KUSH BROKE UP BECAUSE OF FINANCIAL PRESSURE -LARA GEORGE, GOSPEL ARTISTE
One gospel artiste who is dissatisfied at the moment is Lara George. Reason? Churches in Nigeria don't see the need to pay gospel artistes what they are worth because they feel there is no need for such payment. In her words: ' The attitude is almost as though we are being done a favour.'
An architect by training from the University of Lagos, Lara told Daily Sun in a recent chat that although marriage is not smooth-sailing, she has found a perfect partner in her husband. The award winning gospel artiste also shared with us why the wave-making group she was part of in the past went under. She also spoke on other issues. Excerpts:
You have been around for a while, what are your secrets of staying on top in your career?
I can't even say that I know what that secret is. I have not felt encouraged at all and the moments of joy have been so few and far apart that it simply has to be that God has a need for me on the scene is why He has kept me around in the industry.
I'm also learning to be true to myself and my God, to the person who He made me to be. I'm discovering more about His plan for me everyday and with that I'm able to just take one day at a time knowing that God always leads me in triumph and that my end has no choice but to be glorious.
What would you say about your career at the moment?
I feel really blessed. My first solo album which featured the Ijoba Orun song was so well received, and I thought that was amazing until I released my second and current album which is self-titled 'Lara George' featuring songs like kolebaje, komasi, and Halleluyah with Midnight Crew's Patricia King. The response to that has been mind-blowing. Despite all the challenges of my music genre, God has pleasantly surprised me with a totally maxed out itinerary and very special and diverse audiences. I truly feel blessed.
What is the greatest challenge you face as a gospel artiste?
As a gospel artiste, the greatest challenge has been having to do it alone. I have had to do every single thing by myself with no support except God and my husband. It's been financially challenging and emotionally tasking. Several times, I have been tempted to throw in the towel. When the work finally gets done with all the expensive production costs and massive video director bills, one then has to deal with the issue of being underpaid.
What most people do not know is that it costs the gospel artiste the same to produce their work as do the secular artistes who get paid a very healthy lump of money for their efforts at the end of the day. It's sad that although the church in Nigeria is able to afford it, most of them do not see the need to pay Gospel artistes appropriately. The attitude is almost as though we are being done a favour. I hope that someday in the very near future, we will begin to invest in human capital rather than on less important things.
What do you wish you would have done differently now compared to before?
Looking back, I have no regrets. I am happy for the journey that I have been led on in life and I am somehow convinced that it's been the best path for me. I may not have felt great all the time during the tough times, but things have definitely worked out in my favour.
How did your foray into music begin?
My earliest recollection is of taking part in the sunday school competition at the Anglican church which I was born into. This was when I was about 8 years old. More prominently though, I recall being a part of the school choir at my secondary school alma mater, Queens' College Yaba Lagos and that was definitely the start for me. I learned tonic solfa, sight reading, was taken on voice training classes by my excellent teachers: Mrs Funmi Boamah and Mr Hicks. I also started piano lessons but unfortunately lost the skills from lack of practice.
Did you face any kind of opposition from your family when you started out?
Well, my parents were not too pleased initially, particularly my mom. To them, music could only be a hobby and they were worried that I would try to place it at the forefront of my career considerations, and so they never wholeheartedly supported it. Their emphasis was always finish school and get a professional degree. It turned out that that was what I needed to make it through the difficult years in the school of architecture and I'm quite glad after all for their insistence.
Is music your childhood dream?
As a child, I used to see myself in front of a crowd of millions of people with their hands raised in worship to God whilst I lead them in song. I must have been like 6 years old when I would see that in my mind's eye. I would stand in front of a fan, close my eyes and imagine that that was my microphone. Music was definitely a childhood dream for me.
What inspires your tunes?
Life and living. Anything and everything. One peculiar thing is that my songs must always inspire listeners to greater heights and help people see the God-perspective as a better point of view.
Do you ever wish you had done something else other than music since gospel music is not really financially rewarding?
I'm happy I do music because I know I need to use the talent I have been given. Doing other things? I definitely will because I know it's possible. Already, I am the Vice President of Nigeria's first entertainment Distribution company called Soforte Entertainment Distribution Limited. I am Vice President of this Nigeria's first structured entertainment distribution company. Our goal is to create a solid network for ensuring that entertainment products eg music, movies etc, reach the end-user easily and legitimately.I also look forward to doing much more.
You have a lovely voice, is that why you chose gospel genre?
Thanks so much for the compliment. Well, doing gospel or inspirational music like I love to call my style has simply come naturally. I believe that music should always be used responsibly because it's a huge responsibility to be blessed with the gift.
As a Christian, what do you think is the greatest challenge Christians in Nigeria are facing?
The ability or lack thereof to speak the truth regardless, and without fear or favour. Christians in Nigeria think that Christianity is about wearing our sunday best and making it to midweek services. Where is our ability to separate ourselves from the corruption that surrounds us? Why do we see injustice and go silent? What happened to kindness in our marriages? Where is the love that Jesus preached about? We have held on to the form of Godliness and unfortunately mostly lost the substance.
