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How I Have Kept My Beauty Aglow @ Over 60 - AYO BALOGUN

•Queen Of Juju Music, AYO BALOGUN Tells City People

Queen Ayo Balogun is over 60, but you wouldn't know. She's got a mind-blowing figure. She's athletic. She is strong. And she has remained the ever beautiful singer she has been for years. She began music in 1995 by performing at a friends parent burial ceremony though she was then a music coordinator in the church, a position she attained through her unrelenting effort and passion for quality music production, it's also a passion she has always exhibited right from her formative age. Nonetheless, her background as a church chorister had always guided her performance as a secular artiste.

She was raised from a humble background. Her father was a teacher and mother petty trader. Both hail from Ilesha, Osun State. She began primary school in 1966 at Methodist primary School, Agbeni, Ibadan in Oyo State and left in 1972 she also attended Victory High School, Ikeja, Lagos, a secondary education when she completed in 1978, having left Ibadan to Lagos with her parents after her primary school education. After completion of her secondary education, she began her working career as a front desk secretary, while pursuing her passion for music as a Chorister in church she rose to the position of the Choir coordinator of the church and at this point she thought it fit to have formal basic knowledge in music in order to efficiently fulfill her task as the choir coordinator.

As a result, she proceeded to bag a Diploma Certificate in Music from Martins School of music, Oju-elegba, Lagos, in order to become a teacher of music, a step to fulfilling a dream of taking after her father as a teacher, possibly to teach music and own a music school someday but not in anyway intending to becoming a performing artiste. After that, she took a Correspondence course in Music from the prestigious Royal Academy of Music London to further broaden her formal and professional knowledge of music. As at the point of her engagement in the correspondence course she was no longer single but married combining the herculean task of being a mother with studying.

Bracing up to the responsibility of entertaining the guest at a friend’s parent burial ceremony which was just an intended plan to relieve the friend away from spending the fortune that was not available to hire a live musician for the occassion, eventually, birthed the emergence of Ayo Balogun as a musician. The applaud from audience at the event gingered her on and they were to soon request that she perform at their various ceremonies with her thrilling performance. There wasn’t even a business card to present to the audience who was captured by her unique style of entertainment and appealing lyrics.

Queen Ayo Balogun today is by all standards a very successful music artistes. She is one of the most sought after artistes and all the women often call on her to thrill them.

Recently, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE spent an evening with this beautiful woman who looks ageless. We got her to tell us her story. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Can you believe that the Queen of Juju music, Queen Ayotunde Balogun is over 60. You had better believe it. Queen of Juju Music, Ayotunde Balogun is but she does not look anywhere that age. Due to years of regular keep fit exercises at the Gym, eating right, and dancing on stage she has managed to keep her lovely look. She has kept a low cut for close to 20 years.

When she looks back at her music career, how does she feel?

Hmmm! It is so awesome. For me it is overwhelming. That I have achieved so much through this profession, I can explain it enough. I thank God.

How many albums to date?

The first one I called The Jesus I Love You This Day. It is a gospel album that I did. First, the 2nd one I call Oloruka. The 3rd one is Hello Ololuye. The 4th is Queens Flavour. The 5th is Goodness and the 6th is One Life (Ayekan)".

Over the last few years, her music seems to have changed and it is still changing. Can she take us through the various phases in terms of the content of your music?

"When I started in 1995, I started as a Gospel musician. At a point I decided that I did not want to be seen as trying to rival my church choir. Then I wondered how to bring clarity to this in such a way not to be seen as rivaling your church choir. 

So, I decided to go into juju music. Juju music is all about praising God, praising, singing, and praise people. It is when you praise God, that God will do wonderful things in our lives. When you even praise somebody too, the person will bless you. So I decided that I have to go into Juju music, not forgetting my background at the same time. That is how it has been growing from strength to strength".

Can she share with us how she has been able to survive in a male dominated terrain?

"I count myself very lucky because being in that position and to have many men to preside over, I won’t say I am lucky but I just thank God. Most of the juju musicians are well behaved and highly educated and this has helped in maintaining Sanity in coping with a lot of them".

What are the things she thinks can be done to take juju music to the next level?

"Well, the best is yet to come. I believe we can do more, KSA addressed us and he talked to us about people who mixed juju with something else. I think at this time that juju music is gaining recognition more and more daily, what I think is that, people should define their music and make sure they stay on that pattern. 

