–Rachael Oyetesu, gospel singer
By Henry Okonkwo
Rachael Oyetesu can be described as a young artist who has set her eyes on revolutionising gospel music in Nigeria. She is a songwriter and entrepreneur and also the lead singer of a fledgling gospel band, The Joseph Company.
In this chat with Entertainer, Oyetesu tells more about things she would love to see change in Nigeria’s gospel music scene.
Tell us about your growing up
I grew up in Mushin (Lagos). People are always surprised when I tell them that I grew up in Mushin because they say I’m too cool to grow up in a ghetto (laughs). It was fun growing up there. I come from a Christian background. I’m the youngest in a family of five siblings. I’m a graduate of English Language from the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
I’m not from a wealthy background. But I was born into a rich home because we had plenty of love. And for me, that is worth more than money. We had parents that loved and supported us all the way. I remember when I gained admission into UNILAG, unlike many parents that discourage their children from pursuing their hobbies, my father urged me to go ahead with my music since I have the passion. Yet he admonished me to stay focused on my studies.
My father passed on last November. But I remember him always saying that we should keep doing what we were doing because one day it would pay off. He encouraged us not to envy others because our own time would come. I enjoyed love from my parents and siblings while growing up. And for me, that is worth more than wealth. My mum is still alive and kicking.
At what point did you decide to go into music?
I have always been into music. I grew up noticing that my parents are lovers of good music. So, I grew up with that consciousness. And that probably fuelled my passion for music. Professionally, I’ve been doing music for a little over 10 years. Though, I was not doing much on my own, I used to go to the studios to record songs with my friends, as I nursed my talents and gathered resources for my music.
Which gospel artist inspires you most?
I like contemporary music a lot. I love listening to Tasha Cobbs and Cece Winans a lot. Then in Nigeria, I love Sinach and I look forward to singing along with her. And I pray and believe it would happen soon.
Tell us about your debut album
I released a single entitled, ‘Jesus’ last year November. And it was widely accepted and got a lot of airplay. But I notice that in this part of the world, people hardly do live recording of their albums. That is what I want to achieve with this my debut album entitled, ‘Immortal’. The album is a live recording of all my songs, including the already released single. We want to capture the audio and then video the life experience. I believe that gospel music should not just be about singing; it should also be about experience, about your relationship with God. My songs are borne out of my worship experience. It is a bold step. But I believe with God’s grace and the best hands God has surrounded me with, we would excel.
In Nigeria, gospel music does not buzz much compared to secular songs. What then is your motivation to do gospel rather than secular music?
Gospel is not massively appreciated all over the world, so it’s not just in Nigeria. Even Jesus was not very popular when He was on earth. But the truth is that people still do gospel music and are doing very well singing it. Also, it depends on the calling. Some of us cannot just do any other kind of music aside gospel. I can only sing love songs for God. I don’t see myself going into secular music. For me, it is strictly gospel. Because it is not just about my love for music, it is also about the call. As a matter of fact, I don’t even dictate the kind of songs I do. I get my inspiration directly from God. Sometimes I get my songs from dreams. When I sleep, I see myself being taught some songs and I wake up with them.
If you are offered a mouth watering amount to do secular songs. Won’t you accept the offer?
I’m a young lady. I’m not wealthy. But some of the blessings that God blesses me with cannot be quantified in terms of cash. Sometimes God blesses you with assets, with people and relationship that are worth more than millions of naira. I would have gone secular long time ago, but I chose not to. So, if I didn’t do it way back then, I can’t do it anymore now.
What are some of the things you would love to see change in Nigeria’s gospel music scene?
We don’t get sponsors easily for our projects. Many record labels don’t believe in gospel music. But I can tell you that gospel music is a difficult kind of music to do. Many up and coming gospel singers are trying to raise the bar and not do anyhow kind of gospel. We are trying to be professional. Gospel singers need to change the trends and infuse some creativity in their songs. I would really love gospel artists to aim higher and improve the standard of the music.
I don’t see myself as an artist but rather as a minister of the gospel. We should go beyond doing songs just to entertain but rather do songs that are original and creative. Gospel artists should come out with more songs that are soul lifting and shun recycling other people’s songs.
Do you fear a copycat could recycle your songs?
I don’t pray that they steal my songs. When you have your own style, it would be very difficult for people to copy you. You have to be innovative and bring something new to the table. There is no how that you relate personally with God that you won’t get something new to sing about. Even the Bible said we should sing a new song onto the Lord. We have new talented gospel singers that would come up, change the norm and elevate the standard of gospel music in Nigeria. Again, going into gospel is not about how good your voice is. The question is do you have the calling from God? That is why we have too many gospel singers recycling songs.
Why must one have a calling before going into gospel music?
You must have a relationship with God because He has to speak to you. Singing gospel is ministration, so gospel artists are meant to go out there and touch lives. People look up to you as a gospel singer. So, you cannot afford to pass out the wrong message. You need focus and the passion. Gospel music is very challenging because it takes a while before an artist gains massive acceptance.
How lucrative is gospel music?
It is not lucrative. But at some point the financial benefits would come. Even the Bible says ‘the labourer is worthy of his wages.’ One of the major challenges in gospel music is finance. We fund our projects by ourselves. No recording company is willing to work with gospel artists. But we hope on God to get us to the stage where we would run our own record labels so that we would bring up other young talented artists.
But I also do business to earn some money. I don’t just sit at home saying that I’m an artist. But I believe that as time goes on, it would pay off.
As a young artist, how do you handle male attention and advances?
Evil has no gender. Those working in offices have people making advances at them. So, it is not all restricted to artists and entertainers alone.
But how does your husband feel when men make advances at you?
One thing about being married is that, one has to be open as long as you don’t have anything to hide. My husband understands the nature of what I do, so he is not intimidated at all (laughs).