INTERVIEW: “Odun Nlo Sopin” is Christ Apostolic Church song, not mine- Fasoyin, Good Women Choir leader

The Good Women Choir is known for evergreen songs like Odun Nlo Sopin and Halleluya. In this interview with PUNCH NEWSPAPER, the leader of the choir shares her experience

At 79, you still look very agile and fit. What is your secret?

It is Jesus Christ. That is the secret.

Aside from Jesus Christ, do you have a special diet or workout regimen?

It is normal for everybody to do exercise which I do every morning; I may not leave my room but I do some exercise every morning to make me fit. I do not take any special meals; I keep eating the things I was eating when I was young. It is just the Holy Spirit that has been helping me.

You have been a singer for so many years; at this age, do you still sing as actively as you did in those days?

Yes of course. The general elections stopped us from going out recently but before the Lord spoke to us that we should record a message for Nigeria, ‘Gbakoso Nigeria,’ which we did before the elections were postponed. In 1988, we recorded the song, Gbakoso, during Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. The message is still relevant because so many things that happened during that time are still happening now.

The Lord said we should use the song to pray and speak to Nigerians. It came out three days before the elections. This shows that we are still growing strong. When we started the Good Women Choir, we were over 100 but we were later scaled down to about 30 women. When more states were created, some of us had to travel with their husbands to various states and that reduced our number and we became 34 in number. As of today, most of us are over 70 years old. A lot of us are dead; some of us are abroad taking care of their grandchildren. We are about four in Nigeria but only one is still active and goes out with me and our seed. We are still very active because people call us for ministrations. We are still active and it is by the grace of God.

When you listen to modern-day Nigerian gospel music, are you impressed?

I would not blame those who release gospel music now; it is the condition of Nigeria (that is the problem). When they get out of school and there is no employment and they see some people prospering through music, they also try their luck. The difference between the music we did and what is being done now is that during our time, before we would go to the studio, you would have to read your Bible, pray and ensure that the lyrics of your songs were from the Bible. We looked at our surroundings, examined what was happening around before we went to the studio to make music that would correct the social ills. But now, these singers have little or no time to read the Bible or pray. I would not say that they do not read the Bible but if they did, it would show in their songs. A song that does not have the word of God in it would not be a good one. When you go to the studio to sing a song, your motive must be that the music has to touch lives. God would back you up if you go to the studio to release a song that would touch people’s lives; songs that they would hear and have a change of heart. Singers today do not have the time to do all that. Maybe they feel that they should just go and record and sell their music. Some of them come to me for advice and I always tell them that if their motive for singing is to make money, their first song may be successful but the others would not be. However, if their motive is to touch lives, the sky will not be their limit as they will keep soaring high.

There are a lot of big artistes that started from the church choir but later delved into secular music. Was that a popular practice during your time?


The reason they do this is because their motive is to make money and not win souls. It is clear, they started in the church but for them to go into secular music means that they are in search of something that they could not get in the church. There is something in their heart that they are hunting for and that is why they crossed over and Christ is not for that. What are they looking for? I cannot blame them but the situation of the country.

Were you ever tempted to sing secular music?

What type of temptation? When we started, we called ourselves Good Women, not Good Girls or Good Women and Men, and we were all working-class women. I worked with Kingsway for 29 years. Some of my other colleagues were teachers, others were traders. We wanted to spread the gospel of God through music. We had our husbands and children at home but we started the choir, not because of money. In fact, whoever wanted to join us then had to get letters of permission from their husbands that they had released them because whenever we went out for ministrations, it was our husbands that would take care of the children.

