Basically, it has been God, because He is the one that creates the drive, enthusiasm and passion in one. I have transitioned at different times over the years.
At a point, I was majorly doing stand-up comedy and working as a master of ceremonies. Later on, I started making skits. Then at a point, I switched to acting; while its music I do majorly now. I have always been gravitating towards where my passion lies. Whenever I look back, it seems I made the best decisions for each time. I believe God ordered my steps.
I faced a lot of challenges in the early days of my career. Funding was a major challenge— converting what one was doing to money— and that came with being taken for granted. Some people would ask questions such as, “Is he not just a comedian”? “Is he not just a skit maker”? “Are you not just coming to MC? Why are you charging this amount”? However, over the years, through the grace of God, I have been able to stand my ground and add value. With the favour of God, I have been able to add value to my craft and by extension, my brand.
I grew up listening to veterans, such as King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and Lagbaja. I also listened to Fela for his instrumentations. I listen to good music and those elements just settle in my subconscious. They come handy whenever I am producing.
I just got honoured as a West African Youth Ambassador, and I am still speechless. I believe I was accorded that honour because of how I have been able to harness my craft, by the grace of God, to influence coming generations, to let them know that one can ethical, responsible, stand for good values, and still prosper.
I believe I am influencing a lot of young people in that regard. I believe that that was what brought about that award, and I am really grateful for it.
Also, I remember the first time I went to get a visa to travel to the United States of America around 2015. During an interview (with the consulate official), I did not know the person had carried out an Internet search on my name, and asked, ‘Are you Emma Oh My God”? At that time, I was hosting an amazing programme on a TV station. The Bible says that a man’s gifts will make room for him and bring him before kings. On that day, my gifts made a way for me.
Comedy is one of the ways by which I express myself. I am not exactly a comedian.
However, I believe that for entertainers and people of influence such as comedians, it is a privilege to be in that position. It is also an opportunity for one to promote morals and good ethics to lead the younger generations in the right way, so that our values can be passed on. Comedians make the hearts of people merry; they make them laugh, even in hard times. It is a very important job. There is a level of intelligence that comes with being a comedian, and major parts of that are ‘emotional intelligence’ and ‘moral intelligence’. Definitely, there should be limits. I know a lot of people might say it’s just jokes and comedians can say whatever they life. But if they are supposed to make people’s hearts merry, they should also note that there are some thin lines that one should not cross. For those same hearts that one is supposed to make merry, one should be careful not to open old wounds, which could lead people into depression.
It was God that ordered my steps to start it, considering how much we have achieved in such a short time. I just know that I am where God wants me to be. I lean towards music comedy, which is what someone like Kenny Blaq does. Whenever he has events, he invites me, and I feel humbled by that. Every time he releases new materials, he always sends them to me to hear my opinion. There was a time he was having an event at the Muri Okunola Park, Victoria Island, Lagos, and it coincided with my birthday— May 3, 2019. At that time, I had just brought the band together, but it was not official. I actually formed the band to express the music-comedy side of me. I love music a lot and I operated as a one-man band, where I would sing and do the production. But, some people thought it was different people doing it. Some people also told me to start a band. At that time, comedy was my forte, and that was where I was making the most money from. I felt music won’t pay me (be as lucrative) the way comedy was.
But, out of curiosity, I brought the band together, and the goal then was just for me to be rehearsing with them. They were professionals but when they got to my rehearsals, they were like novices, because I was practically trying to put what was in my head in theirs. I would tell all of them what I wanted them to play in terms of the rhythm. However, they have developed over time and have grown into my style.
On other hand, I started the ‘Faaji Friday’ shows, because I did not want the rehearsals I had with my band to go to waste. Initially, I just wanted to celebrate my birthday with other people born in May. I actually wanted to do it before May ended, but it was eventually done in the first week of June. The original plan was to gather people born in May like me in a small restaurant, and sing and be merry together. Ultimately, that grew to become what we did at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
I won’t say I do gospel music; I just express my heart. The primary thing in my heart is my love for God, and that is what I sing about. I am imperfect, but my inspiration comes from my love for God, and my zeal to get closer to Him. I was also impacted by my upbringing. I was brought up by a single mum, who was a devout follower of Christ. She was a prayer warrior, and that’s one of the reasons I know many hymns. She used to have down times, when she would just cry and sing hymns. She has passed on but I believe it is something God is healing me from. I feel pained that she is not here anymore, but whenever that happens, I connect (with her through hymns).
Over time, I have also developed a personal relationship with God, so the songs are also an expression of my love to him.
Meanwhile, the first was not gospel-themed. We performed different songs; and the praise session was just a part of it. Overtime, it has grown and we are being sensitive to where God is leading us to.
No. However, when some people book my band for events, they say they love my gospel songs, but that when it gets to a point, I should switch. But, I always tell such people that we are ‘Jesus boys’. We know nothing other than praise and worship.
The aim of creating the band was not to be going for shows, and that is why I turn down a lot of events. Also, I call myself ‘Mr Jelenke’, because my style is slow-paced. We do fast songs here and there, but that’s not my forte. As a matter of fact, we don’t do praise-singing, though some people tried forcing it out of me. I once posted a video on YouTube where we turned a wedding party to a revival. We had gone far into the praise songs and some people said I must mention their names. I did it in that video and the atmosphere changed. When I go for shows, my objective is to be sprayed money. I try to make sure its people that really love what we do that come for us.
My biggest achievement is being able to influence people to the kingdom of God, and be getting a lot of testimonies about that. I consider it a huge privilege. Another thing I treasure is being invited for events internationally. I have been invited to perform at choice destinations, where I would ordinarily have loved to take my family to for vacation.
It is a privilege for God to plant one’s love in people’s hearts.
When it gets to the point of choosing the person one wants to spend the rest of one’s life with, one is allowed to be selfish. By that, I mean one should not settle; even if it is a tiny thing that one does not like. If one does not like it, one has to tell one’s partner to change it, and if they don’t want to do that, it could be a red flag. I like to compare marriage to a big mansion that has a tiny leak. At first, it might seem like it’s not a big deal. But, if one leaves that mansion for about four to 10 years and the leak is still there, it would have caused a lot of damages. That is the way so-called little things can destroy one’s marriage.
Through my marriage, I have seen that one can get exactly what one wants. I used to want to settle, because it was often said that one cannot get a perfect spouse. However, I got my exact specification in my wife. I am a very gentle guy but I have realised that I can also be stubborn. My wife has been my mirror, and it has helped me a great deal. She has been a major support. My life prospered more when I married her. After Jesus Christ, she is the biggest blessing in my life.
The place of God cannot be overemphasised. Hard and smart work is also important. One should not relent. There are times I put out content and it does not go the way I expected it to. At times like that, it is the passion that keeps me going. The content might be good, but it might not attract the expected response. When I put out content that does not go with the way I expect it to go, I put out another one. I just keep going. It can be frustrating at times; but whenever I cry to God, He gives me ideas.
It happens often, and that is why one cannot take the place of God for granted. Every time I organise shows, I always empty my bank account. The money generated from gate fees and sponsorships usually don’t meet half of the budget. The quality of production I aim for is usually very expensive. If I were to do the ordinary, I would be cashing out; but we spend a lot of money in producing the show.
I am not in music for the money, but I know it will come. I believe I will get to a point where people would be wondering if I did jazz (voodoo). It is just a matter of time, I will get to that level of prosperity.