Can you believe that the Queen of Juju music, Queen Ayotunde Balogun is 60. You had better believe it. She will be in a few months time, but do you know she does not look anywhere that age. Due to years of regular keep fit exercise at the Gym, eating right, and dancing on stage she has managed to keep her lovely figure and look. She has also kept a low cut for 26 years.
After weeks back, City People Publisher, Seye Kehinde interviewed her at her Oniru Estate home and she spoke about her 27 year career in music and life @ 60.
2016 was a very busy year for you. You played back to back from week days to weekends. How did you cope? Has 2017 started that way too?
(Smiles) You are right, 2016 was very busy. By popular demand from my fans, they wanted me to play at their parties and to do shows for them which I did. 2017 has been a little bit slow. Perhaps it’s the situation of things in the country.
How about looking at the developments in the Juju music industry?
There have been lots of improvements. Gone are the days when people used to say Juju music is dead. Juju music is alive, very much alive. We are very much alive. The upcoming artistes are doing tremendously well. We now have so many shows and concerts.
How do you feel with all these happening at the time you are President of Juju Musicians?
I feel very happy and I am extremely grateful to God for making things happen in my time. But we still have a long way to go.
People find it difficult to believe that you will be 60 soon. Do you get that kind of comments? What is the secret?
Oh yes. I hear this every day? People always ask me: Is it true you will be 60? It is the grace of God. Age is just a thing of the mind. People say I am not looking my age. People say it is unbelievable. Seriously, I don’t feel 60. I am just graceful to God. Maybe it is because I dance a lot. That is enough exercise on its own. That is enough to keep you fit. This is coupled with the fact that seriously.
I eat good food, balance diet. I make sure I take enough vegetables and fruits and I try to rest whenever I can. That has really helped.
At 60, when you look back, how does it make you feel?
I am very, very grateful to God. Looking back at my life, especially when I started this career, I didn’t know I will be this successful. I started 27 years ago. I didn’t know I will go this far. All I knew is that this is something I have passion for. Because I am passionate about it. That has really helped and it has moved things up for me a whole lot. In this 27 years and it has helped to push my career. I am grateful to him because it can only be God.
When you were in the church choir, did it occur to you that you were going to set up your own band?
No. I never thought so. I could not imagine me setting up a band. It was when I played for a friend that people said, oh, you played well, let’s have your card. Then I knew there and then that this is a calling. This is a career that I can follow. I never realized that it will be this good.
Did your romance with music start in the church choir of C&S (Ayo Ni o) church in Surulere?
Yes. I have always been in the church choir of C&S Church Movement (Ayo Nio o) in Surulere. At that time I was not doing Juju music. I was doing more of gospel. I was singing. The orientation I had then was if you are praising only God, you are singing Gospel, but by the time you begin to praise people, then that has gone into Juju.
So, when I started playing at parties, I then realized that I was no longer singing gospel and I don’t want to confuse people. So, at that point, I changed from Gospel to Juju and I told everyone I have changed to Juju.
How easy was your acceptability at that time?
My bosses who had been there before me were pleasantly surprised that a woman can sing Juju so well. Many women didn’t realize then that they could do it the way men play Juju music well. When they saw the way I played at parties, other women followed me and started doing very, very well in Juju. It gingered many people. It inspired them. My male colleagues were very happy to see a woman doing it the way they are doing it.
A few years back, there was this strong believe by some people that Juju was going to die. Some even said it was dead. How did you feel hearing all these?
I found it amusing. I knew Juju was not going to die. It can’t die. I was determined to succeed as in a musician. I said. No way, I won’t be a dead sector or career. So, I tried my best. I gave it everything. Juju music can’t die.
It is our culture. There is no way any other brand of music can upstage juju. Juju music is our heritage. Juju musicians always stand the test of time. They reign for a long time. Other musicians don’t reign for too long. Juju music is our own. Even Fuji music is our own. Juju music is a music that can never die.
Your son is getting married soon. How does this good news make you feel?
I can’t describe the joy. It is really, really indescribable. I feel God’s fulfillment in my life.
Queen Ayo Balogun has been able to balance out her Beauty & Style over the years. How did you achieve that?
It comes with the job. In Entertainment you just have to look good. It’s part of showbiz. We have to marry the two. It is also something that runs in my family. My mother was a Tailor we called her Tailor, not fashion designer. My mother was a sewing mistress. She was very stylist. It is something that w e inherited from her.
Several years ago, you took the courage to scrape your hair. What made you do that?
