INTERVIEW: Prayers of Apostle Babalola, Baba Abiye are still working in my life till now- Dr. Bola Are

Veteran gospel singer , Dr. Bola Are , speaks with PUNCH NEWSPAPER on her career and other issues

Does being a gospel singer make you an evangelist or Pastor?

Some people think that is but being a gospel artiste is not a criterion for anybody to say he or she is an evangelist or pastor . You must be ordained by somebody before you can call yourself an evangelist. For me , the head of singers in the Christ Apostolic Church and also a former general evangelist of the mission , Pa David Babajide , anointed me 11 times before he died . Pastors Samson Akande alias Baba Abiye and Obadare prayed for me and anointed me several times too . Giving oneself that name ( pastor or evangelist) can be likened to one crowning oneself as king . One must be ordained , trained and anointed before being given these titles .

Is being a gospel artiste a calling?

Yes , you must be called to be a gospel artiste . If you are not called and you call yourself , you wouldn ’t last . Singing is the only thing that one cannot learn . If God didn ’t give you the gift and you force yourself to sing, it wouldn ’t work .

You were brought up by four top prophets in Christ Apostolic Church – Apostle Ayodele Babalola, Prophet Babajide , Prophet Akande and Prophet T .O . Obadare . Did that contribute to your success story ?

I was the first fruit of my parents and I was ‘donated ’ to the late Apostle Babalola . I grew up in the Mission House . But when Babalola died , I was taken to Pastors Abiye and Obadare . I grew up with them and that ’s why I mention their names a lot . Their prayers are working in my life till now and they will continue working till the end of my life . I claim 120 years for myself . I want to go home ( heaven ) and sing with the 24 elders ; before then , I ’m going nowhere. This is part of why I ’m successful in singing and praying . My parents told me that I started singing when I was one- year -old and I believe them because my grandchildren are also singing at that same age . Singing and dancing are hereditary gifts from my grandfather who was a hunter .

As a young lady who started gospel music early , did you get enough publicity?

Three years before I was born , it was prophesied that my parents would have a child that would work for the Lord . However , it was not specified that I would sing. So , when I was supposed to talk , I was singing instead . It is God that publicised me. I go all over the world singing .

People think that gospel artistes are boring and strict. Is that really so?

Those who say gospel music is boring are not Christians . Gospel music gives one joy , peace, and everything good . If you see people going to secular music programmes , watch them ; they are just looking for money and once they don’t get money from gospel music , they would opt for secular music . I cannot run from gospel music ; I have no other place to go. Most of those that used to be gospel singers and turned to secular music fade easily . What fame has God not given me since 1973 ? I have 87 albums out already and two are pending . If it is real gospel music , it cannot be boring. When you are singing out of Jesus Christ , you are singing nonsense . We are not strict at all .

A lot of gospel singers have spiritual fathers that they acknowledge in their songs . Do you think that is right?

You’re referring to me on this one. Personally, I acknowledge all my parents in faith . I always mention the God of my spiritual fathers ( Babalola , Abiye , Obadare .) In fact, if nobody else does , I would do that and continue to do it. I cannot but acknowledge them because they have prayed for me . God would not come down from heaven ; He would send somebody to one. All those great men of God monitored me and prayed for me . Prophet Abiye did two weddings for me . The first one was at a CAC church in Ede, because God said I should not do a noisy wedding . That day , 39 members of the top hierarchy of CAC attended my wedding and none of them knew what they were coming to do in Ede. When I asked him ( Prophet Abiye ) the reason for that , he said all of them would be witnesses to the wedding . My second wedding was a month later. It was held on a prayer mountain . Prophet Abiye hosted the wedding there because he didn ’t want people to think I got pregnant before marriage. Note that I didn ’t get married to two men ; it was the same man . Mentioning their ( prophets) names is a way of cherishing them and thanking God for their lives . I feel it is right to acknowledge one’ s spiritual fathers . If I mention the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob , who I didn ’t see , I need to also mention the names of the ones I know . I ‘m not eulogising them or worshipping their names , I ’m just praising their God who Has done wonders through them.

What keeps you?

It is Jesus Christ . I like dancing to gospel songs. What keeps me going is ( the thought of ) facing God, and doing His work . When my husband died about 25 years ago, I promised God that I would remain Bola Are and not remarry. When I was working at the University College Hospital , Ibadan , in 1979 , God gave me 30 days to resign and work for Him . Since then , I have never lacked for a single day . When I ’m singing , I feel on top of the world because that ’s what I was created for .

Do you think it is right to bring comedians to church ?

That is what we call modern Christianity . If you bring comedians to the church and they crack jokes against Christianity , that is wrong in my own opinion . If you must bring any comedian , whatever the person says must be from the Bible. Anything outside that , then the comedian should not be on the pulpit . If the person is a secular comedian , he or she should not come to the pulpit at all .

What comes to your mind when you see gospel singers ministering in fashionable clothing and jewellery?

As for me , I don’t wear jewellery . I like to be natural at all times , so I don’ t adorn myself with them at all . However , dressing very well is part of our music but one shouldn ’t just be too audacious or extravagant . People should not see one’s nakedness; it is bad if one dresses that way . I hear people classify some people as old -time ( old school ) but God is old -time too . It is important that we dress well but even if the clothes cost as much as N 1m , it should be made decently .

Compared to when you started , what has changed about gospel music?

A lot of things have changed about gospel music of my time , compared to the present day . Some people just sing funny songs these days but some are actually singing well. It was not like this when we started in the 70 s. These days , one wouldn ’t even recognise some gospel singers when one meets them outside . When we started , a lot of us were not after the money. Sometimes , when we went to perform, we were given just food and drinks ; no money. But these days , some are after money. However , some of these artistes really don’t have other means of livelihood except music . Music has changed . Sometimes, people even say that gospel singers are commercial but we have to pay the people going around with us and settle other logistics. These days , one has to take professional singers to the studio or the stage .

As a young woman , how did you handle the pressure of male admirers ?

As a young lady , I didn’t look at men . Any man couldn’t even walk up to me and woo me anyhow. I wasn’t promiscuous . If I don’t know much about a place , you wouldn’t find me there . As a young lady , I was not someone men could toy with . Before I got married , a lot of suitors came . One even said he would commit suicide if I didn ’t marry him. He tried to entice me with a brand new Volkswagen car . But , my spiritual father and I chased him after fervent prayers . We later discovered that the same man had impregnated another woman and was married to her.

How do you relax?

I listen to music and I get inspiration from there . At times , I just keep quiet. I also travel out of the country whenever I want to relax . Nigeria is too stressful , so I always create time to rest abroad .

How do you keep fit ?

I was a footballer in elementary and secondary school . I also used to run while in school . Dancing on stage is serious exercise . In fact, I consider that to be the greatest form of exercise . When you see me on the stage , I am not gentle. I am very active and agile on stage . At times , I also run to keep fit. When I ’m outside the country , there are places that I run to and come back to my hotel .

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