We also let the women know that we were not doing it for money and that if they were not comfortable with that, they should leave. We contributed money for the good of the choir instead of sharing money. If we were invited to sing, we would not take any money from our hosts. We went to Kano and Kaduna for ministrations and paid for the train ride; we had one coach for Good Women. We told the organiser that we would not charge fees for our ministration despite the fact that people paid to see us perform; this happened in Kano. They were surprised that we were true to our word because we did not take a dime from them but when we were returning, they paid for the train ride and what they gave us was more than we could have charged them. If we got to your church or anywhere you invited us to come, we would not take a dime from you but after ministration, if you gave us anything, we would take it. Although we never charged people for our performance, God built houses for all our members. That is a miracle.

You were the leader of the Good Women, so you must be sure of yourself as a good singer. Was there ever a time you decided to go on your own?

No, and it was because the way I became the leader of the group was a miracle and is still a miracle to me till date. When we started, we were the Good Women Association of Christ Apostolic Church but later we formed the Good Women Choir. Back then, the CAC Good Women Association always had conventions and whenever it was break time, we would want to sing and make the place lively but the organisers never allowed us to perform. In 1975, we got back from a convention in Kaduna and that was when the Good Women Association decided that we should have our own choir so that whenever we went for a convention, our choir would be able to sing for them whenever they wanted to relax, and that was how we started. The Good Women Association later said that it wanted to start its anniversary programme; we were all practising but had no leader. Regarding the composition of our songs, it was a joint effort. When we got to the arena for the anniversary, I was handed a pamphlet of the programme and when I checked the back of the pamphlet, I saw that they wrote my name as the leader of the Good Women Choir. I was so shocked that I wanted to faint because nobody called me to inform me that I would lead the choir. I felt that there were better people who could sing more than I could. I could not sleep that day. That was how it started. I never thought of going solo in my music career. I am different from Bola Are, she is a soloist but as for me, if I have to sing alone, I must have back-up singers.

We also noticed that other people were releasing records either individually or in groups but we never saw an all-women group record songs, so in 1976, we came together. Someone introduced us to another person who recorded our song and that was how we started.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

You can be sure that there were challenges because Satan would not sleep if he saw you touching lives. He will not go to sleep and he is always a failure. He also failed regarding the path we chose. Every one of us had challenges that we faced at the time; we also faced challenges as a group.

When we started releasing music, after about three albums, there was a problem within our group and this led some people to form another group. This could have destroyed our group but God knew about it. Then we went to a mountain and prayed to God that if they would propagate the gospel, God should help them but if their mission was to bring us down, God should intervene. After they released three albums, their group went down. I am not thanking God for that but I know He knows everything. That was a challenge because half of our group members followed them. Later, about three men of God told me that the reason God was with us was because we did not collect money for ministrations and that the moment we began to receive money, God would withdraw his support.

How did your husband feel knowing that you were spending your salary and even part of the money he gave you for upkeep on the group?

Our husbands did not mind because they had always supported us. Regarding money, our husbands gave us support.

But how did he cope whenever you travelled for your ministrations?

Before we travelled, we always ensured that we made provision for the children and our husbands. They were very understanding to the extent that they also went to the kitchen to cook because they knew that we went with their permission. Also, since we were all working-class ladies, anytime we had to travel, we ensured that our annual leave fell within the time we needed to travel. We knew when we had to take such trips and we always prepared for them.

How did your passion for music start?

I was born into an Anglican family and I had joined the choir since I was ten years old. We used to have programmes and children would be invited to perform. There was a day I was on the premises of the church and the choir gathered together to practise. A child was required to dance Rumba for a forthcoming event but the child did not get it so I volunteered to play the part. After a trial, they selected me to play the role. I felt so happy playing that part for our church anniversary and that was how it started.

I did not stay in my town for long because I was the last child and the only girl of my parents. My siblings took me away from my parents so that they would not spoil me, so I first went to Jos (in Plateau State) to stay with my brother. From there, I was sent to Ogbomoso (in Oyo State) to stay with another brother. Then I came to Lagos. They kept passing me around because they did not want me to stay with my parents.

But did your parents pamper you that much?

