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WHY I LEFT INFINITY – KORE

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K ore
The name Kehinde Akinbode would hardly ring a bell. Maybe the name K'ore could, but Infinity will surely and readily will. It's the name of the five man gospel group whose hit album Olori Oko ruled the airwaves in 2006 and even subsequently. They were the toast of most gospel music lovers in Nigeria and abroad. Churches also courted them to bring in the crowd.

But alas, while the group basks in its success and lapped up its newfound fame and fortune, the lead vocalist of the group, Kehinde Akinbode who has some of the hit songs in the album, Olori Oko and Aye o le to his credit called it quits with the group. Recently, Sunday Sun caught up with the young man who is in his late twenties. He has since moved on with his own music and re-branded as K'ore.

In this interview, he answered the question that has most been thrown at him since his exit from Infinity: Why he left. He also opened up on his humble beginnings, his musical career which he considers his calling, fame, women, money and his Christian faith. Excerpts :

Born in Ajegunle, raised in Mushin
My family had been middle class all along. My dad used to work for Leventis Motors. He was brilliant at his work and he traveled abroad for training. He worked in different states in Nigeria, as a mechanical engineer. I was born in Ajegunle. We moved from there to Isolo, and because it was quite close to Mushin, my mum didn't allow us to go out because she didn't want me to mix with the wrong crowd.

Until I was 11 or 12, my playmates were just my sisters. I have three sisters; a twin sister, an elder sister and a younger one. Then I could tie wrapper very well like a woman. In fact my mother almost turned me into a sissy. My dad was not always around. In fact Jesus has done a lot for me, because this was how I was saved from that trap. I'm a guy, I needed to ride a bicycle, play football, do what other guys are doing, but my mum was just loving me all the while. She didn't know any better.

Mum didn't allow me to ride bicycle
Or even play football but she allowed me to attend church.

However there was a fellowship just behind our house, and though she wouldn't allow me go and play football and ride bicycle, she was okay with me going to the church. We were nominal Christians all the while. We weren't going to church often, so I became the first person that would really become a serious Christian in the family. In the sense of being born-again at least. I remember my mum came to look for me in the church, then my sisters started following me, and gave their lives there too with my mum. Then they also started attending the fellowship, and we started attending church.

Subsequently,  I became a member of the choir. I was about twelve then and I wrote songs and took lead roles in the choir until my family moved to Agege where my father has his house. Then I changed school and became a leader in the school's fellowship.

When we started out and people asked us for our album, we asked ourselves if we were that good.

At that time we were thinking of doing something to make the fellowship more vibrant, because we were losing young people to secular clubs. So we started a group we called All for Christ because we were four. However, a friend later told us that name wasn't original enough because it readily reminds you of All for One, the R and B sensation of the eighties. That we should think of something else. So we thought of different names and came up with Infinity. That was how the group came to be. From the excos of the fellowship in school.

That was how we started getting invitations from outside the school, and people would ask us for our album. At that point we began asking ourselves if we were that good, because we never saw ourselves as good enough to do an album. We were just having fun. The four of us, and another person joined us. And at some point we started adjusting to the vision and Infinity's Olori Oko album was launched in 2006, it became a hit and the rest is history.

We couldn't afford to translate the  first idea we had for Olori Oko video. As a team what we did was sit down and critique several musical videos, because we wanted ours to be the best. So we'll sit and play the songs over and over, because we wanted something very grand. The first idea that came was like a Zulu movie, depicting war, with the lord of the army coming in.

An African man tall and regal, but that was going to cost us a lot, and we didn't have the money. So we thought of how to streamline and still pass across the message. Then Sunny suggested we did a drum thing and ideas started flowing. And we thought Dayo Liadi whom we had met previously could do the dance. So it became a subjective idea, whereas what we thought initially was to literally depict a war scene, and a war hero coming on the scene.

