FUNMI AFOLAYAN: A GOSPEL SINGER AND HER DEBUT ALBUM
Mrs. Funmi Afolayan began her Christian ministry experience as a member of the enterprising Glorylanders of the Foursquare Gospel Church, Lagos. She then led the Praise Bells of Zion Faith Mission, Ibadan, another dynamic choir, of which she is still a member. She is a student at the Department of Social Works, University of Ibadan. She is married to Adeshina Afolayan, a Philosophy professor at the same university. Her husband is from the family of the famous theatre and film director, late Ade Love (the patriarch), whose children include Kunle Afolayan, the master film director and producer, and other creative writers and performers. Funmi is a mother of three beautiful children: Sharon, Roni, and Oluwatooni, who starred as Ponle in Kunle Afolayan’s Mokalik. Creative talents have been concentrated in one family—intellectual, performance, musical—an anomaly whose outcome will always be positive. This debut album consolidates the prestige and reputation of the Afolayan dynasty.
PART A: THE INTERVIEW
Congratulations on the release of your first album and the five songs in it: “Oruko Oluwa,” “Again and Again,” You are Great,” Tete Dide,” and Mo n Wo O.” I was in the choir at St. Peter’s Church, Aremo, Ibadan, and I can relate to them, although we focused more on hymns and piano. What name do you plan to give to your band?
We are still deliberating on the band name; however, the name on the album is Funmi Afolayan.
You can play with the F in your name. Have you considered that?
Funmi Fresh Favour
Thank you, sir. I will think about it. But I am just working with Funmi for now; Funmi Afolayan, sir.
Why do you sing?
I knew from when I was little that God will use me, and I have been composing songs around age 10. I had an encounter with God when I was 15 years old. And also, I may struggle with other things, but I have never had any challenge with music. Once I open my mouth, the flow comes, and God has been faithful.
Why did you delay releasing your first album?
I had fear and doubts about how people would accept me, then finance.
Is music production that costly?
Yes, it is. If you want to put the best quality out there in the market, and not badly produced work, then you have to spend the money. This album cost us close to N3 million.
How do you hope to recoup your money?
From various platforms, through people streaming, and the album launch.
Are you going to be doing live performances?
Yes, sir, in concerts, and I am also planning to organize a concert before the end of the year, which will bring in sponsorship too. I will get a planner to take care of the venue, sponsorship, invite dignitaries, do advertisements, and so on.
How do you plan to handle the challenges that come with music production and business?
I believe in the grace of God and His enablement. I have wasted time already to release the album, so I am going to continue by God’s grace, regardless of the challenges. It is my calling. I know that one day success will come. Continuity is the keyword. You don’t stop because you lose money or fail; you keep pushing until you get to where you are going. Persistence is important in everything we do.
From where do you get the inspiration for your songs?
The songs sometimes come when I am praying, studying the Bible, or when the word is going on in the church. There were times the songs came from what I am going through at particular times. They give me the inspiration to write.
Do you get encouragement and support from your family? Do you sing for them?
A lot, especially from my husband. He is really supportive. Thanks to him and to God, I have succeeded in bringing my music career to life. My children have been really supportive too. In fact, before I take my songs to the studio, they’ll check out the lyrics, sometimes they’ll advise me to add to or subtract some things from the lyrics.
INTERVIEW ANALYSIS AND REFLECTIONS BY TOYIN FALOLA
Oruko Oluwa is a five-song eponymous album that explores the belief of the Christian faith in God, His magnanimity, His omnipotence, and His power to effect change in human life. In this album, Funmi Afolayan deploys apt adjectives to describe God and shower Him with praise. The musical melody of the songs in the Oruko Oluwa album blends with the piercing smoothness of Afolayan’s voice in a way that makes the songs ideal for worship, fellowship, and meditation. She blends different subgenres of Christian songs, from the Yoruba cultural to the Yoruba meditative to the English worship. Afolayan has successfully produced an album with a song for all, whether they be Yoruba or English speakers, praise or worship lovers, and fans of classical music.
“Oruko Oluwa” is the first song on the album, and it is also the song for which the album is titled. The introductory instrumental display of this upbeat song immediately endears listeners to it in such a way that they want to listen to it till the end. A cultural-Christian music, “Oruko Oluwa,” praises the name of God and the importance of the name of Jesus.
The lyrics of the song are tuneful and interesting. Afolayan does not shift focus from the genre of the track, the cultural atmosphere of the music, thereby making the song achieve its aim lyrically. “Oruko Oluwa” is a lyrically rich Yoruba cultural-Christian song that will quickly become popular among praise leaders in churches. Her vocal sound harmonizes with the voices of her backup singers and the instruments to create a tuneful and easy-to-hum-to song. The singer’s voice output is consistent, and she does a perfect work of presenting the song lyrics in a melodious and excellent manner. Here is the link to a true-to-claim video of the enjoyable “Oruko Oluwa.”
“Again and Again”
The second song, “Again and Again,” is an English gospel song whose introductory beat brings to mind the Don Moen and Women of Faith songs that rocked the world years back. It is a song that affirms the imminence of the promised days of revival and the Christian’s confidence in the veracity of the manifestation of God’s mighty power. The tune blends with the lyrics, and “Again and Again “is an excellent song for evening pastimes.
