Ekundayo, a wake-up call for Nigerians — TY Bello
Listening to the song, The Land Is Green, takes your mind immediately to the beautiful songstress and former member of the defunct KUSH, Toyin Shokefun Bello a.k.a. The Land Is Green.
A professional photographer by training, the Ogun State-born singer also has a soft spot for the less privileged, orphans,and children.
The compassionate side of the singer can be appreciated in her newest work which centres around Madam Ekundayo,90, who has been running an orphanage single handedly since 1967.
What could have pushed Toyin this far, that she had to put her thoughts and feelings on vinyl? She explains the Ekundayo project to our Correspondent, Aramide Pius in this interview her encounter and role in the Ekundayo project saying, “Ekundayo is a wake-up call for all Nigerians.”
She also delved into other issues as you may soon find out. Enjoy;
What inspired the Ekundayo project in you?
It is basically a wake-up call for all Nigerians to realise that the people who are really making a difference don't have much, the people who are giving don't have much and the rest of us should not pass the buck to the government or to the big organisations; we all have our parts to play in making sure that we are all taken care of in our society.
So I think that Madam Ekundayo is a wake-up call to all of us to just wake up and realise that life is not just about us and our concerns, but there are people out there who actually need us. As poor as we think we are, there are still some people who actually need what we already have to give at a time.
How did you discover Madam Ekundayo or is she from your town?
No! Not at all. I am not from Kogi State. I am from Ogun State, but I have been travelling with Link-A-Child because I am a board member of the NGO. It was on such road trips that I ran into the orphanage in 2000.
And what's Link-A- Child?
Link-A-Child is an organisation that basically builds bridges between orphanages and the people who want to give to the orphanages. They don't raise funds directly, but feed people with information and encourage direct relationships between those who want to give and the orphanages.
One of the administrators for Link-A-Child, Bukola Olaiya went round the country at a time between 2003 – 2004 tracing the orphanages in Nigeria, and he came back with some very interesting stories on some people he met. And so, we took a journey to go and see that one and it was on that journey that I met Madam Ekundayo.
So how has she been caring for these children?
I would say that she, like many other people who run orphanages, are far from coping. I don't think our orphanages get all the support that they need. In fact, let us forget about all the support because I don't think they get nearly enough support because people only remember them at Christmas and at Sallah, but they forget that these children have needs that run through out the year.
Ekundayo has actually stopped active work in her orphanage a few years ago because she's very old, frail and does not have the energy like before to go out there and campaign for the kids as much as she used to in the past.
I witnessed on my visit how she took in a two-year-old boy named Bolu. Right now, she is more or less preparing to hand the orphanage over to her daughter who is also old and retired. Her daughter has just retired and she is taking over the orphanage from her very soon.
You seem very involved in this or are you planning to open an orphanage home very soon?
That is exactly my message that all of us cannot open orphanages, and for all of us who because of our lives and things we are pursuing cannot run an orphanage ourselves, but it is our responsibility to support those who are doing it.
For instance, you are a journalist and you cannot leave your job to start an orphanage unless God has called you to do it, but we should be there to support those who have decided to do it, and we must make sure that the work is not hard for them.
If you talk to anyone who has orphanage, they will tell you it has been very difficult for them and I think that whatever we have, whatever platform that we have, whether it's through our fund, or through publicity or even through our physical presence, if there is any way that we can support them, we should help go out there and do that.
Why did you choose to do the song with Olufunmi?
I don't really know why I had to choose Olufunmi, but I just find that as soon as I wrote the song, I just saw her name right on it. As soon as I wrote the song, I wrote her name on the song and I just knew she was the one who is supposed to sing the song with me.
Is it her voice or her vast experience in music?
It is beyond her voice or looks, I think it is her heart and I think God really wanted her to do the song with me. It was not like a physical thing, I just knew instantly that it was Olufunmi who is supposed to do it with me.
She is a very beautiful woman ,and she has a good heart for God who is even more beautiful inside and she has a heart for children. So, I felt that she would be singing the song from a very personal heart.
