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QUEEN AYO BALOGUN: Leading men with confidence


The name, Ayo Balogun, may not immediately ring a bell. But mention the Harmonic Voices and the interest of any genuine juju music lover is stirred up. From gospel to juju music, this pretty grandmother has been waxing strong for decades in an industry that is not just exclusively a male preserve but also one that has witnessed the disappearance of many of her contemporaries within a short space of time. She spoke with Yemisi Olusina.

For those who knew her while growing up, Queen Ayotunde Kofoworola Balogun was a very shy person.

An easy going and unassuming lady, she was born into a Christian family where everyone exhibited one gift or another in music.

Although she started her sojourn in music as a choir member at a Methodist Church in Ibadan where she grew up, she cut her teeth in music when she became a member of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Ayo Ni O.

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But why did she opt for juju music in spite of her talent and fame in gospel music?

Balogun said it was to avoid rivalry between her and the C&S church and to expand her horizon. “When you realise that you can be something, you will want to go into it. When I realised that I could be an entertainer, make people dance, make people happy by singing, I decided to go into juju music. Although, when I was a gospel musician, I made people happy, I wanted it on a wider level.

“I did not want to confine my talent to the church alone. I wanted to reach out to many people.”

Expectedly, her decision to venture into this genre of music was not a tea-party affair. It was definitely beyond just collating some Christian songs. So, she decided to master her game.

“When I  realised that I would have to be playing at parties, I knew I needed to put in more efforts to better my act. I simply started by listening to maestros, such as Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and Dele Abiodun.

I love juju music because of the percussion, guitar, keyboard and all. Long before now, I had been wondering how musicians coped at parties with music; wondering how they were able to make people come out of their shell to dance and I said, let me try my hands on it,” she said.

Though she was born with the ability to be spontaneously creative, Balogun still took steps to be trained in her chosen career. She went to music school on Martins Street, Lagos, and took some correspondence courses from the London Royal School of Music. What is more, Balogun thrived immensely on her parents’ support.

Said she: “I was born into a family of music lovers. My parents and siblings all love music. For instance, my mother still sings beautifully. She has a very thin voice and sings soprano. My father, although not a member of the choir, sings too. So, they gave me all the support I needed.”

To crown all of these is the unflinching support of her husband whom she described as the big pillar behind her moves and heights.

Her words: “I really couldn’t have come this far without my husband. Honestly, I thank God for blessing me with him. Really, I count myself lucky to have met him.”

Reflecting on her challenges at the inception of her career, Balogun noted that they were enormous. Aside from the strange glares that met her whenever she mounted the stage, she never had a female juju artiste to mentor her. Nevertheless, she was warmly welcome. That, of course, encouraged her to continue.

“When I started, it was like we had no female in the juju music line. One of the challenges I faced was people wondering what I was up to. They asked what I was trying to do. They were curious about what a woman would do at such big parties. But if you are good at something, then you are. People will tell you that. Maybe, if I had done it first time and people had said ‘oh! What rubbish,’ I would not have been encouraged to go on. Rather, their acceptance was so overwhelming,” she reminisced.

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Having overcome those uncertain beginnings, her music career blossomed tremendously thereafter.

With her sonorous voice and fans home and abroad, Balogun has performed in Italy, United Kingdom, Tunisia and China. No wonder she got honoured with the presidential seat of the Association of Juju Musicians in Nigeria.

On her election to this elevated position, the 62-year-old grandmother said she never expected it.

“It was something that came to me as a surprise. For me, I just believed that this was the brand of music I belonged to and I was just doing what I enjoyed doing, my job. I knew I must be a member of the association and I joined. But the members wanted me to lead them. It was a unanimous decision. It was when we started talking about it that many of them told me that they saw me as a mother figure and as somebody who could always be there for them. And I thank God that I have never disappointed them and by His grace, I will never disappoint them.”

Surprisingly, Balogun, a naturally shy artiste, feels good once on stage.

“The only time I don’t feel shy is when I’m performing. I can be shy in every other thing. I might not even want to talk in the public but when I’m on stage, I’m totally different.”

Despite her huge success in her career and marriage, Balogun is not done yet. Her thirst for success in other areas is unquenchable. She wears her star status with propriety and confidence. She bubbles with excitement over her past achievements and promises that her best is yet to come.

“Music is my career; music is my soul. I want the ministry to thrive and my career to blossom. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with my international counterparts and my fans should get ready for the best of me,” she enthused.