Elifeonline... first online, best online.
This interview with Roland Olomola, a.k.a Baba Ara, was conducted by Bola Adewara two months before he took ill, from which he never recovered. Its goes down as the last interview he granted any media house in Nigeria. We remember you today, Evangelist Olubukola Olomola (Baba Ara ) Adieu.
Name: Roland Olubukola Olomola.
Stage Name: Baba Ara
Town: Father – Ilesha; mother – Ife, Osun State.
Birth: July 2 1962.
Education: * Methodist Primary School, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
* Baptist Boys’ High School, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
* Ogun state Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State. Graduated in 1988 (Food Technology)
Work Experience: NYSC at Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) in Kano in 1989. Resigned in 1993 to begin the gospel ministry.
Discipline: Food Technology.
Favourite Colour: Green.
Local Artiste: Anybody creative.
Inspiration for Songs: My mood dictates the song.
Instrument played: Keyboard.
favourite Biblical Verse: None. All the verses.
Biblical Book: Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs.
Turn Off: Lies.
Church: Celestial Church of Christ.
Discography: 13 albums
* Covenant 1994
* The call & the anointing 1995
* Je k’aye mo 1996
* Aditu Agba Iyanu Nla 1997
* United with the stage 1998
* Emi Ni 1999
* Master key 2000
* Hallelujah 2002
* Okoseli Part I (Baba live)
* Okoseli part ii 2001
* Sacrament 2003
“I left the Methodist Church for the Celestial Church because the church did not place much emphasis on songs. Their songs and singing pattern were basically hymnal and organ based. I saw their attitudes as so rigid and inattentive to creativity. Here was I, searching for greater challenges having seen my friends in Celestial Churches where they use various musical instruments. Some of them I invited to play in church during anniversaries. But immediately after my friends return to their Churches, I would be lonely.
“During a visit to my brother’s house, when I was an HND 1 student at Ogun State Polytechnic, I found out that he was to plant a branch of the Celestial Church and he needed a singer or choirmaster to train his choir. I offered to help and today, the choir is one of the best in Sagamu. They play good guitar, saxophone and drum and as time went on, I decided to join the church fully.
Gospel artiste/ minister
“There is no way you would hear good music and refuse to dance but I think gospel songs should not end up with dancing or entertainment. It should minister to the soul of people. When I go out to play, I want people to get beyond dancing. We should be careful of what goes into our ears. Music should have powerful ministrations such that it would affect our dancing steps and general attitudes to life.
“I will not condemn gospel musicians who draw influences from secular artistes in areas of instrumentation and rhythm. Some of them do this to draw attention to themselves or win the non-believers to Jesus. And having arrested their attention, they now preach the gospel. Such improvisations are good but I hope they put in godly and moralistic lyrics. Majority of us are not doing that though.
“If you will sing gospel, it has to be gospel pure and true. There is no short cut to it. Any gospel music that has no spiritual message fails as a gospel music. One of the tests of gospel music is in its desirability over and over again. No one can sing gospel music while in sin or in the flesh. I’ve heard some gospel acts say one can drink or smoke, I doubt it. That is no gospel. If I have to sing the best of my gospel, I have to fast. I perform best when I am in the prayer mood. That is why my lyrics come to me like in the spirits. I don’t keep pen and paper anywhere to compose. Once the tune comes, I begin to react to it.
“My love for music began so early. My mum once said that when I was in primary one, I told her that I would be a musician. As the first male child of my mother, they wanted me to be a Medical Doctor but so early I became a choir member where I helped in composing songs.
“In my secondary school days, I had a musical group that played on radio and at parties but when I got to the Polytechnic, the academic demands stripped me of such inclinations. When I started working at Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) in Kano as Quality Assurance Officer in the laboratory, I was always composing songs during night shift. It was not long after that I became the choirmaster of my church in Kano. “
On one Sunday, a prophet in my church told me that God has instructed that I should sing for Him. This was disagreeable to me because singing full-time in Nigeria was like becoming a beggar. I told the prophet that I would sing for God but at my leisure. The Prophet said I was joking because God wants me to sing full-time.
“Unknown to me, the will of God for my life henceforth began to unfold. Not long after, I was introduced into wristwatch business. Propped by the prospect of travelling to Hong Kong, I resigned my appointment at the NBC and returned to Sagamu. We started the business with $4000 and within three weeks, the whole money was gone and the business went bankrupt. I was back to square one with no job. Then the message came to me again that this was the time to set out as a gospel musician. It was still not clear to me that God was only using the setback to draw me closer to Him. The message came again that my refusal to heed the call would be punished. I felt it was a joke.
“Having travelled to Hong Kong, it was easy for me to get a London visa. At the airport, a Prophet came to me again that I should shelf travelling because I would be deported. I refused the warning and I proceeded to London. On the third day in London, I was arrested by the Police and was deported.
“On my arrival home, I fell ill with boils all over me. On my sick bed, I started composing songs. My first album was released while I was on my sick bed. The album, Covenant was done for the church because I had thought the album project would not work out. When it was completed, nobody wanted to touch it. We got nobody to market it. I felt vindicated that I was not called to sing. But one day, having opened a booking office for the band, one man just walked in and said, “I have listened to your Covenant tape, I want to market it”. And that was it.
