‘We want people to know what it means to live better’
These are interesting times for music in Nigeria. Globally, our music exports have illuminated the country on the global map more than most other sectors of the economy.
Just recently, contemporary gospel music group, 121 Selah, emerged finalists at the African music content, Old Mutuals Amazing Voices, which held in South Africa. Capturing hearts of Africans with their stellar performances, the 8-member team, made an impressive run, bagging several Golden Voice awards for their performances during the contest.
Although they lost the top spot, which came with a relaxing $100,000, to the South African music band, Hush, the group still won unprecedented accolades from viewers and even critics. Even the Show Advisor to the contest, Zwai Bala, described their style of music as spiritual.
Spreading their wings on the skies of Naija musicdom, 121 Selah is poised to popularise the gospel music sector, with their unrivalled songwriting and harmonising skills. In this interview with CHINONSO IHEKIRE, the group’s leader, PD Wallson, spoke on the blueprint for the group’s unique musical revolution, maximizing productivity as a team, and the vision for 121 Selah.
It was a stellar run for your team at the just concluded Old Mutual Amazing Voices, how did it feel reaching the finals?
We didn’t win the competition, but even though we didn’t win the competition, we actually won something. We won the hearts of people; that’s the most important thing. We won best performances at several stages; we are so happy to see that people got to know about our gift. They have become endeared to us; that’s a win enough for us.
Honestly, we are hard workers; we put so much into our craft. It is one of the most amazing things. Even though we can tell that diligence would always get you to make progress, we would not fail to acknowledge that we had God’s help; it was God’s grace. We are so excited. Many people work hard, but they do not get to where they are supposed to get. So, that is the reason we cannot undermine anybody’s work. We are grateful that we saw ourselves at the finals and our hardwork paid off.
Tell us, how did you guys meet each other to form this group?
I21 Selah is a group that started officially on the March 17, 2013. Before then, we have been informally trying to roll together; I always knew that I was going to be a groupie because I had passion for choral music. I got admitted to Federal University of Agriculture in 2010 and I was just scouting for the right people; I found them and we began to roll. It was a case of preparation meets opportunity. The vision had been on ground, so it was just to find those who could fit the vision.
God’s provision also made that available. It is rare to just meet people who vibe with your vision. Some have left, but we are still family. The vision just attracts its kind of people; amazing collaborators and songwriters. The beauty of 121 Selah is the ability to create a force with each other to achieve our goals. I met some of them in school, in my hometown of Sagamu and some through friends of friends.
So, what is your group’s creative process like?
We have had different transitions over the years. When we were in school, we didn’t have the time to meet as often as we should. We used to have something we call retreat; we just set out four days in a month. We were from different universities, so everyone knew it was important to respect that retreat.
We would meet at Sagamu and rehearse together. It became like a festival; it was like a homecoming. That is how we kind of did it. After we left school, some got day jobs. So, we had to transit to having meetings overnight. Now, most of us are doing music full-time. So, it is easier for us now.
How did you guys come about the name 121 Selah?
We are a gospel group; we are called to preach the lifestyle of Jesus to people. 121 Selah is a name I coined out of the responsibility I have to deny myself of anything contrary to that lifestyle. Selah means sacrifice is ever living acceptable holy. That is gotten from the biblical scripture of Romans 12 verse 1. So, the word sacrifices came up. So, we see this Christian lifestyle as the lifestyle we would rather have; we want to preach that narrative to people. It is more than just a name; 121 Selah is a philosophy.
Back to the show, what were the biggest benefits for your group having participated this year?
I have always had the dream to change the narrative. My biggest takeout is that people have seen us; people have seen us as changing the game. There is that feedback that people have seen that there are better ways to even does vocal arrangements; it is a legacy. People are tagging us on Instagram; it blesses us so much to see people trying to push for excellence because we have done the same.
What are the biggest lessons your group learned?
One thing we learned is team spirit; we learned how to play as a team. Many times, we learned to go about certain things on our own. There is a lot more that we can do together than we can do alone. Everybody is a professional, but until we achieve the collective vision we believe that we are working together and not competing with each other in the team.
So, what is next for 121 Selah?
We are changing the game. We have a promise to reach as many people as we can, by all means necessary. We want people to know what it means to live better. We are going to be hard on consistent content delivery; there is going to be recordings, concerts and tours. As much as we are gospel people, we want to take our gospel to the streets. There is that relatable way we can get to them; the conventional evangelism puts off young people. We have a song out now titled, Love Letter. A link is on our Instagram bio @121Selah
Finally, how would you describe 121 Selah in a sentence?
121 Selah is a gospel group committed to bringing people to the point where Christ is their utmost pleasure and motivation for living.