Before then, we had a few stints with arts practitioners like Mr. Wale Macaulay, grandson of Herbert Macaulay. It was actually on the set of his play, The Rape of Gidiolu, that we met Dayo. It was a socio-political drama and we handled the music aspect while Dayo handled the dance.

We were camped on Snake Island for the production for a month, after which we did a presentation at the National Arts Theatre, and it was beautiful. For us, it was a taste of the arts and the experience remains memorable for me.

When I left Infinity
Some people said I was crazy, but I was convinced it was the next thing for me to do.

I was convinced it was the next thing to do, we had been together for eleven years. Having been together for that long, we had set out to achieve certain things, and I'm the kind of person that likes to take stock of what I've done. For example, after you've gone I will take stock of things that I did in the course of the day.

I do that a lot and I was convinced it was the next thing to do. It wasn't easy for me, because it was at a time the group was at it's peak. We were enjoying a lot of favour and goodwill. We were traveling. We just came back from the UK, things were rosy and good. ill date I've heard people say, I was either really just courageous obeying God or simply crazy to have done what I did at that time.

It's not true that I left the group because the others were distracted by the opposite sex.

If I may throw this back to you, if perhaps there was any truth in that, do you think I would be the one spreading that about? Would it be my job to squeal on them? Of course, you would expect me to call them, and talk to them. Even if I would leave on that basis, it shouldn't be me spreading the story. And I would say categorically that my leaving the team was not on that basis. I attribute all that to yellow journalism.

I love them and I miss them. Oh God, I miss them sometimes!

But for now we need to give space so that people can differentiate Kenny K'ore from Infinity.

For now, I don't perform with the group. No, because that would be confusing people. If you say you've left, let people see that you left, instead of hanging around with them. I'm sure sometime in the future, we may be doing things together but for now, a lot of people are yet to accept that I left, so we need to give that space for people to really know that this is Kenny K'ore, and that is Infinity. They've recorded an album but it's not out yet. I think they are shooting the video. They've been doing some promo on Radio.

On my part, I've been promoting my album titled Eledumare, that's the one that has Yannibo. I don't know if you're familiar with folktales of the tortoise. The tortoise will be a metaphor for a greedy, sly, cunning and evil person. Usually they say behind every great man, there is a great woman. Behind every bad man too, there is a bad woman. So the tortoise has a wife and usually in folklore, his wife's name is Yannibo  . So the idea came from there. Basically she is the everyday woman, who likes a guy who unfortunately is married, and she didn't know how to deal with that. And she wanted to force the guy into a relationship.

The idea behind Yannibo is to erase the notion that men can't resist seduction.

The idea is not to paint women as Yannibo , as bad people. I wanted to fight the idea that almost every woman out there has. That men cannot resist seduction. The belief is that even with the best of us, the pastors, 'make the woman just shake body, e go fall'. Though  there is a level of truth in that, but we need to fight that kind of thinking. Our generation is formed by ideas. And how do you fight an idea? You fight it with another idea usually a better one. What I'm trying to do with that song is that I want every man that listens to that song to be able to say 'Yes, I can do it! I will not yield to temptation, I'll be faithful to my wife'.

I'm   normal like every other guy
The thing is I'm a very normal guy, which means every normal weakness that the average guy has, I have them too. I'm so like that. However I love God, and I see that people perceive me like that, 'This one is a child of God', and that matters to me a lot. We don't have that a lot anymore. Our generation is moving towards the precipice, everyday our  musical videos are always about sex.

If they're not about sex, it's about money, about greed, it's about lust, everything negative, everything anti-Christ, anti-good nature and character. It's out of character, out of custom, out of tradition, it's just crazy. The fact that our government, music censors board or whatever is allowing this outrageous trend. is bad.

So if you have one guy, a lady out there who can still be an embodiment of light, embodiment of what we used to be in terms of culture, respect, character, in terms of everything that is scriptural, why would you want to trade that off for momentary pleasure of sleeping around. It just  doesn't make sense to me.

