After Tofunmi, Biodun Ajanaku’s Soul Cry To Exhale
Her small act tells its own story, and it deserved great mention. ‘Biodun Ajanaku is waiting to exhale’.
The atmosphere in the well-furnished recording studio — with air conditioner that seemed permanently in a freezing temperature — showed how much of a stickler to perfection Biodun is. The furniture is not only well arranged, but reveals her taste.
Her Elly Bee recording studio is a special facility for sound recording, mixing and audio production of instrumental and vocal musical performances and other sounds.
Very calmly, she added: “It’s been a lot of fun making music and getting a good recording and arrangement of my songs since the establishment of the studio late last year.”
There’s a long pause. Ajanaku’s phone rings. She looked at the caller’s identity and answered: “I will call you back, I’m having a media briefing.”
Returning to her guest, she said, “so many artists have really benefited from it. Especially the upcoming ones. It’s been rewarding and fulfilling.”
Ajanaku, a vocalist and one of the few female gospel jazz singers around, is equally a composer, songwriter and performer.
“Actually, singing has been a passion I fell in love with since childhood. I have been singing since I was five,” she mused.
She said, “I’m very comfortable doing music. It’s the major thing that I was called to do.”
The soft-spoken lady peddles her culture, religion and humanity. So, don’t be thrown aback by her dialogues: God, life and music.
Her reverence for the Almighty reflects in her titles, which could be likened to musical notes. They offer many reminders of challenges she overcame in becoming somebody from nobody.
A reminder of the moment she had to ask ‘Who is God and Why did He make me?” Perhaps, her story is one of the bittersweet tales of life.
It seemed like a constant touchstone of divine intervention and the vagaries of fate.
In fact, in her attempt to know the essence of God, she caught the singing bug and decided to pursue a career in gospel music.
The lady, who wore a permanent smile, which easily pointed out her humorous nature, said, “as a young child, I would ask my mother such questions: Where does God live? Who created us? And I got responses from my mother explaining that God lives in Heaven and in our hearts.”
She explained: “The awesome beauty of God’s handiwork continues to amaze me. When I thank God for His blessings, I always remember to mention these incomparable natural wonders that add so much meaning to every moment of our lives.”
When she got born again, her personal disposition went towards singing songs that will reverence God. “I used to sing contemporary and secular songs. But today, it is not so.”
She believes that gospel music is on the march, but most of the songs are, however, ‘secular’, so to say. She will not join the fray.
The mass communications graduate of University of Lagos decided to become a jazz gospel artiste and not explore some other popular genre of music, because, “it is a way of carrying out God’s plans for me as a gospel musician.
My personal convictions have not led me to consider delving into secular music. My voice is God’s gift to me to deliver, heal, and give hope to the hopeless,” she said.
Her song, Tofunmi, which means ‘Jesus is enough for me’, is a classic tune with African touch. The song gained massive airplay on television when it was released.
Last year, she collaborated with Obiora Obiwon, to do the song, Soul Cry. The song, which was released in December, currently enjoys massive airplay.
The fast rising songstress said the song was borne out of divine revelation and is meant to inspire the hopeless.
“It is a heartfelt worship song, which will make you humble yourself before God and give Him your all. I’m grateful for the immense contribution of my beloved brother, Obiwon on this song. I admire his love for God and deep commitment to spirituality.”
According to her, many songs being churned out in recent times lack lyrical contents. “They are merely nonsensical,” she said.
“The contents of my song are so strong that many have testified to its life transforming effect,” Ajanaku remarked.
Though, many expect that she should have released an album, considering the length of time she had been on the turf, however, she is undaunted. She quipped, “one of the lessons learnt is never to be in a hurry. Timing is essential in all we do.”
She is however set to birth her musical baby this year. “In a not too distant future, I will release my album. Over the years, I have received tremendous and enough encouragement from friends and family members to do it and I’m set now.”
The secret of her unique voice, was it inborn or acquired?
She smiled, “it’s inborn, oh. It was not through training. I inherited it from my mother.”
Her inclination to jazz gospel will surprise you because the country only has very few talented jazz musicians, who are into gospel despite the fact that there are so many lovers of jazz music in the country.
She confessed, “I have a strong vocal cord, which is God given. It’s a style that is rare in Nigeria. I find it very convenient. It’s classic jazz. I have ministered in so many churches within and outside Nigeria and quite popular due to the uniqueness of my voice and songs. In fact, many weep after my ministration.”
She said the decision to take up music professionally, with gospel jazz, as her forte, was taken during her days in AIT. “I was posted to Ray Power to direct and coordinate the daily operation at the station. I also organised music choices, callers for the phone-in programmes, promotional, commercial audio clips and jingles.”
While listening to the music of the late American gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, she was struck by the strong voice and powerful rendition. Realising that they sounded alike, she decided to infuse some elements of jazz to her style of music.
“Immediately, I got a song and started singing.”
Since she put herself generously in the creative music hands, Ajanaku has not regretted, she claims.
Her first gospel hits were, Thank God and Joshua. The video of Thank God was shot in Washington D.C and Maryland in the United States of America. The track is a powerful, unique and classic tune. The song is borne out of a desire to show her gratitude to God for helping her to surmount numerous challenges through the years. “The lyrics of the song are so strong that many testify that it has a life-transforming effect. I like to do timeless songs with deep contents.”
She continued, “I play the piano fairly well as it gives me the opportunity to perfect my craft, song structure and interpret the right key. Playing the piano also helps me express my emotions and improvisation techniques that would aid a better performance and I have been nominated for awards in different categories.”
Have you performed overseas yet?
She drew a loud laugh and said, “yes. Recently, I was invited to perform at the Joy of Jazz Festival in South Africa.”
She added, “I was the only gospel jazz artiste at the event. For me, the experience was quite humbling. I performed two of my tracks, Joshua and Thank God, to a teeming audience.”
Ajanaku has a strong and deep voice, which reveals the influence of jazz laced with deep lyrical content.
She continued, “I am inspired by a burning passion for music cultivated during my childhood and my love for the conservative music tradition of hymn singing. The bible, personal experiences, my environment and most importantly, my response to creative beats and tunes.”
Aside from music, she is into fashion. She has a fashion outlet. She designs and makes new clothes, distributes and sells.
“Mostly female clothing,” she added. “I also do male clothing if required to.”
She added, “my love for fashion and broadcasting are the only two things that can seemingly compete with my music career.”
But the lady insisted, “my strength is in music. I do it without stress. I derive joy and pleasure from it.”
How do you juggle your music career and family life?
According to her, “my family comes first while my career follows. I take care of all my day-to-day responsibilities during the day while I write and record my music at night.
Every minute of my life is well planned and I plan my week ahead of time. With the help of my loving, caring and supportive husband, Idowu, I am able to put a lot of things in order.”
There were challenges initially when she started to have babies. “The children are grown up now and in boarding school, so, I do my shows.”
Most success stories have elements of sacrifice. Ajanaku has them in large dose.
“Determination,” she said, adjusting her seat, contributed to her own story.
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