I am a QUEEN, not an EVANGELIST – Busola Oke
Queen Busola Oke is one of the few Nigerian musicians, who still sing in the traditional way. She basically sings in Yoruba language and her sonorous voice is not just catchy, but melodious. She recently returned to Nigeria after a six-month sojourn, studying music in London. She speaks with Hazeez Balogun on how she is re-branding her kind of music and talks of not wanting to be a stereotyped gospel musician.
You just returned from the United Kingdom after six months. What exactly did you do there?
I was all over the United Kingdom, Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. The reasons for my travel are in two parts. First, I had to go and upgrade myself, and secondly, I went to entertain my fans over there. It was fun all the way. As I said, I went to upgrade myself. What I meant by that is that I went to school. I went to study music. I know that if I am into something, I should be professional about it, so I went there to finish my schooling.
Is that all?
No. I was also able to get a franchise for a dance school. Meaning that I will soon be opening a dance school here in Nigeria where people can learn how to dance. At the end, they will get a certificate from the mother school in London. So I think with that a lot of Nigerian youths who think they can dance can enrol and learn how to do dance professionally.
But you are not a professional dancer.
No I am not. But do I need to be a professional dancer to open a dance school? Do you need to be a journalist to open a newspaper house?
I don't think so. I am into singing. so naturally, dancing is a flair of mine. But I won't be the teacher. What I will do is that I will bring in professional dance teachers who are trained in London to take the classes. They will teach them all sorts of dances. Like I said, when they finish, they will be getting a London Dance School certificate.
It must be an expensive school
Funny enough it is not. In fact it is free. For the first level which will take six months, the course will be free. After that, students will need to pay to go on with the programme, so it is not really that expensive, we are only trying to engage the youths.
Now that you are back, what should be expected from you?
A lot. I know many of my fans have missed me. Being away for six months is no joke. So, to cover up I will be releasing two albums at the same time. I know that with that they will no longer miss me. Also the dance school thing is coming up. Also, some people do not know that I write scripts for movies. I have been doing that for a while and I also have one ready right now. I will let you know when that is ready.
So it's bye bye to movie soundtracks?
That is one misconception I would like to erase. Some people see me only as a movie soundtrack singer and that's all. I don't blame them though, the truth is, that was exactly what brought me to limelight. Talking about the Eleyele song, for me to do the Soundtrack, means I am already a singer. It may shock you to know that I already had two albums before I did the Eleyele song. So definitely, I have continued to pursue my musical career. If I ever get a job to do another soundtrack for a movie, I will gladly do it. But that is not all I am about.
Do you think the Yoruba movie industry is improving?
Yes, I will say that they have improved. Looking back at where they were before and looking at where they are now, surely, one has to give it up to them. I mean in London, our films are hot cakes. Not only to Nigerians but to a whole lot of people. I don't want to segregate the Yoruba movies, I am talking about Nigerian movies as a whole. The are gaining a lot of reputation abroad.
When you look at the Nigerian music scene, you see that women are not doing as well as their male counterparts. The reverse is the case in places like America and the U.K.
Well, I don't really know what I can say about that. To a large extent, that is true. You see men doing most of the singing here. Even traditionally, women are known with songs better than men. Maybe, it has to do with how that industry is structured. But I won't say that we are being pushed aside. Look at me for instance, nothing is holding me back, same goes for many other female singers.
You said you went to school in the U.K. did you ever school in Nigeria?
Yes I did. My secondary school was at the University of Lagos Staff school. My father was a lecturer at the school at that time. He died two years ago. He was a professor before he died. I also went to Regan school. Later I landed at the Univerity of Lagos where I studied Mass Communication.
So why did you not practice journalism?
That is a long story which I don't want to tell. I am in the music industry now, and that is what matters.
What inspires your music?
My everyday life and my experiences. I get inspired by everything around me. Things that happen to me, my friends, my family, I observe and sing about them. There is inspiration everywhere. One has to just look around.
You sing gospel...
No, no, no. I do not sing gospel music. I do not refer myself as a gospel artiste. Yes, sometimes, I praise the lord in my music. In fact, I love praising the lord. But please don't call me a gospel artiste. I sing for everyone. I sing for Muslims, I sing for Christian, I sing for pagans, I sing for everyone in the world regardless of their religion. So that is why I don't like people classifying me as a gospel artiste. I see myself as an inspiration to others. I inspire people with my music.
But you perform in churches
So? What if I perform in churches? Everyone needs inspiration. If you call me to your mosque, I will sing. Who says one needs to be a gospel singer to sing in churches. If a church thinks they want me to sing for them, why not? What I just don't want is to be limited. That is why I don't call myself Sister, or evangelist. In fact, I am not an evangelist by title. The title my fans gave me in London is Queen. So you can now refer to me as Queen Busola Oke. Even the Eleyele should be removed, that is the old me. I am proud of the song, but that is in the past.
What has been your greatest challenge?
What I would describe as the my greatest challenge, is the same challenge every musician face. That is getting into limelight. Before I became known and popular, I had done two albums, and nobody knew them. I had the talent but nobody believed in me. No marketer will want to promote a new artiste. They call it 'Oja okunkun'(uncertain market). It was until I did the Eleyele soundtrack that people began to notice me.
Are you married?
Yes I am married with two kids
Wow, how do you juggle that with such a hectic career?
I have a very understanding husband. He stays by me all the time. He supports me and my career.
Story by nollywoodgists.com