By NBF News
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Like most famous musicians, he started his career from the church. With stage charisma as his strong weapon, it didn't take long before he got known all over Nigeria. Moving over to the UK later, Israel Olayinka Ekundayo, a.k.a. Mr. Manna continued to make waves even as he jammed regularly with such popular artistes as Sir Shina Peters, Yinka Ayefele and Jide Chord whenever they found themselves overseas. Right now, the juju musician is working on a number of projects, which will be unveiled at Christmas. Here, he tells Blockbuster about his musical odyssey.

My name is Israel Olayinka Ekundayo, a.k.a. Mr. Manna. I am from Badagry, Lagos State, I was born into a family of musically gifted parents. My father, Prophet A. Ekundayo was the choirmaster and my mum, Mother-in-Israel R. Ekundayo was the choir mistress at C&S Church, The Promised Land of Glory. I learnt my trade from the best sources available – my parents. As my parents aged, I was in the best position to succeed them, and I did.

I started my music career as the leader of C&S choir group and also formed a band, Manna Voices in 1994. Being a young aspiring musician and with stage charisma as a strong weapon, it didn't take long before I started getting gigs and getting known all over Nigeria. After my secondary school education, I trained as a lithographic printer at Ebenkol Graphic Arts Company in Lagos. Also, I studied Print Proof at The London Institute. In 1999, I moved over to the UK and gathered some of the best Nigerian musicians London could offer and continued my career. I have staged many concerts and have supported many other acts such as Jide Chord, Shina Peters and Yinka Ayefele whenever they are on tour in the UK.

My kind of music
My kind of music is a mixture of Afro-juju, highlife, and gospel music. My style of music can be distinguished from any other musician. My juju style is classic and unique. In this day and age where there is an abundance of musical talents in all genre of music, it is not enough for a musician to have a particular style. A musician must be exceptionally good with his own creative style.

Target audience
My target is everyone. Music is not for a particular set of people. It's for everyone. Even if you do not understand the language, the rhythms are very danceable and inspiring.

I get inspiration from God. He inspires me every time. I also get inspired by the kind of mood I find myself, mostly when I'm alone. I have been able to pass my music across to the young and old. I have been able to modernize my juju music to suit the Western style since the world is going Western. I can also satisfy older people with various types of traditional and original juju music.

There are several challenges we juju artistes face in the UK. One of them is identifying the real professionals. In the UK, there are lots of juju artistes. So, some people cannot identify the real professionals among us. Secondly, there are limited instrumentalists compared to Nigeria. There are so many lead vocalists with very few band members or no members at all. The money paid to secure one instrumentalist in the UK can get five instrumentalists in Nigeria.

State of Nigerian music
Music has improved so much in Nigeria today. There is a variety of musicians and the industry is very competitive. I believe my kind of music would stand out among others. My packaging is going to be very unique and different. I believe my people would love and appreciate my kind of music. Currently, I'm working hard on my video which is meant to be released by Christmas. I'm also composing and gathering songs for my next album, which will be ready by early 2012. My fans should expect some fantastic shows from me, done together with some famous musicians in Nigeria.