Yinka Ayefele: His full story
Olayinka Ayefele, a gospel music crooner, with a fusion of juju and fuji, turned a mishap into a great opportunity that has left him a household name tells Olu Omo Bukunola the story of his life in this interview.
Yinka Ayefele has been in the entertainment industry, as instrumentalist, for a while. He became a household name after he was involved in an auto crash in 1999, which damaged his spinal cord, and since the release of the much talked about album, Sweet Experience, Ayefele's profile in the gospel music industry has been on the rise. He has been honored with many awards, both nationally and internationally, the latest being The Entrepreneurial Award 2003, by City People, a Lagos based soft sell magazine. Also, he is being nominated for the award for the Most Valuable Gospel Artiste in Nigeria by the organisers of The Somolu community award. Regarding this, he said, “it is a welcome development. In that, it shows that people appreciate what one is doing. And this will really make me work harder for God to win more honors and souls for him. I am grateful to God and those who find me worthy of honors and I will not forget my family and members of my band (Yinka Ayefele Incorporated).
When our corespndent met with this youngman in his late 30's he was in a happy mood. With little prompting, he spoke about his carrier as a broadcaster, gospel artiste and why he has not released an album in recent times. “It is not as if one does not have songs to sing again, but it is a part of our strategy to give room for my fans, for an album to be enjoyed to the letter.” He also stated that if he had his way he would reduce the number of his albums to 1 in a year. “A wise musician would not be releasing albums like pure water, if care is not taken, you are off the block, exhorts all you have and this may not be good for one's career.” That is why I respect artistes like Lagbaja and Femi Kuti. They don't just release albums, they take their time.” He highlighted some of the rudiments of album production. You have to write the songs, compose, arrange, go for studio session etc, after which, you listen to the songs again and again. All these are necessary. And if these things are done properly the quality of the music will be good.” He further canvassed the need for quality produtions of our music just as he opined that some inimical activities are bedeviling the progress of the music industry. 'We all have to build it. The industry is making impact but then, a lot needs to be done on the quality of some of the albums produced here.” One also has to put so many things like piracy, and distribution into consideration, because there is no point in putting so much money into an investment that one is not sure would yield result; good result, for that matters. But then piracy, or no piracy, people still invest in the music industry.Though, it is not good for our works.”
Ayefele further opined that a collective campaign by practitioners would solve the problem of piracy in the country. 'The joint efforts of every practitioner be it musicians, actor, actress, authors, moviemaker, music distributors, would indeed help reduce piracy to a minimal level if not total eradication. “I salute the courage of the leadership of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) led by Charles Oputa for spearheading the fight against piracy. The fight would not be successful without the support of the government, there should be a very strong law that will deal with piracy, it shouldn't be only when there are events at the state house or Abuja that the government would realize that there are a set of Nigerians called artistes. The government should note that there are millions of naira that could be generated from music and the entertainment industry if our works are well protected under the law. These 'Pirates' are like a cartel. They are connected all over the place. Recently, about four million pirated CDs of Nigerian artistes, including my works, where seized in South Africa. I understand they we being imported from Singapore, en route South Africa to Nigeria. Those are the ones that were not lucky. What about those who succeeded in bringing pirated CDs into the country? The public, too, should help us. They should not buy pirated works. His brand of music means so many things to so many people. Some people call it classical gospel music while others argu it is nothing but contemporary gospel music. To many, he is a revolutionary in the gospel music industry because there is a fusion of juju, makossa, jazz and a bit of fuji which makes his own form of gospel music danceable without compromising the gospel message. But in all these, Ayefele says 'I am playing gospel music and it is left for my fans and admirers to decide what brand of gospel music they want to call it”.
Having traveled to many countries in Europe and America with the intention of going on tour of about 24 countries in America before the year runs out, Ayefele described the acceptance of his music outside the shore of the country as very encouraging. “Atimes, I think it is a dream because the kind of accolade that people give us any where we perform, both Nigerian and non Nigerians, is overwhelming. From the airport people want to be associated with you by way of showing how much they love and appreciate one's music, it is not my doing but that of God”.
His pedigree in entertainment is deep. The one time chorister and instrumentalist with La lale Friday exponent Wale Thompson, Mico Ade and others, this was before becoming a full time gospel artist years back, also had a brief working experience with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Ibadan “Working with FRCN Ibadan was fun although I started off as their yearly Father Christmas, because I was not employed immediately. Thereafter, I attended the FRCN Training school in Lagos. between 1993/1994.” He described his first time on the airwaves as the day he would never forget in his life. “It was a day I was waiting for. Before then, I used to practice alone in my room, trying to talk like a presenter. He further relayed his experience as a broadcaster before the ugly auto crash that claimed his spinal cord in 1997. "It was not an easy thing anchoring four programmes every week, programmes like Eku Isimi on Sunday, Lagbo Faji on Friday, Pirilologoji. I opted out of FRCN in 1996 and became a freelance broadcaster with Radio Stations like Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, (BCOS) and the Ondo State owned Radio Station (OSRC).”
