Popular musician, Yinka Ayefele, shared his experience in the music industry with Sunday Punch’s KORE OGIDAN and spoke on life without the use of his legs
What did it feel like the day you made your first million naira from the sales of your records?
Honestly, I don’t even know the day I hit the first million from record sales. At that time, I was only concerned about how to raise money for my treatment abroad. As the money came in, it was diverted to the hospital in London for my surgery. I had some people in charge of my finances then; so, it was not a matter of when the first million came in.
What fears did you nurse when you decided to embrace gospel music in an era when secular music was in vogue?
I did not have any fear. Before then, I had been a choir master in my church. I had led the choir to release some gospel albums before the accident; so, it was a familiar terrain. At certain points, I also played the guitar for notable juju artistes such as Toye Ajagun, Micho Ade, Wale Thompson and others. My style of music is called gospel tungba – a fusion of gospel with high percussion beat. I created a style that is totally different from others; you can’t categorise it as juju. I actually wanted a style that will appeal to all religions and that’s why you see people of different religious backgrounds embracing my music. I have succeeded in creating a genre that appeals to all religions.
What challenges came at the beginning of your career as a gospel artiste and how you were you able to overcome them?
I faced a lot of challenges because of my condition but I got used to them with the passage of time. While some of the challenges have been overcome, I have adapted to others. I believe challenges are part of the steps on the ladder of success and every successful person must climb it.
When did you realise you had a talent for music and how were you able to develop the gift?
I taught myself the art of playing musical instruments. There’s no musical instrument I cannot play. From the guitar, keyboard, talking drums, saxophone and even drum set, I taught myself how to play all these because I’m very inquisitive. I like to know about everything. Apart from the fact that music is a God-given talent, I would say I further honed my musical skills in the choir.
Did you have plans to become an artiste before your accident?
Not really. Before the accident, I had released an album, apart from the one I featured in as the leader of my church’s choir. The issue of releasing an album came about when I needed to raise money for my treatment. Instead of going to radio stations to beg for money for further treatment, having been hospitalised for close to a year at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, some of my colleagues suggested that I should release an album since I have the talent. The idea was for the album to be launched and the money that would be raised was to be used for my treatment abroad. Although music had always been a part of me, I never considered taking it up as a fulltime job. I just loved been a broadcaster.
Looking at the rapid emergence of young gospel artistes, do you ever feel threatened or do you have confidence in your lasting reign in the industry?
If I feel threatened, what do you want legends such as King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, K1 d Ultimate, and others to do? These are artistes who have created or recreated genres through which numerous other artistes earn a living. I believe the field is wide enough for everyone to have their own share of fans. We have people who can’t do without Ayefele and we have people who make Ayefele an option. That’s the beauty of life.
As a gospel artiste, who is God to you?
God is everything to me. Who am I without God; a serial-sinner who has only received favour!
As a Christian involved in a ghastly accident that claimed your legs, did you ever feel like God failed you despite your trust in Him?
I never blamed God for the accident. What if I had died? What if I was paralysed from head to toe? The Bible tells us to be grateful in all circumstances. I will forever be grateful to Him. What if I had found myself in a situation where I couldn’t use my talent? Do you know how many people have died this year alone? Do you know how many healthy people that just slept and never woke up? I give thanks to God in all ramifications.
What do you remember about the accident?
The only lingering memory I have is that the accident was like a compass that gave my life direction.
Did you go through a phase of denial when you realised you wouldn’t be able to walk again?
At a point, yes! But I’m an incurable optimist. I’m of the firm belief that nothing is impossible. I know I will still walk again. I believe that with God, all things are possible.
Did you ever imagine that your current standing and recognition in the world is where you’d be today, and are you happy with where you are in life now?
My life is work in progress. Just like I usually tell my staff, I’m also working for Ayefele. I believe that the purpose of God in my life has yet to fully manifest. When we started Fresh FM in 2015, I didn’t know we would spread our tentacles to Abeokuta (Ogun State) and Ado Ekiti (Ekiti State) as fast as we did. Yet, the ministry of the radio is still spreading. My life should serve as a lesson to other people. I didn’t relent; the desire to live and not become a liability to society was uppermost in my heart. However, it is not by my doing but just a special grace from God Almighty. I always tell people that if it was by diabolical means (juju), the herbalist would have come out to expose me by now. I’m God’s special candidate.
Why haven’t you chosen to do music collaborations with foreign artistes?
I’m not ruling out the possibility of collaborating with foreign musicians. Though I have not given it a thought, it is possible. Maybe I will think along that line now.
What do you miss about your days as a journalist?
The only thing I miss now is that I don’t go to the field for investigations but I’m still fully into the profession. I have four programmes on radio weekly – two each on both Fresh 105.9 FM, Ibadan, and Fresh 107.9 FM, Abeokuta.
Tell us about establishing your radio and music house.
I started Fresh FM as an online radio about 12 years ago and it took me more than seven years to get the licence for terrestrial activities. Within three years of operation, the station snowballed into a mega station giving birth to additional ones in Abeokuta and Ado Ekiti. It is not our making but through the special grace of God and our dedicated staff. We have simply reinvented radio and given it a new meaning.
How do you run and manage the stations?
I’m also a staff member. I receive salary just like every other member of staff and I respect the decision of the management. I don’t boss anyone around and my colleagues can testify to this. We are all colleagues in the office and you need to see how we interact with one another (to get the picture). We have set a template for our on-air personalities and we also have a device to monitor the number of people listening to our programmes at their time of airing. This has helped us a lot. We invest in our staff and encourage them to travel widely and frequently. Our OAPs can present their programmes anywhere in the world. I would say Fresh FM is the most technologically advanced radio station in the country today.
Regarding the incident between you and the Oyo State Government which led to your Music House being partially demolished, do you plan to be cautious in airing your views on political issues going forward?
Like I said earlier, I’m also a staff member of the company. The station has its rules and we put the people first. Governments will come and go but the people will always be there. We will always be on the side of the masses.
What plans do you have to expand the station to other states in Nigeria and even other countries?
We are already in three states and I can’t rule out the possibility of expanding our tentacles to other parts of the country. We have studios in Maryland, United States of America, and that’s to tell you that we are planning something big in that country.
With your popularity, how much impact do you think you’ve made on listeners of your music out there?
I think my fans should be the judge on that.
What’s the favourite country you’ve been to and why?
I think I love all the countries I have visited either on holidays or on musical tours. But above all, Nigeria is the best.
How much has piracy affected your record sales over the years?
Just like every other musician in the country, it has affected my record sales a lot. It’s a kind of cankerworm eating deep into the prosperity of Nigerian musicians but unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about it.
How are you able to juggle your busy career with your family life?
I thank God for the kind of wife I have. She really understands me. It’s not easy for a man to leave home every weekend; that is enough to scatter a home. But my wife has been a real pillar of support. She handles the home front and keeps encouraging me.
What kind of father are you – strict or playful?
I would say both.
Are you a romantic husband?
My wife is in the best position to answer that, but I like to believe that I am romantic.
How do you like to relax?
Do I even have time to relax? I don’t think so! I only relax when I’m out of the country or sick. I enjoy the company of my other colleagues in the office.
What is your favourite food?
Wow! I love pounded yam with good soup.