By Morenike Taire
In the later days of the era when being a television presenter was synonymous with glamour in Nigeria, Rita Alakija’s presence was one of the newer generation ones that graced the more upmarket side of the tube. Many years after she moved on, worked in the financial sector and successfully battled illness for many years, the mother of one better known as a broadcaster recently announced her foray into gospel music by a concert in Lagos, raising many a brow from observers who had not known of the diversity of her previous work life spanning experience in the aviation and financial sectors. She sings using the trade name AIMEE and does not bat an eyelid when she asserts that broadcasting did not prepare her in any way for the rigours of producing a seven-track album while on six or seven different and debilitating medications. Rita’s is a story of the indomitability of the human will and indeed, mind. In this short chat with Morenike Taire, she explains why she is now singing.
Why music now?
(Chuckles) Why not music?
But why gospel?
It’s what am I, who I am. I believe that whatever talent we have be it music, be it to play any instrument, art, writing, bee collecting, beauty, intelligence. Whatever it is we have at the end of the day it’s given to us so that we can use it to give God glory
If you look at the face of the gospel sector of the Nigerian music industry what is missing and how do you come in?
I am very proud. I think that gospel has come a long way and is doing very well. I am very happy that there are wonderful talents here in Nigeria and it’s not like one, two- there are many so it’s competitive. Of course there is constant room for constant improvement and the only thing that cannot change is change. The moment you think you’ve arrived, that’s the moment you begin to fade.
What about singers like Whitney Houston who began with gospel? Where do they go wrong?
Whitney happens to be one of the people I really respect in the music industry. As far as I am concerned the best vocal in the world. Life happens, stuff happens. I am not here to judge her, I just wish things didn’t happen the way it happened for her. There will never be another Whitney. There will be somebody else , another kind of voice but that kind of voice? No, maybe a copy.
What is the future looking like? Is this just a flash in the pan?
No it’s not a flash in the pan. This has come to stay by the grace of God because as you were saying why music? It’s a tool. Music is very powerful. Someone sings a love song and another person is feeling all loved and everything. Someone sings another kind of song and it makes them want to do drugs. Someone plays some kind of music and it ignites anger and violence. Music is a tool that can be used either for good or bad. Music is not entertainment. It’s about worshipping God and helping to encourage hearts and above all that people come to know God through music
If it’s not entertainment how does it attract people?
What do you define as entertainment?
Something you listen to and enjoy
For me it’s much more than that; it’s a spiritual experience. It’s a journey. It’s like saying you come before God to worship Him and you see it as entertainment. There are people who do that kind of music so it’s just different, not entertaining.
At the concert and album launch you repeated only one song from the album. Why was this?
I don’t know. I wish i knew. It’s about just obeying the leading of God. Sometimes you want to promote something and He says, “you promote me first”. Anyway the theme was Follow Me, not follow AIMEE but follow Jesus. This was one of the first things Jesus said to his disciples. It was not a suggestion or an idea. It’s a command.
In Nigeria it’s happening in front of your house…
It’s about saving people.
How do you know?
When you’ve gone through a near death experience before then you think you know things and you are just okay until you go through a life changing experience and you begin to look at life from different perspectives. You begin to wonder what really is the essence of life, what really matters? Is it all about you? Is there a higher calling?
When I was ill I got to a point where I said, God, when are you going to heal me? Heal me right now! There didn’t seem to be any way. The question came to my heart? If
I don’t heal you, will you still love Me?
Do we love God because He is God or do we love Him only when things are going right? I love Him against all odds. Belief will tell you what to do, determine your lifestyle. I was reminded about the story of Abraham. God didn’t show up when Abraham was thirty or forty. Why seventy five? We want immediate gratification. Fast food Christianity; microwave Christianity.