I believe in being myself. Be natural wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. Any fashion that you are not comfortable with is zero.
When I realise that I will not have the time to go to the hairdressers often and you can’t keep rought hair clean. It’s only now that I am beginning to grow it a little. Its because my children said they didn’t know me with hair so I should grow it a little so that they can see what I am going to look like. That is why I have this short one on. I cut my hair few months into when I started my music career. That is about 26 years ago.
Why did you colour your hair orange?
I was just trying to experiment not for anything. My daughter in law did it on my head and man people said they like it, so I have kept it.
When you look back at your music career, how do you feel?
Hmmm! It is so awesome. For me it is overwhelming. That I have achieve so much through this profession, I can explain it enough. I thank God.
How many albums to date?
The first one is Jesus I Love You This Day. It is a gospel album that I did first. The 2nd one is Oloruka. The 3rd one is Hello Ololufe. The 4th is Queens Flavour. The 5th is Goodness and the 6th is One Life (Ayekan).
Over the last few years your music seems to have changed. And it is still changing. Can you take us through the various phases in terms of the content of your music?
When I started, I started as a Gospel musician. At a point I decided that I did not want to be seen as trying to rival my church choir. Then I wondered how to bring clarity to this in such a way not to be seen as rivaling your church choir. So, I decided to go into juju music. Juju music is all about praising God, praising, singing, and praise people. It is when you praise God, that God will do wonderful things in our lives. When you even praise somebody too, the person will bless you. So I decided that I have to go into Juju music, not forgetting my background at the same time. That is how it has been growing from strength to strength.
Can you share with us how you have been able to survive in a male dominated terrain?
I count myself very lucky because being in that position and to have many men to preside over, I won’t say I am lucky but I just thank God. Most of the juju musicians are well behaved and highly educated and this has helped in maintaining sanity in coping with a lot of them.
Did you at any point feel intimidated among the men in the industry?
I don’t in anyway because I believe if you know your onions, you will not be intimated, I know where I am going, I can say that for now and with that I can’t feel intimidated, I look at those infront of me and I tell myself, yes, I want to be like them, even if not better, I want to be able to leave a good legacy for those coming behind me. I have confidence.
At what did you move from church to playing commercial music?
The very 1st time I played at a party was at Ijero-Ekiti and it was so overwhelming, people were asking me for my business card but I had none, many encouraged me and distributed my number out, then I believed I was singing gospel and all the same I was having problems in the church as if I am competing with Church Choir, then at that level I told myself, I have to define my music then I did some publications that I do juju music, so I came to the open and it was in 1996, I granted an interview and said I have gone into juju music.
Apart from singing, do you play any instrument?
No, I don’t play any Instrument at all, though I know the rudiment, if I want to, I will but I don’t think I can do that, In those days people combine it but now it is more of singing alone.
How do you manage your style with your profession considering you have to dress well for every event?
I always love to dress well, I am very passionate about it maybe because my mother is a fashionista, she is a fashion designer, she makes lovely clothes, so it is something I grow up with. I love to look good since I was young. Being fashionable is part of me.
Do you have any fashion preference, in terms of fabrics?
For me, it is the occasion that determines what I wear, If I am going to the office I wear semi corporate and casual, not very serious, and when it is parties, I wear aso-ebi in Ankara, lace depending on the occasion, being smart and also gorgeous in the outfit.
Whether skirt & blouse or Iro and buba, there is none that I don’t prefer so far they are made in lovely designers. I love my Ankara trousers, jackets and any fabrics that is cute..
Do you have any fashion fetish?
Yes, I can’t do without my gold, I love my gold a lot.
Can you remember any party that was you major show?
I will say , it started from day I, because my very 1st party was a high class party and I met a couple of high networth individuals there, and had a lot of referrals, the very 1st party I performed at in Lagos was a Minister’s party and the 2nd was for a former Head of State. So it started from day one.
Why the choice of wearing a low cut?
I never planned to wear a low cut, it was when they shows starting mounting and I could not visit the salon anymore, I decided to wear a low cut so that I can have wore time for my shows. I started wearing it years ago and I have any reason to change my look, it has actually become my logo and it really fits. Some of my friends have even wanted to go into low cut too. Some are achieving it and some one just getting there.
What ginger/thrills you during performances?
As a matter of fact, it is my fans, there response makes you want to go on and on. Seeing them happy makes me happy and always makes me to want to go on.