Today, he sees broadcasting as very challenging, thanks to the liberalization of the industry. He hopes the broadcasting industry in Nigeria is poised for the formidable challenges that come with globalization. “I would love to see the industry climb to greater heights with the coming on board of many private radio stations with visions. I pray for an industry where in the years ahead professionalism will be the watchword.” Interestingly, Ayefele's ambition to become a musician was meted with opposition from his parents. “They were against my choice of profession. But after the accident, I couldn't continue as a broadcaster. It was not easy for me to be traveling from Ibadan to Ondo State every other week for my programmes, so that was how I become a full time gospel artist. I added Aye to my surname, which used to be Fele, to make it Ayefele (soft world) and they accepted it. When asked what brought about that, he responded. Experiences in life have taught me so many things which I tag the good, the bad and the not too good but no matter what, life must go on, with God on my side. Asked how has it been, being on a wheel chair for over five years, he paused before his reply “In every situation that one is in, one should be grateful to God. I did not plan for it, it just happened like that. I thank God that I am still alive. I still believe I am going to walk because with God all things are possible. I do not let the situation weigh me down that is why I love being in the midst of people. Why won't I give thanks to God. There are people out there whose conditions are worse than that of Ayefele.
Since the release of his debut album, Bitter Experience, followed by Sweet Experience, his popularity has been on the increase. This is because Ayefele has been able to improve and sustain the tempo of his music, album after album. Olayinka sings the praises of some of his fans making him the first gospel artiste to do so in an album. People are of the view that this is not good for gospel music, while many do not see anything wrong or bad with the innovation but Ayefele argues that the reason why he introduced such idea into his music is trying to attract such people to him “There is no way you will win somebody"s soul without first attracting the person to you, that is exactly what I am trying to do with my music, I generalize it and make it a music that everybody can listen or dance to particularly the non-Christian. Ordinarily, most gospel artistes love adding titles like Evangelist, Apostle, Doctor to their names, but he simply prefers to be called Yinka Ayefele “I love simplicity, I am not moved by titles and besides, when I start adding titles like evangelist to my name, it will mean that I am restricted to the Christians alone and what I want to achieve, as a gospel artiste, may not be “achieveable”.
To Ayefele, the gospel music industry in Nigeria is growing. To up-coming gospel artistes, he says, they should take their education very serious because that is what they will fall back on. The second thing is hardwork.” If you believe in what you are doing, stick to it, stay committed. With some prayer you will get there.The avenue is wide and open for more talents and of course, every young one should learn from those who are professionals and exploit the opportunity for training that may be available to them”. In other to help some of these up coming artistes, he said his studio (Music Room), which was established purposely for his own use, will be willing to assist up - coming gospel artistes. This is by way of giving out the studio to them at a give away price.
“It is good to give people the opportunity to come out on their own to showcase their talent.”
If the accident that happened to him were to be handled with good medical facilities seven years ago today Ayefele may not have being on a wheelchair. In order to help spinal cord victims in the country Ayefele said he is working on a foundation, Yinka Ayefele Foundation that will be mainly to assist and support spinal cord injured people. He further revealed that he has discussed with some charity organizations in London and the authority of the British agency for the spinal cord people who are willing to support his Foundation when it begins operations in the months to come. If Ayefele had not been a broadcaster or a gospel artiste, there is only one profession he would have loved to practice which is to be a banker. Unfortunately, Ayefele could not finished his education at the Ondo State College of Education as a Political Science student,due to financial incapability. In the near future, if the opportunity comes, he hopes to go to the University to up grade his academic status just for the fun of it.
Before now, Ayefele does not take it easy with critics. He appreciate good criticisms, though he has had a bad experience in the hands of the media sometime ago. “It was while I was on the sick bed in London, it was reported by a newspaper here in Nigeria that I did not go to London, that I was admitted in a local hospital in Benin Republic. I really felt bad about the article. Over the years I have lernt how to handle such articles Olayinka Ayefele was born over 30 yrs ago. He is a native of Ipoti Ekiti in Ekiti State. After his elementary education at 'Our Saviours Anglican Primary School' Ipoti Ekiti, he proceeded to Ipoti Community Secondary School. He later attended Ondo State College of Arts and Science Ikare Akoko. In Dec. 1997, he had an accident on his way to Abeokuta and sustained a spinal cord injury which confined him to a wheel chair. His favourite dish is 'Iyan and 'Lasep'(Ila Alasepo) or Eba tutu and worowo soup and is happily married to "his African Queen"Temitope Titilope Oluwaseun Ayefele nee Fawusi.
His philosopthy is there is no subtitute to hard work,Success may not come as fast as expected by it will surely come sooner that you think.