By Ayo Onikoyi
Kunle Ajomale is a popular musician in Nigeria and overseas. His songs remain a recurring decimal in churches and at Christian events. In this interview he talks about his life as a musician, his forthcoming 30 years on stage celebration, and more.
You will soon be celebrating your 30thyear on stage, what should your guests expect on that day?
Sunday, August 27, is a day I am inviting dignitaries, friends, fans, family and well-wishers, to come and rejoice with me because God has spared me. I have a debt to pay; I owe God. It’s the praise and worship of people on that day that would be put together to glorify the name of the Lord. I believe that we are going to have a glorious day.
Your kind of music seems to be multifaceted, is it?
My music is in two folds. I minister in the church and I entertain at functions. I can go choral; sing decent songs at parties, songs that do not necessarily have to be gospel, but soul lifting.
New talents are springing up by the day, how have you remained relevant for 30 years?
First of all, I want to thank God for the kind of people he blessed me with in the industry. I have been able to meet a lot of people. During President Obasanjo’s official visit to Washington, I was the one that played for him and the music was so melodious to him that he had to come up stage to hold me and ask, “what’s your name, how come I didn’t know you back in Nigeria?”
Can you mention some of the top personalities that you have performed for?
They are many. I have performed for the present Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu. He came to Washington too and danced to my music. I have played for the present Oba of Oniru, the late Oba of Benin, when I served in his palace and the present Oba of Epe, during his daughter’s wedding. The former Nigerian ambassador to the U.S, Professor Jubril Aminu once invited me to his house in Washington to appreciate me. I equally played at Pastor Bolu’s wedding in America, she is the daughter of Baba Enoch Adeboye. The fact is that my music really cuts across socio-political and spiritual realms.
With the caliber of people you have mentioned, you must have made fortunes from music, is this correct?
Really, I do not look at the monetary aspect of my music, especially when I have to go to a church to sing. This is because I have never charged churches when I go to sing, even when I was in the U.S. All that they had to do was to send air ticket and if they subsequently appreciated me with honorarium, fine, but once they say God bless you, I’m gone. However, when it comes to parties, weddings, anniversaries and so on, I do charge, because I do have a lot of responsibilities to take care of.
Music started for you from the choir, when precisely was that?
I joined the church choir about 48 years ago, that was in 1969. I didn’t know why I was in the choir until sometime in 2003, when I turned 40 years, and my mum told me I was a covenant child. She also told me that she had prayed to God that if he could give her a male child, she would dedicate him to Him.
What year did you turn a professional musician?
I never knew I was going to go professional until 1987, during my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in old Bendel State.
Prior to then what were you up to?
Before then, I was a member of the Gangan Caste, a drama and performing group at the Ogun State University, Ago Iwoye, now Olabisi Onabanjo University. Performance in school then was strictly for our weekly entertainment.
Can you tell us about one of the memorable performances the group had?
On March 4, 1983, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo came for the turning of the first sod of the permanent campus site, and the ‘Gangan Caste’ put up a performance to entertain the dignitaries at the occasion which also included late Governor Olabisi Onabanjo, among others. Chief Awolowo was very thrilled by the performance that he particularly made mention of the lead singer, that was me, and it really meant a lot to me. So, when he died, I traveled to Ikenne to research about the sage and I got all the support from the family especially the late Mama HID Awolowo. I got information about all his achievements and then composed song on it. I didn’t know I was breaking the grounds.
You have been through a lot as a person, tell us about it
I passed through a storm. It was an experience of no house, landlord threatening me and it was so tough. It was during that time I composed “Apata Ayeraye” and then, “Gbe Agbelebu Re”.
Is it safe to conclude that you sing about your life experience?
In a way, yes. In “Damuso”, part of the inspiration for the song came while I was sleeping; it was my dream. At times, I hear music from God. Even as we are talking, I could hear music, but if I don’t write it down, I will forget and it could go away. So, I get inspiration from different sources. It could be from my environment, at times, from what people say and so on