INTERVIEW ! A Spirit-filled Gospel Artiste doesn’t entertain, but ministers to the audience- Tope Ilori

Tope Ilori

Tope Ilori is one of the shining lights in the Nigerian gospel music industry. God has been using her through her songs over the years to bless lives beyond measure. No doubt, she is one of the battle axes of God for the end time revival. In case you don’t know, she is a chorister at Christ Apostolic Church, Adekitan, Mushin, Lagos. In this interview with ‘Gbenga Bankole, Tope Ilori speaks on her sojourn in the Nigerian gospel music industry, her assessment of the industry, the role of Holy Spirit in gospel music and many other interesting issues. EXCERPT !    

How was growing up like being a member of the choir at Christ Apostolic Church, Adekitan?

Being a member of the choir has always been a fantastic thing because that is one of the places where I am able to grow very well. I was able to grow spiritually and musically being a member of the choir. Although I didn’t start to grow at CAC Adekitan, I got to the church via marriage. Meanwhile, I have been a member of the choir of the church for quite a while and it has been a wonderful experience being a member of the church and a choir member.

What are the challenges you have been facing over the years being a gospel artiste from your first track till now?

I believe every endeavour has its own challenges. It might be different and may have different impacts, but there will definitely be challenges. There are lots of challenges you just find yourself in as a gospel artiste, but if you have a vision, the vision will be moving you. If you're into the gospel music ministry for other motives rather than the vision given to you by God, you may drop out because of the challenges. If there is a calling and vision from God backing you up, you will find yourself moving forward despite the challenges. There are different kinds of challenges. At times it could be the challenge of recording your song or songs. You might have written many songs (I am opportune to have the gift of writing songs) but, there are a lot of producers out there who are too expensive for gospel artiste to work with, though they know the job. To someone who has not even gotten any money from the music industry, it would be very difficult considering the fact that you are the one to pay the producer, the instrumentalists and other people. That is one area of challenge.

Another area of challenge is the marketing of the songs after going through the challenge of recording the song or songs, although it is getting better due to the advancement in technology.

Tell us the number of singles you have released from the first one up to date

I have released three singles so far. The first one was in April 2018 and the title of the singles is “Thank You.” Later same year I released another track tilted “Ayo.” I released the third track April this year titled “E ko’rin.” We have a lot lined up and we are working on them. We are doing it gradually according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and as the resources come by.

Almost every gospel artiste has a role model or mentor, who is the gospel artiste you have been looking up to since your younger days in the choir?

I love Mama Bola Are. I love her ministration. I have been under her ministration a lot of times and I have listened to her songs over and over again. I aspire to be like her. There are so many other people, but I’ll speak about Mama Bola Are for now.

Mama Bola Are has her own style of music which I think is not the same as yours. What is responsible for your own style of music?

There are lots of things that can make someone to adopt a style of music. For me I don’t think I can give a word that will describe my style. What I work with is the directive I get from the Holy Spirit. My songs always come from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which is deeply rooted in the scripture. When the inspiration comes, I let it flow the way Holy Spirit brings it. I write it down and interpret it with my knowledge of music. I have written different kinds of songs in calypso, highlife and many others. I cannot now limit myself to say my style is calypso or highlife because it cuts across. I have written reggae songs that are very inspirational and powerful.  I never wrote the song because I sat down to write it, it is because the inspiration came. I always like to go with the flow of the Holy Spirit.  Whatever you hear from me is from God and let it just be interpreted to you by the Holy Spirit.

How do you get inspiration to compose or write songs? 

I get inspiration through the Holy Spirit to compose songs anytime. At times it could be when I am washing the dishes in my kitchen that the inspiration would come and that is why I always have writing materials close by. I always have my dairy, pen and my phone beside to write songs or record. Once I write a line I will just put the solfa and later on I will work on it.  The inspiration comes in different ways. Sometimes, it could be at the lowest point of your life. For instance, my first single titled “Thank You” came at the lowest point of my life and despite the fact that the song is a song to dance to or rejoice. When you listen to it you may not be able to know the emotion of the moment of the writing of the song. And that is why I acknowledged the fact that the song is a work of the Holy Spirit because if we work by our emotion we may not get the actual result God wants us to get with the song. Holy Spirit helps a lot in song composition.

What is the position of the Holy Spirit in the gospel music ministry?

For me, the work of the Holy Spirit is in diverse ways and it is all encompassing because the Bible says the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. For the Holy Spirit to work in your life or ministry, you have to allow His flow. The difference between a secular artiste and gospel artiste is the input that is allowed by the Holy Spirit and that is why the lyrics of gospel songs are different from secular songs. A spirit-filled gospel artiste doesn’t entertain, but ministers to the congregation or the audience.  To be filled with the Holy Spirit is one thing, to be filled with the word of God is another. When you have the Holy Spirit in you, He will give you inspiration based on what you know. You cannot write a song from what you don’t know. If you don’t know a particular Bible passage and the Holy Spirit wants you to write a song on that passage you might not be able to bring out the exact message the Holy Spirit wants to pass through that song. The infilling of the Holy Spirit and help of the knowledge of the word of God will go a long way to help ministers in their ministration.

What should be the main message of every gospel artiste to the world?

The main or primary message is to go into the world and preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is our mission to show Christ to every life. Most times we sing songs of thanksgiving, praise, worship, etc., but still we have to do the main job which is to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As music ministers, the gospel of Jesus should be our message to people.

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

 If I were to be Elisha and I worked with Elijah, and I saw the way the God of Elijah worked in Elijah and then Elijah passed on, I will still refer to the God of Elijah because I can testify to Him. However, I will not praise Elijah because Elijah was not the God. I am able to refer to God of Elijah because I worked with Elijah and I know the God that Elijah worked with. We should praise the God and not the man. Sometimes we forget that it is God that made the man who he is. There is a place for reference, there is a place for respect and there is a place for God which is not supposed to be a place for man.

You said earlier that gospel ministers should minister, but not entertain their audience. What is your assessment of the current state of gospel music in Nigeria?

If you look at the audience, in question now the Nigeria audience, most people don’t know God personally, but they go to churches, concerts and they are under the ministration of ministers of God. Most of them attend concerts because of the invited guest and with the mindset of dancing when they get to the concert, but will their dance get to God? Will God accept their dance? The Bible says in Psalm 100:1-4 ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his court with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.’ If God does not know you and you are praising Him, I don’t know who you are praising. You cannot come to the presence of God if He doesn’t know you. If God does not know you, you are not His sheep and He’s not your shepherd. But God is a merciful God and that is why the sun will shine on everybody. Everybody enjoys the mercy of God in one way or the other. We need to know Him.

 If as a gospel artiste you are called to minister you need to draw people to God. There are ministers of God who always make altar call at every ministration. There is no point praising God and that praise won’t go beyond the roof. If you are not a child of God, why are you praising God with the children of God? God knows His children. He needs to identify you before He can accept your praise, otherwise, you are just entertaining yourself. You may sweat, but your praise won’t go beyond the roof.

You have released three singles which undoubtedly blessed many lives. When should we be expecting your first album?

We are working tirelessly on it. Our album will be released very soon by God’s grace.

Where do you see Holy Spirit taking you in the next couple of years?

God will not start a journey with you without the readiness to take you to the final destination, if you are very patient in the journey. I believe God to take me to the height I don’t think about. I see myself as a vessel being used by God. Wherever God wants me to go is where I will go.

What is the role of your husband in your ministry?

(Laughs) My husband is the vision carrier. At times people may see you doing something, but the person that is pushing it will be someone else. He has been really supportive.  All glory to God. (laughs).
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