You are passionate about music no doubt, does it pay some of your bills?
At the moment, no, it does not. The way gospel artistes are renumerated is so poor that the average one can even barely return to studio for another album after the first one. The truth is that until 'millions' become matter of course at least for A- list gospel artistes, it simply will not be sustainable to continue to do gospel music unless we are expected to steal or beg which would be terribly sad.
The labourer deserves his wages. You simply cannot put a price on intellectual property and because the artiste is a limited resource and is unique, we must be paid premium for what we do especially when the means are there.
You were formally a member of a group called Kush, why did you girls part ways?
I will say that Kush largely ended because of financial pressure. I haven't really said this before publicly but I feel it's important for people to know that we need to support good stuff when we see it, not just with words of mouth, but with our money. By support, I do not mean handouts or freebies. I am simply saying please let us pay when we know that people are deserving of it.
For Kush, even though we had started receiving good offers from the corporate world and I can confidently say that we were one of the earliest Nigerian groups to be paid N1million as at 10years ago, our primary audience remained the church and most churches were paying sometimes ridiculous sums like N10,000 at the time. It was a particularly difficult time and at some point, everyone started to look for alternate sources of income. Once that happened, the group was on it's way to a natural rest.
The group gave you prominence no doubt, would you say you would have been this famous without Kush?
I don't know for sure, and I guess we'll never really know. One thing I'm certain of is that the start of my solo career was like a brand new start. No-one even remembered I had been a part of Kush. I had just come through childbirth and so I looked totally different. I was darker, at least 2 dress sizes bigger and totally uninspired and so it was hard for people to reconcile that Lara with the vibrant one in Kush.
To also top things, nobody paid me more because I had been with Kush. Infact, the offers went all the way back to rock bottom and I slowly have been trying to work my way back up since then. It was also like double jeopardy because when it came to PR time, the media who knew my musical history were the only ones who treated me like Kush but that was also because I was expected to do Public Relations like KUSH. It was really tough. Very discouraging early stages I must say.
What is your relationship with other members of Kush like after you parted ways?
Although the separation took it's toll on us initially, thankfully we are still friends today.
Can you still come together to do something if the need arises?
It's a possibility. I never say never.
How have you been combining your duties as a wife and that of a musician?
My huband is very supportive and that makes it easy for me. I plan ahead and try not to take on too much at a time. Communication is key and so I make sure I keep my husband up to date about my schedule and he even manages stuff for me most of the time.
What would you tell us about your marriage?
I'm glad I'm married. Two will always be better than one. It's been very challenging though and I won't lie to people and say it's all been like icecream. The beautiful thing is that the good times are a treasure and I try to learn from any bad times so that we can get it right and not repeat the same mistakes.
Is it what you dreamt it would be?
Yes and no. No, because I thought marriage would be smooth-sailing all the way and it really isn't. Yes, because I have found the perfect partner in my husband. I'm sure that I'm in God's plan for my life.
How does your husband respond to your career seeing you are a very talented musician?
He's extremely supportive. He's there for me most of the time and that makes a world of difference to me.
You have been married for a while, can you share with us some of the secrets of a long lasting relationship in a marriage?
In marriage, it's important to be sincere. Integrity sounds old-fashioned but is the mainstay of any long-lasting relationship. You also cannot have a sidekick and expect your marriage to thrive. Stick with your spouse and God will bless you.
Many marriages are hitting the rocks, what do you think is responsible for this?
People want to eat their cake and have it. Too much infidelity going on these days, and it's so bad that it's seen as the norm. We encourage flirting, odd friendships, over-individualism in marriage and lack of openness. All these things work counter to the principles of marriage itself.
When you met your husband, was it love at first sight?
Not at all. We met at work. We worked at the same real estate firm and gradually became friends.
How did he woo you?
Plenty of attention, endless text messages, flowers, surprises and many more. He was a real lover-man.
What are those qualities you saw in him that made you fall for him?
His sense of purpose, his sunshine personality, his gift of gab, and his ability to sell sand even in the desert.
What has getting married to him added to your life?
A sense of stability and plenty of encouragement.
Who are your mentors and influences in music?
Bebe and Cece winans, Yvonne Maha, Victor Uwaifo and so many more.
How would you rate Nigerian musicians?
I think the Nigerian musician is hugely talented and ready to take on the world.
Are you fulfilled now?
Not quite. Just because I feel like there's so much more that I need to do.
What are your likes and dislikes?
I'm a stickler for truth, truth, truth. I can't stand lack of integrity.
What else do you wish to accomplish in your career?
I need to conquer new territories. That's all I'll say for now. I like to keep my plans under wraps.
What is your motherhood experience like?
It's been a wonderful experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything, even with all the sacrifices I've had to make.
What is the most wonderful thing you love about being a mother?
When my son hugs me and says 'mummy I love you.', it's a priceless moment. I love watching him reach milestones; that is also such a treasure.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am an architect by training and a recording artiste. I am a wife and a mother as well as entertainment entrepreneur. My maiden name is Bajomo and I have 4 siblings. I grew up in Lagos and have a passion for excellence in all things. I am fun-loving and yet extremely intense.