It has emerged that even before their first hit, Igwe, in 2008, Nigeria’s hottest gospel band, Midnight Crew almost called it quits! A member of the band, Gbenga Oyebola, spoke with Entertainer about his sojourn into music and how Midnight Crew overcame a challenge that could have torn it apart in 2006.
How did music begin for you?
I didn’t even know I had talent for singing until I gave my life to Christ. Unlike most artistes who would say they started singing in the childrens’ choir, I didn’t start until 1995. I remember singers gathering in my secondary school and how I jioned them and found myself naturally harmonizing either tenor or auto and how somebody remarked that it sounded like I had musical talent. My sister who also had noticed I had that gifting forced me to join the church choir. In the choir I was singing natural tenor and before I knew it, I started teaching people their parts despite not studying music.
Did you make up your mind from day one to settle for gospel music?
There are some things about your destiny that you may never find out if you don’t first encounter God because it’s in knowing him that you find yourself. When I gave my life to Christ, I realized that I enjoyed singing and I was looking forward to going for rehearsals. And before I joined Midnight Crew, I was a worship leader in my local assembly. I saw many lives getting blessed when I ministered at Sunday service and I knew that God had called me into it.
After all these years you guys are still together, what’s the secret to the success of Midnight Crew?
At some point we decided it was time we gave allowance for individual members to find and pursue their personal divine assignments. We accepted that God brought four of us together for a purpose but that did not mean we should let go our personal desires because fulfillment might not necessarily come under the umbrella of Midnight Crew. And we knew by the faith we profess that on judgment day, we would give account for everything. While we still hold on to Midnight Crew, we made sure we gave room for that individuality that allows each member to express his or her talent. Consequently, we had to temporarily set aside the stage so that people can discover what it is that they wanted to do. That affected our going for events and programmes. As soon as we started carrying out their personal assignments, challenges arose. For instance, they want Mike Abdul to minister somewhere and it’s precisely when Midnight Crew is needed somewhere else. We took a couple of months to fine tune that and as soon as we got it right, it became possible for Midnight Crew to be available and at the same time, individuals in the group could do there own thing.
Are you saying the strategy worked?
I am telling you it is working already. Before we veered out, we knew that a lot of people would not understand what we were doing. In fact, some people said that we were no longer together. We saw it coming and told ourselves we wouldn’t let that get to us.
Did you guys feel like quitting when it seemed you were not getting results?
The truth is that in the fifth year of Midnight Crew, we almost went our separate ways. We started Midnight Crew in 2001. Five years later in 2006 we called a meeting to break up the group because things were not working. A lot of hard work and effort had been put in including spending money even where there was no money. We were shooting videos and recording songs and we just weren’t getting the results we wanted. We thought we should have made it big but it wasn’t happening. We wanted to be famous and rich and money was not coming. What we did not understand was that God was busy preparing us for our own time. God has his own divine timing. You cannot rush or go ahead of Him. You just have to get yourself to a point where you align with His will. If you blow before he wants you to, you’ll kill yourself before your time. Maybe, your character is not fully formed to handle fame and God knows it. God wants you to use that fame to touch more lives. If He sees that you are not ready, He will not take you there. And we didn’t understand it and we just felt that we had tried and it was time to call it quits. Miraculously, by the time we gathered to say our farewell, we started singing another tune and began encouraging ourselves. We were like maybe; we shouldn’t give up just yet.
Were tears flowing during the meeting?
We cried and prayed. We were shocked at ourselves because we were so resolute to go our separate ways. We felt each of us should go and do his solo thing so things might pick up from there. As we were congratulating ourselves on the experience of working together, someone among us just said that maybe, our miracle was just around the corner and we all agreed to it. And so we decided to just stay back and continue struggling. Interestingly, our big break didn’t happen until two years after that. God gave us that song, Igwe, two years after that meeting.
Could you do a collabo with a secular musician?
My challenge will be the content or message of the song. However, the message may be good but not align with my own belief system or agree with the scriptures. The secular musician must agree with the message I believe in. If he doesn’t, I would not do it because it will be against the instructions and the Word of God which I profess. It doesn’t have to be a gospel song but the message must point people in the direction of God and towards a better society and impact positively on the lives of people.
Do you think a gospel artist can practice a lifestyle different from the faith he professes in his songs?
I think such an artiste is a hypocrite and he’ll not see the face of the Lord. Even if his music is blessing people, sooner or later, his life style will catch up with him. The same lives that he is blessing will find out that he’s not real and his product will not count as worthy and believable. There is something called integrity. Integrity is when you get to a point where your words align with your actions. If they see that what you sing is not what you practice, they’ll call you a false prophet. In no distant time, you’ll fizzle out. -The Sun