I once lied to wriggle out of temptation
At a time I was in a relationship with a very good friend of mine. I think I still care about her but we just realized that we couldn't go on and we amicably settled to just remain friends. But while I was in a relationship with her, I was in the UK and I met this lady. She was very beautiful, and then we went to this eatery which also doubles as a library. It overlooks the city of London. We sat at a table, we got books, tea and small chops, and we were talking. That moment was like  a dream come true for me.

It was a picture perfect scene but I was already committed to someone. And that dampened the whole atmosphere. So while I and this lady were together, I felt there was chemistry, and I didn't like it, because I felt it was wrong. I had somebody back here at home, that I was committed to. So while I was talking to the lady, I just said, 'Ah! I miss my girlfriend', whereas it was a lie. The last thing on my mind at that time was missing her. I wasn't missing her ; infact I was wishing she wasn't in my life(laughter). But I needed to do that at that moment, and the magic disappeared because I brought in my girlfriend, and I felt bad.

Naturally she was already warming up to it but of course now knowing that I was attached, any self respecting lady will ease out, which was what happened. I saw all that and didn't like it, but in the long run, I can sit with you and talk about it and I'm proud I was able to do the right thing.  That was why I sang in Yannibo. You look at me like I am cruel, but I'm not an ordinary man, I fear the Lord, I have a wife and a son. I'm going to do what is right, though it seems so hard. Then I go, 'so hard baby' like it's painful.

Why I'm into music
We sang Olori Oko mainly in English and Yoruba, then we spoke in tongues a lot. Speaking in tongues is a deliberate thing that I decided to do in most of my projects because Jude said in the Bible, 'Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost'. Speaking in tongues is a Christian reality, it is one of our most holy faith, when we pray. I felt like we should flaunt it. These other guys they flaunt bling, bling, they even tell us they smoke igbo. They show girls that are shaking their backsides in their videos. What are we proud of? Americans flaunt their heritage(culture). I'm a  Christian ; is there anything in my heritage as a Christian that I can just flaunt, and be proud of?

That's why I do what I do.
Music is not what I'm doing to make a name or just to put food on my table. It's something I'm doing to make a mark in my generation, so I have to do research. I won't just get a catchy phrase and just put a rhythm together and put beats together, no. People still refer to people like Bob Marley , Fela, Ebenezer Obey, and Sunny Ade. Their music is still relevant today. If it was just something they were just lackadaisical  about, their songs won't be evergreen. They would have passed with time.

There is a song I have, I got the lyrics, the rhythm, melody in a dream. I woke up, took my recorder and took everything, however you still need to work. Sometimes I want to say something in Yoruba, I don't want to use the Lagos dialect but the very deep ones, so I consult with my mum or other elderly persons. My mum is from Ogbomoso in Oyo State while my dad is from Abeokuta in Ogun State.

I chose the name K'ore because it speaks to my destiny

K'ore simply means 'Ku orire'(Congratulations). I wanted something artistic, something very African that is meaningful and can speak over my life, because I believe there is something in a name. Oftentimes people don't realize this when they call themselves funny names. Those names answer over their lives. Call it my bias, but I'm convinced there's something in a name. I thought about several names, there's one I love so much, Theodore-it means lover of God, but I decided against it because it isn't African. and I wanted a name that will reflect my heritage. I'm proudly African, I'm proudly Nigerian, and I want to flaunt it. So K'ore is a shortened form of Ku orire. It's a name that is speaking over my life and speaking over my destiny.

Three things convinced me that music is my calling

One, because one is gifted . Two, being passionate about it, and three because you have the know-how. God will not call you into an area in which you're not gifted, or passionate about. If someone's trying to find his area of calling, the first thing he'll be told is to first find his area of passion, his gifts, and to develop himself in that area. And one wouldn't have strayed too far from that calling. For me I've noticed that I was gifted in this area. In fact, if I had counsel earlier, I wouldn't have done science. I could have just stayed in the arts, because I can paint, write, and of course play music.