The most spectacular thing about this song is how Afolayan is able to deftly transition from the Yoruba cultural singer on the first track to a melodious English singer on the next track. One would almost think it is not the same singer on both tracks. Afolayan and her production team should receive accolades for their adeptness at creating the desired atmosphere for the music genre that a track belongs to. The atmosphere infused by the introduction of the “Again and Again” track is that of worship, expectancy, and confidence, projected by a perfect harmony of beat, tone, and drums. “Again and Again” is impressive; the balance is rich, distinctive, and different. It flows perfectly with its lyrics.
It needs to be reiterated that Afolayan is lyrically sound, and “Again and Again” is another stamp on her lyrical dexterity. It explains the motive of the song clearly. “Again and Again” has lyrical depth, and it does the magic of uplifting listeners’ moods. The vocal quality is consistent, the music has a solid and quality beat that carries all listeners along, and the rhyme is subtle and consistent. “Again and Again” is an enriching and refreshing song.
“You Are Great”
This track shows Afolayan’s experience in congregational worship. An English gospel song, “You Are Great,” opens with a jazz-like beat and Afolayan’s clear voice inviting listeners to join her in praising God. The song is short, inspirational, upbeat, original, memorable, and endearing. It is a worship and inspirational song that adores the name of God and emphasizes His greatness. The tuneful introduction creates an intense glorifying atmosphere.
“You Are Great” is a solemn listing of God’s attributes. Afolayan renders the track in an enchanting and evoking manner. As is customary of the Nigerian singer, the lyrics to “You Are Great” are meaningful and thought-provoking. The vocal quality is fantastic, and it is much more so because the singer mixed English and her local language, Yoruba, without altering the flow of the song. Her consistency with the flow is lovable and worthy of applause. The instrumental is balanced, original, and blends with the lyrics. The modulation of the song by Afolayan backup singers is so top-notch that it amplifies the lead singer’s voice.
The fourth song on the album begins with a praying mood, and the keyboardist does an excellent job of amplifying the solemnity of the moment and introducing the lyrics. “Tete Dide” is a Yoruba gospel song, and the smooth transition from the instrumental to the song has the expected effect on listeners. It projects the importance and urgency of the song. “Tete Dide” is a supplication, a song that acknowledges the intervention of God in the past and calls on Him to work wonders in one’s life. It is a suitable song for getting into the mood of prayer.
Although “Tete Dide” is a supplication, it does not deviate from the lyrical soundness of the other songs on the album. It is a song with rich, convincing, and inspirational lyrics. It creates the atmosphere of prayer and moves listeners to be fervent in their supplication. “Tete Dide” factors in the plight of Afolayan’s primary audience, Nigerians, and it calls on God to intervene in the affairs of the country. There are instrumental varieties on the track, yet, the tunes all harmonize. The keyboardist and drummers understand the essentiality of instruments in projecting a song’s message, and they did an excellent job of amplifying the song’s theme.
“Mo nwo O”
The track opens with the musical blessedness of the talking drum and a finely tuned beat in a way that spurs the listener to start dancing before the lyrics of the song are heard. Afolayan’s voice then harmonizes with the mix to create an atmosphere of rejoicing, supplication, and confidence. “Mo nwo O” is a good choice for the final track on the album. It is as striking as the opening track, “Oruko Oluwa.” In making “Mo nwo O,” Afolayan has successfully created an album whose songs will remain evergreen in the minds of listeners. Her sweet worship song is so inviting that one would easily join her in singing to the tune of the song.
“Mo n Wo O” is a song with persuasive lyrics, pleading for God’s help concerning the different challenges humans face. The singer does a great job of maintaining the creative picture of the lyrics, as the concept of asking God for help is easily painted on the minds of listeners. The instrumentals on this last track are powerful and driving. It is creative enough to paint the perfect image with the lyrics and vocal projection of the song; still, Afolayan takes it a step further with her backup singers who follow her uniformly and amplify her voice with their harmonized vocals.
“Oruko Oluwa” is Afolayan’s bold step to charting a course in gospel music that is lyrically sound, harmonious, edifying, and musically pleasing. The lyrics are powerful yet simple to master, and it is almost sure that listeners will begin to sing along by the second time they listen to the album. “Oruko Oluwa” is a new flavor to spice up Christian homes; it an album that I highly recommend.
In appreciation of Funmi Afolayan’s talent, I return the favor with a composed lyrics, “The Day of the Lord” that should be a part of her second album.
THE DAY OF THE LORD
Though I may walk alone down the path
And feed on the morning dew
I may seem weary and worn out
Tired of living under the planet’s bed full of thorns
I don’t regret
For the day of the Lord has come
When the sun will shine on me
And make my days brighter.
I don’t regret about my past
And the wrong choices I made at the right time
And the hard whip that was dropped on me
For the good intentions that turned bad
I don’t regret the consequences
And the chances that I ignored to do right
For the day of the Lord has come
The day of the Lord
Will be a day of remnant restoration
Renaming of sinners’ remission
And remorseful of bad habits’ remedies.
When the evil will suffer their hangovers
And sinners criticize them before Christ.
© Toyin Falola, April, 2021