If you want to sing gospel, fuji or gospel, yes follow it and don’t confuse people, your fans and yourself. Seminars are to be in place to educate them more. KSA also talked about pride, because many Juju musicians are very proud and arrogant, they thought they have got  there. When you stop to learn  you stop to more forward, so  I think  Seminars have to be done to educate them and teach humility amongst them and proper orientation on how Juju music should be".

What has been her drive and motivation ever since she started music?

"For me, I look at those who are before me, I see them as my role model, I know they have achieved a lot and I want to achieve like them. I want to be relevant in years to come even when I am not performing again,  I want to be seen as an icon, and I thank God  today because I think I am getting there gradually. I can’t say I have got there but I think I am moving in that direction. Those are the people  who motivate  me because as they move, I run after them.

They have helped move, I run after them. They have helped me to cover a lot of ground and achieve a lot in terms of Juju music and in the music industry as a whole".

Does she at any point feel intimidated among the men in the industry?

"I don’t in anyway because I believe if you know your onions, you will not be intimated, I know where I am going, I can say that for now and with that I can’t feel intimidated, I look at those infront of me and I tell myself, yes, I want to be like them, even if not better, I want to be able to leave a good legacy for those coming behind me.  I have confidence".

How does she cope playing close to 4 events on a weekend, in different parts of the country?

"Its challenging. It is even better because I have reduced a the number shows that I do because in recent past, I used to play 5 shows in a week, I have played 11 shows non stop and 22 days non stop, especially during December, I don’t know whether it’s Monday or any day of the week because I have lost count of days and dates, but now it has reduced to 2 or 3 times in a week and I think I am coping fine because it is not much, I am used to heavy shows but I have gradually reduced it. I don’t play regular shows like I used to play at the then El-llays but now some clubs will want me to come, and they pay for it and it comes like once in a month".

How does she cope with life as a celebrity and juju musician?

"I will say here that it is not easy at all, even when I am not performing and I  have to attend parties, I just keep asking myself, how did I get myself into this? Because  everyone wants to associate with you, everybody wants your attention and all that, so I will say it is like one doesn’t have a life anymore and it is kind of tough because I believe I used to be very gentle but I can’t even define myself now, it is like the stardom has eroded the real me” it has been tough".

Has music ever been her passion?
"Yes, music has always been my passion though I didn’t know I was going to go this far, I never knew it will be my career, I was just doing it as a past time thing, doing it in Church, doing it at home and joining small small group to sing in those days and doing backups for musicians like Funmi Aragbaiye, Ayewa  Singers and Yemi Yombo so it was like a play thing for me but it is indeed a passion."

At what did she move from church to playing commercial music?

"The very 1st time I played at a party was at Ijero-Ekiti and it was so overwhelming, people were asking me of my card but I had none, many encouraged me and distributed my number out, then I believed I was singing gospel and all the same I was having problems in the church as if I am competing with Church Choir, then at that level I told myself, I have to define my music then I did some publications that I do juju music, so I came to the open and it was in 1996, I granted an interview and said I have gone into juju music."

Apart from singing, does she play any instrument?

"No, I don’t play any Instrument at all, though I know the rudiment, if I want to, I will but I don’t think I can do that, In those days people combine it but now it is more of singing alone."

How does she manage her style with your profession considering you have to dress well for every event?

"I always love to dress well, I am very passionate about it maybe because my mother is a fashionista, she is a fashion designer, she makes lovely clothes, so it is something I grow up with. I love to look good since I was young. Being fashionable is part of me."

Does she have any fashion preference, in terms of fabrics?

For me, it is the occasion  that determines what I wear, If I am going to the office I wear semi corporate and casual, not very serious, and when it is parties, I wear aso-ebi in Ankara, lace depending on the occasion, being smart and also gorgeous in the outfit.

"Whether skirt & blouse or Iro and buba, there is none that I don’t prefer so far they are made in lovely designers. I love my Ankara trousers, jackets and any fabrics that is cute."

Does she have any fashion fetish?
"Yes, I can’t do without my gold, I love my gold a lot."

Can she remember any party that was her major show?