They really pampered me, especially my father. He was so happy that he had a female child. My father was a cook for some Europeans at St Andrew’s College, Oyo. Anytime he went to work and they killed a chicken, all the parts that the European did not like, my father would bring them home for me at home. My mother would shout that he was spoiling me but he would ignore her. So when my elder brother saw this, he felt that my parents would not allow me to go to school and that was why they started moving me from one sibling to the other.

Does it mean that your parents never beat you?

No, they never beat me, but my elder brothers beat me very well. Any time I did anything wrong, they never spared the rod for me. I lived with all my brothers. They were all teachers. Due to the fact that my brothers always passed me around, I attended schools in five different towns before I got out of elementary school. Even when I got employment at Kingsway, my colleagues would always tease me that it was my brothers that would marry me because they must not see any man with me.  Whenever we closed for the day at Kingsway, some of my male colleagues would want to walk me home but I always rebuffed their offers because my brothers must not see me with them. It got to a stage that whenever I was invited to a party, I always declined on the spot because I knew that my brothers would not allow me to go for the party.

It got to a stage when my brothers realised that they were too strict with me, so if I was invited to a party, they would take me there themselves. Then when we got there, they would point to people drinking alcohol and warn me not to do those things.

Have you ever been angry with your brothers for being too strict?

I like the way they handled me. I am so happy with the way they treated me because I could have been spoilt, especially while I was working at Kingsway.

With your strict brothers, how were you able to manage the suitors that came your way as a young lady?

After I finished at Anglican Modern School, Ibadan, I got a teaching job in Oyo town and I spent a year there. That was the period when I met my husband. He taught in the school the year before I joined them so when he went to visit his friends he saw me and that was how he knew me. He could not approach me. After he left, he wrote me a love letter, stating that he wanted to marry me; I was just 17 years old at the time. I had the zeal to further my education so I threw his letter away. I do not know how he knew that I had secured employment at Kingsway as he followed me there as well. I just saw him there one day and I was shocked because I hadn’t seen him for about a year.

He had come from Osogbo (in present Osun State) to see me and told me that he came to see me but I ignored him. He would come to Kingsway to visit me and wait till I closed, then he would offer to walk me home but I would decline, telling him that I did not want any problems. He kept on visiting me despite the fact that I was rebuffing his advances.

So your brothers never caught him all the time he was wooing you?

Never, they never saw him. In fact, he never dared to come to our house.

You spent 29 years at Kingsway. How was the experience?

I started as a sales clerk and most of their customers were British. Our managers were also Europeans. As a sales staff member, they gave us two weeks’ training before we started. Initially when I resumed, I was scared because I felt that I would not understand what the Europeans were saying but after a while, I got to understand them. Later I was promoted to the post of a supervisor and by the time I stopped working with them in 1986, I was a manager.

The first day I was paid my £10 salary at Kingsway, I was marvelled. That was in 1958. I kept the money so that no one would steal it from me. I could not spend a dime out of my salary until I got married. My brothers would tell me to make a list of what I needed money for and funnily enough, they would cancel everything. If you made a remarkable sale, they also gave us bonuses in the middle of the month. Even when I was working as a teacher, I was earning about £5 but I could not spend the salary because I was giving it to my father to keep for me. I dared not spend a dime out of it. Whenever I was going back to the school where I taught, my parents and I would go to the market and buy some foodstuffs from my salary and that was what I would return to the school with, then they kept the rest of the money.

When the Good Women Choir composed Odun Nlo Sopin, did you ever imagine that it would be an evergreen classic?

How could I have imagined it? The way we recorded our first album in 1977, was the same way all our songs were recorded. There was no special prayer or any other thing, it is only God. People always ask me if I am the one that composed the song and I always tell them that I am not the composer of the song, it is a Christ Apostolic Church song so nobody can claim it. Some people say that we went to a special mountain to compose the song but it is untrue. The way we prayed and studied the environment was the same thing we did for that song. It is just God.
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