Mike Abdul is arguably one of the most sought after gospel artistes in Nigeria. A member of the Midnight Crew quartet, the singer and songwriter is becoming an institution in the gospel music genre thanks to every song that becomes a hit. In this interview with SAMUEL ABULUDE, the Ogun State-born graduate of Electrical Engineering bared his mind on a lot of issues
How do you see the the Easter season?
It is always one that comes with nostalgia. There is no dull moment for me and my team during the Easter Break. First of all, I want to thank my Lord and boss, Jesus Christ, for dying painfully on the cross and giving me the message, the gospel to spread across via music. Without Easter, we will not have had a message not to talk of the gospel music
How was your last performance in the UK in February?
It was awesome and mind-blowing. I honoured an invitation to minister at KICC London, by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, at his ongoing programme tagged: The River, both in Nigeria and abroad. We were invited to minister at the foreign edition after we did that of Lagos. I was very happy and really enjoyed the level of acceptance. My first three minutes on stage was just the people letting me know how much they loved and accepted me. This alone was more than the performance for me. The next 37 minutes I used on stage, it was a lot of fun and at the same time I lifted souls. This development also gave me a confirmation of a recent research that revealed that gospel music is more accepted than secular music, especially in Africa.
How did you find music or did music find you as they say?
I grew up loving music; my father was a music lover. He loved Sunny Ade music so much; he had more of his records in the house than any other artistes’, followed by Ebenezer Obey’s. It was a draw between Kollington Ayinla and Ayinde Barrister; then the rest. I just know I loved music and everything my dad played, I just felt there is this frequency attached to that of these artistes. My love for music continued till I went to Yaba College of Technology, where I met the members of the Mid Night Crew. We were all part of the choir called the Original Rock Choir, just like the school choir. Somehow, destiny soon found us. We were many in the choir, but 11 of us were just so passionate about music. We loved to be together. We would start a concert from nowhere. We would gather and start singing before you know it, without microphone or sound system, students would gather to listen to us, whether Christians or Muslims. That was how we started. We felt that there was a connection among us. So, when we were to leave school, we felt that we could not drop the group other than to transform it from the local setting to global. We all agreed and started pushing the group and gradually, God brought us to the limelight.
How did you come with the name MidNight Crew for your group?
The name surfaced as a result of an agreement of all the members of the group. Then, it was 11 of us. We deliberated on a suitable name for the group and someone said we should check the Book of Judges chapter 6, and we opened it: It was about Gideon, who was supposed to go and throw down the altar of Baal, and he felt that he needed more people to work with him and the Bible recorded that 10 other people joined him making 11 and they went at midnight to perform the task. This was how we formed the name Midnight Crew. It is unfortunate that the guys that coined and gave the Bible verse are no longer in the group. If it was not for them, I don’t think we would be here. It is painful that others left because of one reason or the other; not because of any issue, but as a result of the face of life. You know Yabatech is a polytechnic, and some of them opted for the university, while some couldn’t meet up with the demands of the group. Some even had to travel out of the country because of marriage. The group was made up of six women and five men then.
The group will clock 17 years in November, did you folks ever try to break up?
It wasn’t easy taking off. Initially, it seemed we were merely singing and happy about it, because it was what we wanted to do, but when we got to the market, we discovered that it was a lot more than your talent. We had to put certain measures in place. The learning process led us to another journey, which connected us to the right people. Learning how to relate well in the group was another thing entirely. Since it was a group, we had to learn how to work together for the course of the team. Thank God, we didn’t spew it and God has brought us here today. Overtime, we just discovered that groups break up as if that was the usual destiny of a group.
Then, we resolved that instead of breaking up, let us break up ourselves. Instead of allowing circumstances to break us, it is better we break the break up by ourselves. So, we discovered there is nothing to breakup, because the unity existed before the formation of the group. We resolved that since we have come together to create this platform, let’s help the members of the group to grow individually, as well as to build our confidence. We now have individual platforms and the group stands as an entity.
Instead of destroying what we took years to build, because of selfish reasons, we have given ourselves the opportunity to engage in adventures individually. Importantly, we have also put in place a structured management and it working for us. We so much understand ourselves. I don’t think we can have any problem whatsoever, because we were already friends before we started Midnight Crew and business partners. So, the friendship stands even more than the business, it is always our pleasure working together.
The financial aspect, which could be an issue for any group, is no problem for us. We have put in place a solid structure. Midnight Crew is not just a musical group, but a registered company called the Midnight Crew Music Limited and we are determined with our goals. What makes friendship last is contract; there is no trust without contract, if you have a contract, you can go and sleep, because the contract defines the relationship. We did that for ourselves; we gave definitions to it and trust me, it has worked and it is still working. The contract and the revelation God gave us, even our style of songs writing, are unique. We have a vision and a target audience.
Do you think the gospel music industry is doing enough?
Nobody is doing enough; everybody is trying to give their best. I just think we can do better. No industry can say we have done enough, except if they don’t want to grow. I will say we are working hard. I don’t think we have done a quarter of what we ought to do; there is a lot of room for improvement.
Who is Mike Abdul outside music?
Outside music, I have been looking for myself. It is hard to find me outside music. I suspect I wouldn’t have been created if not for music, but I also love a bit of marketing.
Do you have regrets not practising what you studied in school?
I don’t have any regrets for not practising as an electrical engineer. In fact, I haven’t held any screw driver. Though I know I wouldn’t hold it, I did electrical engineering, because of microphone, but it is funny that I cannot even recognise the IC in the microphone; rather I am using the microphone to exalt God, as well as lift people’s souls.
How have you been able to overcome temptation from the opposite sex?
The Bible is so complete. It says: “…Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil….” Temptation is not a sin, but it is what we do with it that can result to sin. I think I love putting a system in place. Where you go, what you watch, eat and listen to inform what you will do. I can’t really say this is the biggest temptation, but temptation is everywhere, everyday and every hour.
What inspired the “Igwe” hit song?
Igwe wasn’t written by any of us. We have been singing everywhere. Somehow, we met the owner of the song somewhere, and we just connected to it. We met the guy and put things together and he said, ‘let us do it’, that was how “Igwe” surfaced. I wouldn’t want to talk about that too much. We had an agreement him. We thank God for the success of “Igwe”; it is like a stamp on Midnight Crew. There are times we chose not to sing it, but people demanded for it and insisted that they wouldn’t pay if we didn’t render the song.
Would you say that incorporating Fuji or Apala into gospel wormed you into people’s hearts?
It is not easy to make a difference. Sometimes, you try to make a difference and it may be appealing to the people. And sometimes you make it and people tend to fall in love with it. It is a scary thing for me, but I decided that we were going to do it. The style is true to me and it is something I love to do. I feel it is one of the things that make me believable by the people. The truth is that not everybody loves the particular style you sing and there are some people who are being left out. I feel this is not about the style of the music, but it is about the message.
I feel that if the style of music we do debars some people from getting the message, it is not perfect. So, I thought let’s understand the people: what kind of music they love and let’s present it to them in their language. So, if their language is Fuji, that is what we are going to do and if it is street language, that is what we are going to do. I am really enjoying the trend and a lot of people are taking it up from there now.
We have more people taking after my style of music and it is beautiful. I am happy I was around to learn from another people. It was an awesome experience the first time I heard gospel Fuji from Adekunle Fuji, and he has been my inspiration.
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