Seeing them dancing motivates me sometimes. Another things is, when I am performing, I don’t like to stop because when I stop, I get tired. I don’t like breaks when I perform. I don’t take any drugs but drug I take is paracetamol before I play and like 5 hrs intervals, I take another 2.
You look younger than your age, do you have any beauty routing?
I give myself rest of mind, you should know the time when you are overworked and needs a break because if not, you will break down, I go to Ghana and other parts of the country to just rest for few days and come back. I eat balanced diet and take water a lot. I believe in water therapy even when I am ill, I take a lot of water, I sleep when I am suppose to sleep, I make sure I keep myself on bed for a long while, I have not started going to the gym but it is one things I want to start doing. I will love to be visiting the Spa.
Most Musicians started off from singing from the church,and you are also one of them,Why did you deviate?
I didn’t plan to be a juju musician, I just wanted to be a gospel musician, but at some point it was like I was competing with the church choir; and it was generating too much conflict. I felt I was competing against myself, which shouldn’t be. So, I felt the best thing was to go into another brand of music.
Anyone who wants gospel music would know where to go, and I can peacefully have my musical career?.That was why I deviated,and to God be the glory,it has been awesome…
What was growing up like?
I was born in Ilesha, but I spent my childhood in Ibadan and had my primary education there before moving to Lagos in 1972. Growing up was fun because my mother is a bundle of fun anyway. My maiden name is Ogunlade. When we were in school, my mother would read storybooks to us, and in the night our neighbours’ children would gather and my mother would tell us stories.
We have a singing family, my mummy sings soprano, I sing alto, and my younger brother tenor. So, we had the three parts in the family. At times the three of us would do a special rendition; we were all in the choir in the Methodist Church choir. I was actually raised in Methodist Church, Agbeni, in Ibadan, before we moved to the Methodist Church, Palm Avenue. My younger brother and I went to school on church scholarship because of this talent God gave us. I attended Agbeni Methodist Church Primary School in Ibadan before we came to Lagos in 1972. I had my secondary school education at Benevolent High School, Martins Street, off Ojuelegba. Later, I rounded off at Victory High School, Ikeja, and then proceeded to Diploma School of Music. I later took correspondent exams from London Royal School of Music, which makes me a full fledged musician.
What was your experience when you started and how old were you then?
I was almost 40. It was difficult initially, because I didn’t know how to praise-sing, and that’s what juju music is all about. So, I started just doing, ‘only Jesus can save’, and calling names. Then, I started listening to other juju musicians to improve myself.
Other juju musicians like who?
My fathers in the juju music industry,the likes of King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Sir Shina peters, Admiral Dele Abiodun to mention but a few…
Leaving the church choir to do juju music, didn’t people see you as being ‘lost to the world’, what feedbacks did you get?
It depends on how you carry yourself, the way people perceive you. Sometimes, people even regard you more highly than you see yourself. When I left the choir band to start my own band of music, people said, ‘she is going into the world, she’s going to derail’. So, I had that at the back of my mind and resolved that I wasn’t going to fail, so I was able to get a grip on myself, conscious of the fact that people looked up to me, and that I just had to be a good example. So, it’s left for me to prove people wrong. And I thank God that I’m able to prove people wrong. And I thank God that I have been able to prove some people wrong.
Oftentimes a female musician is been considered as something else,and we wonder, who is her husband; how does he cope with her career? Please, tell us about your husband. We’ve been married for over 30 years now. By the time I started my musical career I was already mature and I knew what I wanted.and the importance of keeping my home..Although, if a woman is not matured and discipline,veering into such career could make such a woman go astray,all in all,maturity and wisdom to know the basic things of life helped me…So,as for my husband he knows who his wife is,So no issues
How did you resolve them?
I recall that when I started, he didn’t want me to make any album, but I made him realise that I needed to, and he later saw reasons with me that I needed to have something like a legacy, that’s the only way you can really reach out to people.
Who do you look up to in the industry, particularly in your genre of music?
I look up to my ogas; I call them my ogas – King Sunny Ade, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey.
Do they see you as competition?
Not at all. They encourage me, they love me. What we have is like brother and sister relationship. Even the younger ones see me as their mother or sister. The juju house is so peaceful, so full of love and I’m enjoying every bit of it.
Do you have a beauty routine?
Not really. I just try to have enough rest whenever I can. I drink plenty of water when I wake up in the morning.
Any special diet, Because at 60 you simply look fabulous??
Thank you so much.I take plenty of vegetable, with very little carbohydrates, that’s my secret.