How my husband once rescued me from area boys—Islamic singer, Iyan GhanaIyan Ghana
Popular Islamic choral singer, Basirat Ogunremi, aka Iyan Ghana, and her husband, Otunba Hakeem Ogunremi, share their riveting story in this interview with KUNLE AKINRINADE.
HOW did your music career start?
Wife: I learnt that my parents had been foretold that I would become a famous singer and I started exhibiting the traits of a promising musician while I was growing up. I had thought that I would end up playing Fuji music because I used to mime a lot of popular Fuji lyrics. It was later that I discovered that my future lies in Islamic choral music.
However, while I was in school, I enrolled as a pupil in a Quranic school established by one Sheikh Dawoud Abdulmajeed Eleha (Alfa-Nla) in Agege, a Lagos suburb. It was there that I actually discovered and nurtured my music talent. Sheikh Alfa-Nla actually inspired me because he is also a good composer. In fact, some of his compositions have been made popular by some Islamic singers.
So, at what point did you turn professional?
My first public outing was in 1992 in Surulere, Lagos during the Eid-Moulud celebration and it was Sheikh Alfa-Nla who facilitated the outing. I overcame stage fright and gave a good account of myself on the occasion. However, I turned professional with a 10-man band in 1994. So, that is the reason I am celebrating my 20 years on stage on August 31, at the Banquet Hall, Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos.
Did you serve under any musician before launching your own band?
I did not serve or train under any artiste. Apart from my Qur’anic teacher, I was inspired by my senior colleagues such as the late Waheed Ariyo, Wasiu Sodeeq, Alhaji Falowo, Afusat Sodeeq and Seidat Fatimoh, among others.
What were you doing before you started your music career?
I would have ended up selling textiles because when I finished my secondary school education, I was apprenticed to a textile merchant in Oshodi in the hope that I would make a living out of the business. But whilst serving as an apprentice, I was always singing and my talent caught the attention of one of those in the market who invited a music marketer to visit the shop unannounced.
After monitoring me for some time, the marketer signed me on to his record label, where I produced my debut album in 2000. Although my first album did not do well in the market because it did not get massive promotion, that did not discourage me at all. So far, I have produced 12 albums. But I got my biggest break in 2007 when I recorded Iseju Kan. The album boosted my career and brought me fame so much that when I went on the holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2008, many pilgrims from Nigeria used it as their ring tone.
How did you get the moniker, Iyan Ghana?
Although I am from Ifelodun Local Government in Kwara State, I was born in Ghana, where I lived for three years before my parents returned to Nigeria. It was for this reason that people started calling me Iyan Ghana.
Could you share your educational background with me?
I attended Unity Primary School, Oyewole Road, Agege and Girls High School, Iyana Ipaja. I later earned a diploma in Mass Communication from the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo.
Do you think it is right for Islamic music artistes to praise-sing people in their songs as some are wont to do?
I don’t think it is wrong to praise-sing. You see, an Imam, Onibirida, in his days, also did during the time of Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W). So, I think praise-singing is acceptable, even in Islamic music.
How did you meet your husband?
We first met when I was in the secondary school. He would come all the way from his school, State High School, Alimosho, Agege to witness our inter-house sports day. He wanted to go out with me, but I declined. He persisted for some time and I remember telling him one day that he was not serious with his life. But he wouldn’t desist from coming to look for me in my school. We, however, lost touch after I finished my education.
A few years later, I was performing at a show in Abule Oki area of Iyana Ipaja when some area boys started harassing me for money on the stage. After giving them what I had, they said it wasn’t enough and continued to disturb me. Someone then suggested we should contact a youth leader in the community to talk to the boys. I was shocked to find out that he was the youth leader and I shrugged him off. He, however, ignored my attitude and intervened by asking the boys to leave me and my band boys alone.
He later visited me at home and gave me a new generator for the use of my band; and then, he started frequenting my residence. At a stage, my mother developed some likeness for him, even though I had not made up my mind to start an affair with him. He, however, persisted. I was always the first person he would tell about his business transactions and he would ask me to keep huge money paid to him by his clients. He was also guiding me in my career to the extent that I started seeing him as someone I could share my thoughts with. With his affection, he was able to worm his way into my heart and that was how we started dating. I just thank Allah that the relationship has endured till date.
COULD you recall what attracted you to her when you met?
Husband: She has this pleasant aura laced with alubarika (blessing) that any discerning man would not ignore; so, that was what caught my fancy about her. Although she was not pleasantly disposed to dating me whilst we were in school and much later when we had another encounter after many years of losing contact, I persisted. Of course, you may say that all the gifts and fellow-feeling was part of the game plan, but she radiated an aura that I could not take my eyes off. That is why I am stuck with her to date.
Does her career create issues between you and your wife, considering the fact that her engagements take her away from home?
Never! I understand the challenges that come with being a musician and I have learnt to respect her choice of career. On the other hand, I have been properly counselled by one of her senior colleagues, Alhaji Kamaldeen Odunlami, aka Aiyeloyun, when she took me to see him before our marriage was consummated. We have learnt to tolerate each other and there is nothing that can come between us.
Not even when men disturb her?
Yes, because there is nothing she doesn’t share with me. A beautiful woman will, no doubt, have male admirers. But she knows how to handle issues like that because she has been immensely counseled on how to handle such a situation. We are so fond of each other such that it has become difficult to hide things from each other. If she composes any song, she would bring it to me for my input or correction.
We complement each other. She is a musician, while I am a businessman; hence, I ensure that she doesn’t wrongly sign any music or performance contract without thoroughly looking into the prospect and implications of such a deal, especially the gains. I used to handle her promotion until recently when business schedules did not allow me to handle that for her any more. Our marriage has endured because we are too fond of each other. Our quarrel hardly lasts because we have a workable mechanism for settling disputes.
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