew I was into music, especially creating electronic rhythms and rapping, and thought this might help. I was too slow with submitting my application for the program at the start of the year, but was accepted into the November session,” he said.
Being a participant in the program was an adjustment for Able Seaman Ekpe.
“In those first few days, I began thinking, ‘Canberra is a bit colder than Sydney and there are so many other things I could be doing right now instead of this.’ But then it all changed,” he said.
The change was the music mentors encouraging Able Seaman Ekpe to sing melodically in front of the group, instead of just rapping.
“I’d never really done that very much before, and the few times I did try, it always ended up sounding croaky. With the support I received I was able to sing in tune and even performed Ben E. King’s Stand by Me to a full house in the final showcase concert.”
Apart from learning how to sing more effectively, Able Seaman Ekpe also learned basic keyboard technique, as well as making a start with reading sheet music.
“When I get home, I’ll be buying an electric piano to link to my computer and create musical rhythms,” Able Seaman Ekpe said.
“The ARRTS program has been amazing, I’ve met incredible people and learnt something new every day.
“I’ll really miss everyone and am excited about moving forward, leaving depression behind, and maybe moving into a different career stream with Navy and being able to go out to sea again, taking the music with me.”
To find out more about the ADF ARRTS program, visit ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills
Applications for the 2023 program open in March.