With what could be described as the tradition of most musical artistes in mainstream entertainment across the world, many Nigerian artistes also started their singing career from the church choir. While some of these artistes still maintain the genre of music that shaped their musical career, others are gradually drifting from it. ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM in this piece, takes a look at some Nigerian artistes who started from the church.
When studying the Nigeria music industry, a lot of questions come to mind: ‘How many genre of music can you find in this country?’ ‘Who are the pioneers?’ ‘What have they been doing and what are the necessary machineries being put in place to sustain the types?’
The simple truth is that there are people who have worked tirelessly in making sure that their kind of music is sustained. One of such is Ebenezer Obe. Though he was among those who started the Fuji style of western Nigerian music, he later delved into gospel music which he has been doing ever since.
There are other Nigerian artistes who started from the choir; some are still making it big through that genre of music, while others are delving into the contemporary music scene. One of these artistes’ excuses is that they want to diversify.
Former Mo’Hits star who is currently Marvin Records sweet sensation, Wande Ojosipe, aka Wande Coal is one of them.
Like most great musicians, he started singing in the teenage choir in church where he was with a group member, Chuddy K. He got his break in the Nigerian entertainment industry as a dancer.
He continued improving on his vocal skill and got signed to Don Jazzy’s Mo’ Hits Records in 2006. He featured on D’banj’s ‘Rundown’ ‘Funk You Up’ album and on singles like ‘Loke’, ‘Tonosibe’ and ‘Why Me’.
His first singles ‘Ololufe’ has been described as one of the greatest love song written by a Nigerian, while his debut album ‘Mushin 2 Mohits’, released in 2009 sold over 3 million copies. He is now a staunch member of Marvin Records.
The song ‘Branama’ ushered her into the Nigeria gospel music scene. Born to Deacon and Mrs. Andrew Obareki in Sapele, Delta State, her musical career started at the tender age of eight in the children’s choir. She moved on to the adult choir when she was 15 and when she was18, she was made the choir director because she could teach Soprano, Alto and Tenor. The choir released a couple of albums where she took lead vocals and backup vocals as well.
Unknown to her parents at that time that it would later lead her to stardom; in 2000, she playfully composed and released an album titled ‘Trip’ with a friend. The album was a success and got them shows alongside artistes like Tony Tetuila and a long list of other musicians. The album gained some recognition as the videos were the talk of the town in Benin. Being the first female group to break off from the usual approach, the two friends parted after school.
In December 2003, she signed on with Alec’s Music and released her first solo album as a female artiste. Kefee’s ‘Branama’ sold nine thousand audio cassettes in just three weeks of the album’s release and over two million copies of CDs/VCDs in a month.
In one of her recent singles, she featured Timaya in a song entitled ‘Kokoroko’, which many have said was not totally gospel and one of those who holds such views is Sunday Kunle, a producer.
He said: “I have been following her for sometimes now. She’s a good musician no doubt, but why I don’t really understand her is that she says she sings gospel but sometimes you see her doing something that doesn’t sound like gospel. If she wants to continue singing gospel just the way she started, she should, but not doing the contemporary and at the same time gospel.”
P-Square, the musical duo of identical twins, Peter and Paul Okoye started from church but did not sing in a choir.
They began their music and entertainment career miming and dancing in various shows and church events in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria where they grew up.
In 2001, while at the University of Abuja, they took part in a talent hunt show in which they won the ‘Golden Tones for Up and Coming Band’ with the track ‘Kolo’ from their debut production. This quickly shot them into prominence and their smooth R&B voice blended with modern African hip-hop beat ensured that songs such as ‘Last Nite’, ‘Kolo’ and ‘Igbedu’ took the airwaves and dance halls by storm.
They haven’t looked back since then, singing songs that touch the heart. Many of their songs are inspirational which has made them the only group still waxing strong.
Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, aka Wizkid, is no doubt one of the fastest rising artistes in the Nigerian music industry. He started singing at the early age of 11 in church under the name ‘Lil Prinz’ before rebranding in 2006; and ever since, he has been able to make a name for himself in the industry.
He broke fully into the industry in 2010 after releasing the hit singles ‘Holla At Your Boy,’ ‘Tease Me,’ and ‘Don’t Dull.’ He released his debut album ‘Superstar’ in 2011.
He is now singing the contemporary and doing very well for himself and EM music where he is signed to.
Jeremiah Pam Gyang
He has the ability to transform everyday experiences and emotions into songs.
This ability to express joy, fears, triumphs and failures in beautiful prose and harmonious melody is embedded in this multi talented singer and instrumentalist.
A native of Jos, Plateau State in Northern Nigeria, Jeremiah became conversant with the Piano and Guitar before reaching the age of 10. His father, late Rev. Luke Dung Gyang was a revered and well known musician in Jos in the 1970’s and ‘80’s whose musical influence on his son can be likened to the influence of Fela Kuti or Femi Kuti. Like most music greats, Jeremiah’s journey began in the house of God where he led the choir as music director.
Often credited as being responsible for bringing contemporary Hausa music to the mainstream with hits like 2004’s ‘Na Ba Ka’ (I give you) in which he featured Six Foot Plus skyrocketed him to national consciousness. Then 2006’s ‘Kauna Allah’ (God’s Love) which features Rapper, M.I on the initial version and 2009’s ‘In Love With You’ which, though sung in English, is laced with the Hausa-influenced instrumentals.
Jeremiah’s music has been described as a fine blend of soulful African rhythms, blues, rock and gospel. His ability to pen songs like ‘African Child’ where he describes the effects of the horrors of war on the African child, sung perfectly with intense lyrics to the soulful sounds produced by the gentle plucking of his Guitar strings marks Jeremiah as a songwriter of extraordinary talent.
As a Music Producer, Jeremiah Gyang produced his first piece of music at the age of 11 in his dad’s music studio. In later years, he worked for a while at Quest Media Studios in Abuja, where he produced songs for artistes like Age Beeka, Over Dose, Terry da Rapman and Bouqui. He also produces TV and Radio jingles.
Jeremiah derives pleasure from helping other talented artistes climb up the musical ladder and having first put Jos on the musical map, he has gone further to open the floodgates for other ‘J-town’ acts like M.I, Jesse Jags, Ice Prince and Skales to be successful.
Bukola Folayan aka Bouqui is one gospel artiste that has carved a niche for herself with the way she mixes contemporary hip-hop with gospel.
Her late father was a professor of biochemistry in the Obafemi Awolowo University. According to her, music had always been a passion.
“I was born into a musical family. We had a family singing group and it was called the Folayan Family Singers. My brother, my sisters and I used to sing during concerts and in different churches. So music is like mother‘s milk. It was like our default setting.
We just loved music. When my father was young, he was the organist of the church and my mother was in the choir. So music was very natural. But rap is another perspective. My brother, Mix Master Jay, was the rapper in the house and I remember that I loved listening to him rap. I used to look at his swag and I envied him. When I wrote my first rap, I went to his room and I showed it to him. He was like, ‘what else is new?’
“He knew I was not going to let him go till he had heard me rap. So I did the rap and he wasn‘t impressed. He said it was bad stuff. I got so hurt that I said to myself that I would show him that I could rap. But from showing him that I could do it, it turned into something that I really loved.
He would write for me and let me listen to his tapes and that was how I fell in love with hip-hop. I used to go for it and write the lyrics the way they came to my mind and here we are,” she once said in an interview.
Bouqui has always been a master crafter in the hip-hop and that has won her various accolades.