Kenyan gospel singer and songwriter, Betty Jobando has been in Nigeria for close to two months. To her, Nigeria has the best music stars in Africa and she has come to share in the grace.
With two albums to her credit, Jobando is currently working on her third effort entitled, Season, which will feature popular Nigerian gospel musician, Nathaniel Bassey, and others.
In this chat, the Kenyan talks about her career spanning over a decade and her romantic relationship with a Nigerian.
This is your second time in Nigeria. What specifically brought you here this time around?
Music. Music brought me to Nigeria.
How long have you been in the music industry?
I have been in the industry professionally since 2007, but I have been singing since I was five years old, because I was raised in a very religious family. My father is a pastor, so my training in music and upbringing in a music home was inevitable because we had to sing. At five, I used to sing in church. I also used to sing in Christian programmes both in primary and high school. That’s how friends discovered and told me, ‘you have a great voice, why not start to record?’ From there, God opened doors and I started getting songs drawn from the spirit. Sometimes, I am walking on the road and something drops in my spirit. That’s how I started to record. I can say that music has pursued me all through my life.
What’s your educational background?
Currently, I am pursuing my Masters in International Relations. I hold a first degree in Sociology from University of Nairobi, Kenya and also a diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Why Christian music, is it because of your religious background?
It’s a calling. You know, in the book of Jeremiah Chapter 1 verse 5, God tells Jeremiah: ‘Even before you were formed in your mother’s womb, I knew you and I ordained you to be a prophet to the nations.’ So, I believe it’s a calling, that is why despite being a sociologist by profession, I decided to leave my well-paying job to pursue my calling. When you operate in your area of calling, it’s different from operating from just a point of ‘I am trained to be this or that.’ And because you do it with passion, you feel fulfilled.
How many albums do you have to your credit?
Two. I am working on the third. The first album I did was in my language, Swahili. It was titled Tangu Nizaliwe meaning “since I was born, I have never seen one like Jesus.” It has eight songs in it. After that, I did another album called, Mwaka Huu which means “this year.” That is, this is a year ordained by God. That was between 2010 and 2013 when I finished the project. Some of the songs we did corroborate with when I was living in Harare, Zimbabwe and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Now, I am working on my third album for which I am in Nigeria. There is something about Nigeria and me. I love Nigeria; it is the epitome of Africa. Nigeria is the springboard of music revival. After South Africa, we know the world has shifted to Nigeria musically. Nigeria has the best music stars.
There is a saying in my language that, ‘if you can’t beat them, you join them’. So, I came to Nigeria to collect grace and also Naija flavour. I would like to do a song in Pidgin English and I love Yoruba language too. Actually, my friends gave me a Yoruba name, Anuoluwapo, meaning God’s mercies. That was the first time I came to Nigeria and I love the name.
Which of your songs brought you into the limelight?
There was a song I did called “Abenbo Nyingi.” That’s my local dialect, the Obama’s language. I am from Obama’s tribe. I will say it was that song (that brought me into the limelight).
Which Nigerian gospel artiste would you like to work with?
My God, that would be Sinach. I love her songs. I grew up listening to her and I celebrate the grace upon her life. She is full of oil and she doesn’t just sing, but sings from a place where anybody can, but not everybody can minister unto God.
What inspired your third album, Season, your current project?
Life generally. My life is all about the working of grace. Having gone to different countries in the world and different states in the United States and seeing how amazing God is, I am inspired to meet with other music ministers. You cannot do it alone, lone rangers never win. I realised that, if I have been in my cocoon in East Africa and I get invited to other countries to minister, I should key into it. God said, ‘Go ye into the world’. Knowing that Nigeria is the springboard of revival, I came down. Sometimes, you’ve got to go to get. You have to be willing for God to use you. So, my third album is titled Season. It’s my season and also a season for Nigeria to arise and shine.
Which gospel musicians are you featuring in the album?
By the divine grace of God, it’s Nathaniel Bassey. And there is this young girl, Mercy Chinwo that sang ‘Jesus you love me too much’. She’s hardworking; I love her song. We used to listen to her song back home, now she has become a superstar. These people are not just singers; they are anointed.
Another person I love and would like to feature is Tope Alabi. I have never met her, but if given an opportunity, I would like her to teach me songs in Yoruba. I love that language. For the album, I have met with Nathaniel Bassey and Preye Odede. I met Preye Odede when I came to Nigeria for the first time. That was in Port Harcourt two years ago. I was introduced to him. You see, I don’t know how to push myself, I believe in God orchestrating my movement. I didn’t even know that there would be an opportunity for me to be interviewed like this. When God orchestrates something, you don’t struggle for it. So, whomever God wants me to work with, He would make me meet with him or her, without struggle.
Can you compare the Nigerian and Kenyan music industries in terms of growth?
Nigeria is great and at the top but Kenya is great too, by the grace of God. You know, I have to appreciate my country. We have the best athletes in the world. We have the best marathoners, the best wildlife, and even former America’s president, Barack Obama, is a Kenyan. All that depicts the nation and the beauty of God. Being a wildlife country, when the animals sing, they praise God. So, we sing through nature.
How do you think the Kenyan and Nigerian entertainment industries could collaborate to move Africa forward?
Kenya is in East Africa and Nigeria is in West Africa, not just in West Africa but the eye of West Africa. If you remove Nigeria, there is no longer West Africa and remove Kenya, there is no longer East Africa. The Bible says that ‘one can pull 1,000 to fly and two can pull 10,000 to fly’. So, it means that when Nigeria and Kenya merge, Africa will shine. We are going to be the world changers in the gospel music industry.
Is Betty Jobando in a romantic relationship?
Yes, and the beauty of it is that, he is a Nigerian. Now you see the reason I told you that I love this country? There is something about my life and Nigeria, and also Yorubaland. As I am getting ready to find my destiny in music in this country, I also know that God will send me to different places as a gospel minister.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, if the Lord tarries, I am seeing myself performing to large crowds. In five years’ time, I want to be able to sing in Yoruba, Igbo and my language, Swahili. I want to also teach Nigerians Swahili. I do my songs in Swahili and English.
What’s your advice for the up-and-coming artistes?
I want to encourage the stars-in-the-making that they need to trust in God and believe that He is going to do it. They should stay focused and not bow to pressure of having to do this to get that. Follow God, pray and have mentors. If I could leave my country and come to Nigeria to get carried by people whom God has used in tremendous way, then you can’t be a lone ranger and make it in life. Get some people you consider your mentors to help you. Above all, stay humble.