How was it working with Olufunmi, is the chemistry right?
We have a very good chemistry and it was very interesting working with her in the studio, and also shooting the video, because I also worked with her as a director on the video. She was very easy to work with; she was willing to give her all to the project.
On your awards, how do you feel about them?
I am very grateful for the awards that Green land has gotten me in the past years, the Nigeria Music Award and the Sound City Award.. I think it was a blessing and I am pleasantly surprised because every single person that was nominated deserved to win the award, and I felt much appreciated. It was really nice.
What inspires your lyrics because they sound very poetic?
Just like I was telling someone recently that each time I go out to the market or anywhere and I am passing and the woman selling just bring out her phone and call out and it will be 'green land' on the phone, it makes me very happy.
Green land was a song of encouragement and also a prophetic song. Nigerians are always saying 'Naija hard, Nigeria difficult' so I felt that this was a song to help Nigerians speak positively about Nigerians and when you speak positively into your life, good things start to happen.
We are all praying that the nation goes well, but one of the very first step to making sure that things turn around is when we actually use our own words, our own mouths to proclaim good things, so I believe that Green land was a song given to me by God to help people speak positively in to their lives and speak the harvest into their lives rather than complaining all the time.
Because Nigerians complain about many things ,but I think it is time that we start speaking good words into our lives so that things will start to take its turn for good.
From journalism to photography to music, how do you joggle all?
It takes the grace of God, but at the same time I realize that I have to be very wise and I have to be very disciplined with my time lines. I also try and set my boundaries. For instance as a musician, I am a song writer and I work creatively with music and musical videos ,but I don't perform so I realize that even though I want to engage in all these different activities I have to have compromise because I realize that I can not do everything and so I set my limits.
On a more personal note, are you married or... ?
I am married.
And what about kids?
I have none yet.
What are your tricks for keeping out of scandal over the years?
I believe it is just the favour of God because no one wants to stand for anything negative or something bad, and I think Nigerian journalists generally support their artistes and I think I have been supported in my works in the past few years. I just do my work and I am glad that people have supported my work.
Taking you down memory lane, what was your contact with music?
I used to write songs as a child and my first major contact was that I became part of a choir when I was in secondary school,s and I was also a part of a choir in my church after secondary school and during my university years, I became part of a group called Kush.,and it has been very interesting for me. Music has always been a part of my life.
What actually happened with Kush?
It was a great opportunity and blessing to have been part of Kush. I guess what happened was that we all decided to move on to other things in life, but we remain very good friends.
What about photography?
I photo shoot almost everyday, it is amazing because I have never stopped taking photographs,even when my album was released, the next day, I shot photographs for somebody, so I work all the time.
How do you handle advances from admirer and fans?
I guess, I have been blessed because the type of responses I get from people are usually that I have been touched by your music.
I think the words of the song I sing has blessed a lot of people, and I get a lot of feedbacks on how they listened to my music, and it has inspired them to do things and for me that is a biggest compliment because when people tell you that the song did something good to them.
I have spoken to a few people who recently through Ekundayo have decided to get involved in orphanages, go visit orphanages, some people want to adopt or making a decision to adopt and for me, that is like the biggest thing that has happened to me. knowing that the work you are doing is causing people to make decisions, it is a very big thing to have happened to me.
Do you have any memorable experience?
My life has been quite interesting and is full of a load of memorable experiences, but for me working as a photographer is knowing that everyday somebody new is going to open their world to you and you are going to have to document that work, I find that very interesting. It is always very interesting for me to go photographing people like Wole Soyinka and the rest. It is a very interesting one for me.
What is your perception of the Nigeria Music Industry?The Nigeria music industry has come a very long way and we are really growing. I think that the boom we are experiencing now, we have not experienced in such a long time, and I pray that all the stake- holders and those involved will see what is happening now as something special and really support the industry because we have done Nigeria proud. 9Nice just won a Mobo, loads of things are beginning to happen for us and I think that we are all doing great things, and I pray that the industry get the kind of support that we need.