By Chinonso Kenneth
Ola Musique is a musician based in Abuja Nigeria, known for infusing pidgin English into a novel genre of gospel sounds called Afro-soul gospel.
It was raining when I stepped out of my cab and into the heart of Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, on a unday morning. I found myself on the premises of the Good Church International with one goal in mind: to listen to Ola Musique sing his heart out.
A young, smiling Ola Musique, clothed in a suit, complete with an all-white sneaker, mounts the pulpit at the Good Church International auditorium, grabs the mic and breaks into a melodious worship medley that his audience seem familiar with as they quickly join him.
The environment is electrifying as his soul stirring renditions echo from the speakers. He is evidently popular with the audience, most of whom have their eyes closed and hands raised in worship, feeling the presence of God in the building through Ola Musique’s songs.
I must confess that I, too, quickly became moved by his songs, and understood perfectly why the audience was so enthralled by his ministration and worship.
Ola Musique is not the only burgeoning gospel musician in Nigeria with a melodious voice, but his use of pidgin English - Nigerian street lingua - makes him unique to his ever-growing fanbase, who identify with his style.
“I’m a multi-dimensional type of musician, but my main base is Afro soul. I communicate music in an African way, but also in a soul manner,” Ola Musique says, flashing his charming, trademark smile.
“I would not say it’s easy, but if you want to attract a certain audience, what do you do? You speak their language. There are lots of sub-urban areas in Nigeria, and a lot of people relate to my music because I use pidgin English.”
He notes that growing up in a rural area meant he was used to speaking pidgin English as a means of communication, which sparked an interest in infusing the lingua into his music as it enabled him to create relatable music for his listeners.
Ola Musique explains that he has been been performing since he was six years old. The encouragement and commendations have always been big motivators, as well as inspirations, for the artist.
“I’ve always been in the church, always been passionate about music. Growing up, I quickly discovered that my purpose is in making and performing gospel music, being in church, and performing in godly places," he says.
“There are people out there that don’t listen to church music anymore because they feel like it’s outdated, it’s archaic, or just too slow for them. That’s why I infuse Afro-soul so I can reach out to those who finds gospel music is boring — that’s the cause I’m passionate about.”
Ola Musique’s Cause: Afro-Soul Gospel for the Unchurched
“I almost started singing there,” Ola Musique chuckled when asked what Afro-soul gospel is all about.
“If you hear of Afro music and Afro beats, the first thing that comes to your mind is - of course - the beat. But when it comes to soul music, it is all about the beauty of the voice and the lyrical content,” he says.
“I’m a Christian and I do gospel music. If I want to infuse this into my craft, I have to kill the beat and find an alternative, more soulful rhythm using the piano or guitar," he says. "Sometimes I can have a more upbeat song, but I have to make sure I keep that soulful manner so people still get my lyrics - the lyrics is what makes people understand soul.”
He noted that his style of music has been rejected in some churches because of how unique, irregular, and untraditional it is. Even the title of his songs are untraditional - His most commercially successful song is called ‘Flex,’ which is strange for a gospel track.
“You won’t find my style of music many other places. The difference between my style of music and what is out there, is that my music gets to people that are "unchuched" - those that are not traditionally Christians and those that are not in the confinement of the church.”
When asked about the creative process he goes through when making his songs, a small laugh bubbled from his throat, joking that it is "state secret." Then, he says that he always prays before anything else.
“For me, I always get melody," he explains. "There is always a concert playing in my head; there’s live guitar, drums, piano. So basically, I sit down and form the melody first, before I get to writing the lyrics. Then, I just make it all sound beautiful.”
“When I lack inspiration, I read and listen to other great people that inspire me. I either read the bible or some other book, but the most important thing is making sure that my mind doesn’t go dormant.”
Ola Musique thas an upcoming EP set to release in October 2023.
Facebook: Ola Musiq
About the Writer
Chinonso Kenneth Onwurah is a constructive journalist, development policy analyst, advocacy and communications consultant based in Abuja Nigeria. Chinonso has a Master’s degree in Political Economy and Development studies and has worked with several non-profit and media organisations across Africa.