“I cannot say exactly when I joined the Islamic music industry because music has been a part of me from birth. One of my uncles back then was an actor and a musician.”
For delectable Islamic singer, Monsurat Ajelero Adegbemiro, popularly known as Akobi Esan, music runs in the family. One of her uncles was a musician and she learnt a lot about music from him.
However, what is unique about Akobi’s style of music is her penchant to sing in her native Egun language. The Public Administration graduate and Tecno phone ambassador tells TS Weekend about her career, challenges and how the nasty behaviour of some Islamic musicians has affected the growth the house by 8 p.m.
How long have you been in the Islamic music industry?
I cannot say exactly when I joined the Islamic music industry because music has been a part of me from birth. One of my uncles back then was an actor and a musician. He had his band and they played every Friday. I learnt a lot from him right from childhood, so I can easily say that I inherited music from my family. Yes, music runs in the family.
However, the first time I faced the crowd and sang was in 1999. Back then I was very slim and tiny. So, I can say that I started music officially in 1999, because that was when I had the confidence to face the crowd and sing. I was then in a group called Ansar-Ud-Deen Youth Association of Nigeria (ADYAN).
When was your first album released and how did it do in the market?
My first album was released in 2009. Before then, I had some demo cassettes. The album was titled, ‘Ire Ni Mo Fe’. It had six tracks. The album was a prayer about Allah’s blessings and goodness.
Did it do well in the market and what challenges did you encounter?
I wouldn’t say that it did well in the market. Being my first experience, it wasn’t perfect. It was like an experiment. From that period to now, I have learnt a lot. Also, the album wasn’t a success because I was an up and coming artiste then. The marketers weren’t interested in new artistes. Then, I was trying to make a name and wanted people to know me. But one of the challenges was that the marketers weren’t interested in promoting or marketing a new artiste. They were interested in already established ones.
Did you ever try collaborating with the big names back then?
Sure. I tried collaborating with many of them. Not all of them that had names were ready but few of them were supportive. The first person that I can never forget is Mariam Akiki. She was just taking me with her to occasions. Another person that supported my musical career was Alhaji Kabiru Alayande Ereasalatu whom I first collaborated with. I equally collaborated with Alhaji Abdulasam Azeez Abiodun popularly known as Saoty Arewa. I collaborated with him on the song, ‘Ramadan’, and people were rushing to buy it. ‘Ramadan’ was released during this year’s Ramadan. It has a good message and is doing very well in the market.
What inspired the song, Ramadan?
I cannot say that ‘Ramadan’ came from an inspiration. In the Muslim calendar, we have Shawwal, Shaban and we also have Ramadan, which is an annual festival. Ramadan is a month of peace. So, the song, ‘Ramadan’ is evergreen. It can be played at every Ramadan; it is timeless.
What differentiates your style of music from other Islamic gospel musicians?
A lot. But majorly it’s my language. You see, I am from Badagry and I am proud to be an Egun. I do Islamic gospel music and I try as much as possible to put my culture and language in all my songs. I sing in my language. If you listen to my music, you will see that Egun flavour is in it. I use my language to propagate Islam.
Nineteen years in the industry, how many albums do you have so far?
I have three albums so far. They are ‘Ire Ni Mo Fe’, ‘Iwo Meji’, and ‘Tantolorun’.
Which is your most successful album and hit song?
‘Tantolorun’, which came out October this year is my most successful album. It’s everywhere in the market. Whenever I listen to it, I ask myself if truly it was me that sang it. The inspiration was so high and I have a track for widows in it. Meanwhile, my most successful hit song is ‘Ramadan’.
In the Islamic music industry, do you think the males are doing better than the females?
No, I don’t think so. In fact, some people have the opinion that the females are doing better than their male counterparts.
Does that reflect economically?
Now you are making a point. Economically, the males are doing better, if we must say the truth. The males are progressing more than the females and that is because once you are married, you don’t want a broken home. You reduce the rate at which you chase money, and focus on your family. Men can travel to anywhere and nobody can challenge them, but it is not the same thing with a woman. You have to limit it. My husband supports my music career, but he will always tell me to make sure I am in the house by 8 p.m.
You said Islamic music is dying in Nigeria. Why do you think so?
It is. We call ourselves Islamic musicians yet we are not that serious and that is because of our behaviour, especially the female musicians. Most female musicians behave nasty and that is not good for business. People invite you to come and perform at their events; you go there and misbehave. You call
yourself an Islamic singer but it’s not reflecting in your dressing. Or is it the way some of them talk in public? If you invite someone to perform at your occasion and she misbehaves, will you invite her tomorrow? We have to caution ourselves, and mind the way we dress and behave.
What do you consider your selling point?
My voice. I have had people tell me how good my voice is.
Any project at hand, right now?
Sure. I am currently working on an album. I am yet to give it a title but I will drop it next year.
How do you manage home affairs with music?
As a mother of three, my family really understands me. They don’t give me any problem. You know, once you have the support of your family members and that of God, things will work out perfectly.
You are a beautiful woman; have you ever received sexual advances from your male fans?
Oh yes, I have several times. Even at nights, I do receive calls from male fans. They will just call and start talking. But once I pick a call and notice that the person wants to make advances, I will just end the call.
Beside phone calls, have they made advances personally?
Of course, they have but I normally tell them off politely. The thing is, some of them know that I am married with three kids, but they will still toast you anyway. There are men like that, once they see a beautiful woman, they just can’t control themselves regardless of the woman’s status. Being a beautiful woman, I have had my own share of that.
What’s your advice for up and coming artistes?
Make sure you are talented and have passion for music. If you are talented, focused and consistent, you will get there.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as a voice for the voiceless. This year, precisely on October 6, I launched a Non-Governmental Organisation known as Akobi Esan Foundation, which caters for widows and the elderly. I have a passion and sympathy for widows; they are really suffering. Most of them are hawking with their kids. During the launch, I gave them food and gift items including free medication. We took care of about 25 widows that day. In fact, I have a track for widows in my new album, ‘Tantolorun’.