"I will say , it started from day I, because my very 1st party was a high class party and I met a couple of high networth individuals there, and had a lot of referrals, the very 1st party I performed at in Lagos was a Minister’s party and the 2nd was for a former Head of State. So it started from day one."

What was her family’s reaction when she decided to go into music?

"Truly when I started, I don’t know who was doing Juju as a woman, I realized I was the only wave-waking female musician doing juju. My husband is very understanding, he knew I had passion for music and he actually thought I don’t have to go all out and do it, once in a while thing but I told him I don’t believe in that, I believe anything worth doing at all is what doing well. 

I have to go fully into it. We had to discuss it every time, even sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night to discuss it then at a point, he gave in then he started encouraging me and gave me full support, then for my children, I think let me say it for the 1st time, I have just a child, nobody knew that, I have got a son.

He grew up to know that this is my mother’s calling and profession. He loves it so much, he is a university undergraduate who has also floated his own company and he is gradually entering the entertainment industry.

How do you blend or sing at non-Yoruba parties?"

"What I found out is out when someone who is non Yoruba calls me, it means they have a lot of  friends who are Yorubas so when I have that in mind, I learnt a bit of their language so I can be able to cut across so I just try and do some stuffs in the preferred languages. I learn from people that also understands the language very well".

What has been her challenges so far?

"Yes, challenges are there, especially when my truck broke down on the road, and it could not get to the party. It was a very sad, and bad experience for me. I was at the party but the instrument did not arrive people are really not friendly when there is a bit disappointment they do not care whether you are a lady or not. 

You cannot mess anybody’s party up and they take it slightly on you, infact, I cried my eyes out and ask myself why did I choose this career but like they say, tough times don’t last, but tough people do and after I have done 1 or 2 shows and its successful, I quickly forget about the hard times. (Laughs). 

There are times like that, even now I am taking up challenges, some of my equipments jut got burnt fixing it has been difficult and also I just ordered some musical instruments worth millions of naira that is yet to arrive into the country. So I am planning a big launching of it so that people can see the new arrival of Queen Ayo Balogun".

Why her choice of wearing a low cut?
"I never planned to wear a low cut, it was when they shows starting mounting and I could not visit the salon anymore, I decided to wear a low cut so that I can have wore time for my shows. I started wearing it years ago and I have any reason to change my look, it has actually become my logo and it really fits. Some of my friends have even wanted to go into low cut too. Some are achieving it and some one just getting there.

Do you do any other thing expert from music because you opened a shop at a time?

I opened a shop and I thought I will have time to sit and be able to run things because I love the shop thing so much and even what I was into was unique. I was into bedroom fittings, not too many people were doing it then but my music has taken a whole lot from me. I go for meetings, go for shows but still it did not fly, no kudos to all this shop girls because at a point, they stole my things and sometimes couldn’t even account for its sales so I stopped it for a while but may be I will re-package it sometimes later because it is really what I want to do".

What ginger/thrills her during performances?

"As a matter of facts, it is my fans, there response makes you want to go on and on. Seeing them happy makes me happy and always makes me to want to go on.
Seeing them dancing motivates me sometimes. Another things is, when I am performing, I don’t like to stop because when I stop, I get tired.  I don’t like breaks when I perform. I don’t take any drugs but drug I take is paracetamol before I play and like 5 hrs intervals, I take another 2."

She looks younger than your age. Does she have any beauty routing?

"8 I give myself rest of mind, you should know the time when you are overworked and needs a break because if not, you will break down, I go to Ghana and other parts of the country to just rest for few days and come back. I eat balanced diet and take water a lot. I believe in water therapy even when I am ill, I take a lot of water, I sleep when I am suppose to sleep, I make sure I keep myself on bed for a long while, I have not started going to the gym but it is one things I want to start doing. I will love to be visiting the Spa".

Most Musicians started off from singing from the church, and she is one of them. How did she get into juju?

"I didn’t plan to be a juju musician, I just wanted to be a gospel musician, but at some point it was like I was competing with the church choir; and it was generating too much conflict. I felt I was competing against myself, which shouldn’t be. So, I felt the best thing was to go into another brand of music.
Anyone who wants gospel music would know where to go, and I can peacefully have my musical career?.That was why I deviated,and to God be the glory, it has been awesome..."

What was growing up like?