Gospel is gift, it's sacrifice…but there should be a balance

I think whatever you are doing, the motive should be beyond money. Even if it's secular music and especially when it's gospel, it should definitely not just be about you because gospel is gift. It's sacrifice, it's a ministry, but there should be a balance. Oftentimes I come to a point that I'm thinking, any form of extreme is bad, whether to the left wing  or the right wing. The Bible itself is a book of balance such that Jesus would say 'do this, but do not leave this undone'. Such that they would say, do not muzzle the ox that threads the corn, don't put money ahead.

He said 'seek ye first the kingdom…'. Then He said after seeking the kingdom, 'all of these things would be added to you'. He knows you need them. That's the point I want most of our pastors and churches to realize. When we put ministry first, like I'm doing, Paul said 'I've ministered unto you spiritual things, now you minister to me…' You look at me, listened to my project, looked at my life, see where I may need help. Don't make me ask you to do it, because I will not charge you, I will minister to you spiritual things.

The reason why we have issues now with gospel artistes and churches on charging fees or not is because a lot of gospel artistes have realized that it's a jungle out there, nobody cares. You will spend money to do quality production. I've spent over N3.5 million and I'm still spending on my project. You spend money to put yourself on TV, do a great video, promote videos but guess what happens these days? I dare say churches are not inviting you, because you are anointed .

They are inviting you because you're the happening thing. You're the rave of the moment. If you come to church, more people will troop after you, and come. All of that costs money but then you do it. And then they give you an envelope containing N10,000,  N20,000 or N30,000. That's ridiculous . You're not singing any less than the secular artiste. Infact, in most cases, the gospel artistes are better vocally.

The average lifespan of a secular album ranges from four to six months whereas that of a gospel album ranges between six to ten years and more. Midnight Crew's Igwe is still selling, Infinity's Olori Oko is still selling, and I think Asa is an evergreen. She will sell forever. A lot of all these swagger, ginger, just name them, their lifespan is between four and six months. At the end of the day when we look at it , one is perhaps better than these guys,  yet they are raking in money in their millions. And the church doesn't seem to understand that. Gospel music is a strong tool of evangelism. If you play it down, you're pulling down the salvation and the sanity in a lot of churches.

Many of the secular artistes that are singing dirty songs today were church people, but I don't blame them in a way, because when they were in the church nobody reckoned with them. But now, they do one hit track and they are buying houses in Lekki, they are riding Bentley, living large. My project(album) was given to about three secular labels and they were like men…if this guy was only secular. I'd probably be in money by now, getting endorsements, maybe I'll get a Bentley or something  close. It'll come in Jesus name, it usually does. I'm not saying all these, because I feel sorry for myself. I'm saying this, because it's an issue that should be addressed. In any case, I've always known that even if they don't do it, if you're faithful to God who called you, He will be faithful to you.

Of course I miss having  a ride especially in Lagos

How it has been since I left Infinity? If you're talking about shows, yes I still have shows but can't compare with when I was with the group. I'm not even trying to compare, I'm convinced it was the next thing for me to do and I have my peace. God has been faithful.

I gave out my car, a BMW Coupe but do you know my prayer everyday,? Father have your way, just have your way with me. Even if it's going to be hard for me, help me to obey you. I love God more than my reputation. When the scripture says, 'the life I live, I live in Christ, the life I have is not my own', I've often noticed in my life that anytime I have a strong sense of God in it, for whatever I might lose, I get peace of mind.

Of course I miss having a ride especially in Lagos but it's ok. I can live with myself.  I feel I obeyed God. You know there was something God wanted me to do, and I never did it? And it still haunts me till today. I still had that car then. God told me to drop the car, enter a molue, carry Infinity CD and just share my testimony, no preaching. But I was too shy to do that and it haunts me. Anytime God asks me to do something and I don't, I lose my peace.