“My rise to stardom was gradual. My rating and my audience rose according to the albums released. I don’t know how to classify the genre of my music. I don’t even know what I am playing but I understand it. Something tells me to play and I respond to the inner spirit. Now if you must classify my kind of music then call it Ara music. I leave my fans to classify it according to their understanding when they listen to it.
Born-again in Celestial Church
“I gave my life to Christ in 1987 when I had to repeat a year in the Polytechnic. It was a sad development for me. A brother member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God began to preach to me and in such quandary, I was able to seek God and remained humble. When I graduated eventually, I had one of the best results in the school.
“I am aware of the feelings of the Pentecostals towards the white garment churches. They feel that giving your life to Christ or being born-again is not an area of strength for the white garment church so, they look down on us. They see us as fetish but the point is so many other Christians who are not members of the Celestial church are hooked on juju.
“I know how God has used me to bring about lots of changes in the church. I am one of the few white garment Christian singers to be fully accepted and patronised by the Pentecostal churches. When the first Pentecostal church Redeemed Christian Church of God invited me to perform, I told the Pastor that I attend a white garment Church. He said he knew and that he has listened to my tapes. I went and performed there. The man was so glad that he invited me to be a member of his church. I refused because that would truncate my desire to effect changes in the Celestial Church.
“Other changes I envisage include doing away with the usage of items like oil, perfume, fruits, water, etc as prayer items. Prayer should be the only weapon of our warfare. Using fruits for whatever reasons would only give us a bad name. We don’t need them. I am positive that the changes have begun. Today, I can introduce you to four or five evangelists in the Celestial fold who are firebrand Christians like those in the Pentecostal.
“Efforts are on to boost the acceptance of my music abroad. We have been to Europe and now, we have our eyes on America. The experience was good for us. We went there not as other musicians but to showcase Jesus through music. We knew that most Nigerian gospel musicians perform in churches on invitations, but we went without invitation from anybody. We knew that it would be tough because we needed money to buy our tickets but we had no sponsor.
Another challenge was where would we play? Certainly not in the hotels or night parties. We also knew that people were not ready to pay to watch gospel acts. So what shall we do? We began to pray before leaving. We thank God that our first performance at the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Paris was full of anointing.
“So many churches depend on gospel musicians to build up their membership but many of them don’t treat the music ministers well. There are churches that won’t give you a dime. Some churches will respect you but no kobo will come from them. Still some churches will rob you of both. But if you are called of God, can you stop doing His work because of this?
I advise my colleagues not to expect good treatment from anybody. Let your focus be on God. Do the work because He has promised to bless you. The blessings may not be from the church; it could be from passers bye on your way home. It could be calamitous to always expect money from churches. However, because of my total reliance on God, food has never been in short supply for me.
Most successful album
“All of my albums have been successful. However, we need to understand success through two parameters, which are spiritual and financial. For me, my greatest goal is to sing to multitude of people and have the spirit of God fall on them all. If I can achieve that, let God call me home. But on the spiritual plane, gospel music is beyond rhythm, dance and instrumentation. We concentrate too much on tune, melody, styles, etc The vital part of gospel, which is the message, is being left behind. Christians need to redefine and redirect gospel music.
Evangelism at social gatherings
“I do attend parties, birthdays, naming ceremonies, etc. The way I go about it is simple: I devote the opening of my show to addressing the gathering on the importance of the occasion, may be birthday, naming, burial etc I don’t really preach in such occasions. I may not be able to castigate them for their drinking habits because the Bible tells me that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to help them. You don’t help people by sending them away. Many of my friends still hit the bottle and smoke. My duty is to help them quit by seeing good examples in me.
“Someone once said that I looked as if I was on drug while on stage. My response to him was that I possess two personalities: Bukola Olomola, my real self and Baba Ara, the musician. Once I’m on stage, Baba Ara is intoxicated with the Holy Spirit and performs better than people who use alcohol or drugs. That means I can do without alcohol. I am a food technologist. I know all about beer and I can tell you that you should do without it.
However, I don’t think ostracising yourself from drunks or smokers would help them. I’m sure Jesus would eat at the homes of such people. Gospel music has taken a lot of things from me. My former life has gone. I was once a drunk and a smoker. If I had persisted in all these, it would have destroyed my destiny in Christ.
“I did not learn anything in music. I have no textbook knowledge of what I am doing today. I know everything comes straight from God and if I want God to continue with me, I should rely on Him in all ways. I have to forgo a lot of things and I am enjoying this new experience so, I have to remain with God. My Greatest fulfilment today is that my song is meaningful to so many people.
“My wife was an Alhaja. She was born into a Muslim home but she was converted into Christianity through me. She began by peeping into Christianity and withdrawing. It was difficult for her because hers was a typical Islamic family. While we were still courting, her parents sent her to Mecca believing that that would stop me from marrying her. But I encouraged her to go on sightseeing. Today, some members of her family are converting to Christianity one after the other.
“While courting, she did not like my songs. She complained so much about my voice. She would not give me pass mark except when someone prodded her. She was one of my greatest critics. A very quiet person who has no friend, she hardly goes out.”