"I was born in Ilesha, but I spent my childhood in Ibadan and had my primary education there before moving to Lagos in 1972. Growing up was fun because my mother is a bundle of fun anyway. My maiden name is Ogunlade. When we were in school, my mother would read storybooks to us, and in the night our neighbours’ children would gather and my mother would tell us stories.

We have a singing family, my mummy sings soprano, I sing alto, and my younger brother tenor. So, we had the three parts in the family. At times the three of us would do a special rendition; we were all in the choir in the Methodist Church choir. I was actually raised in Methodist Church, Agbeni, in Ibadan, before we moved to the Methodist Church, Palm Avenue. My younger brother and I went to school on church scholarship because of this talent God gave us. I attended Agbeni Methodist Church Primary School in Ibadan before we came to Lagos in 1972. I had my secondary school education at Benevolent High School, Martins Street, off Ojuelegba. Later, I rounded off at Victory High School, Ikeja, and then proceeded to Diploma School of Music. I later took correspondent exams from London Royal School of Music, which makes me a full fledged musician.

Which instruments does she play?

I don’t play instruments at all, though I know the rudiments.
What was her experience when she started and how old was she then?
"I was almost 40. It was difficult initially, because I didn’t know how to praise-sing, and that’s what juju music is all about. So, I started just doing, ‘only Jesus can save’, and calling names. Then, I started listening to other juju musicians to improve myself."

Other juju musicians like who?

"My fathers in the juju music industry,the likes of King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Sir Shina peters, Admiral Dele Abiodun to mention but a few..."

When she left the church choir to do juju music, didn’t people see her as being ‘lost to the world’, what feedbacks did she get?

"It depends on how you carry yourself, the way people perceive you. Sometimes, people even regard you more highly than you see yourself. When I left the choir band to start my own band of music, people said, ‘she is going into the world, she’s going to derail’. 

So, I had that at the back of my mind and resolved that I wasn’t going to fail, so I was able to get a grip on myself, conscious of the fact that people looked up to me, and that I just had to be a good example. So, it’s left for me to prove people wrong. And I thank God that I’m able to prove people wrong. And I thank God that I have been able to prove some people wrong.

Oftentimes a female musician is been considered as something else,and we wonder, who is her husband; how does he cope with her career? Please, tell us about your husband.

We’ve been married for over 30 years now. By the time I started my musical career I was already mature and I knew what I wanted.and the importance of keeping my home..Although, if a woman is not matured and discipline,veering into such career could make such a woman go astray,all in all,maturity and wisdom to know the basic things of life helped me...So,as for my husband he knows who his wife is, So no issues."

How did she resolve them?

"I recall that when I started, he didn’t want me to make any album, but I made him realise that I needed to, and he later saw reasons with me that I needed to have something like a legacy, that’s the only way you can really reach out to people."

Probably, other women may be aspiring to come out like she did, singing juju music, what would be your advice to them?

We already have so many women in this area, and I thank God they are all doing very, very well. My advice to them is that they should keep the flag flying. I say it everyday, anything worth doing is worth doing well. Nobody will pardon you if you mess up their party. They won’t pardon you because you’re a woman, you either do it well or you don’t do it at all. I’m happy they are doing fine. And for those coming up, who are wishing and willing to be in this business, hard work pays.

Her career has obviously brought her fame. Has it brought her fortune too? compared with when she was in the church?

Of course, my life has changed, everything about me has changed. I’m not fulfilled yet, but I believe I’m getting there gradually.

Why is she not fulfilled?

I know the level I am now, and if I’ve gotten this far, I have a very deep belief that God is taking me somewhere greater. I can feel it in my soul. I know my best is yet to come. That is why I said I’m not fulfilled yet.
Who does she look up to in the industry, particularly in your genre of music?
I look up to my ogas; I call them my ogas - King Sunny Ade, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey.

Let’s talk women stuff; you’ve always spotted this low cut, why?
For convenience, I don’t have time for the salon. Even when I was  president of the Association of Juju Musicians of Nigeria, I have like three, four shows a week. I don’t have the time to queue up at the hairdresser’s.

Does she have a beauty routine?

Not really. I just try to have enough rest whenever I can. I drink plenty of water when I wake up in the morning.

Any special diet, because she simply looks fabulous?

I take plenty of vegetable, with very little carbohydrate.thats my secret.

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