“My Father Once Beat Me In Public For Wearing Trousers”-Top Islamic Singer, RUKAYAT GAWAT OYEFESO
Talking about people, who are making things happen in the Islamic Music industry, Alhaja Rukayat Gawat is definitely in the frontline. The woman of substance started singing about 23 years ago, when she was in primary school. Success was bestowed on her about 6 years ago when she released some hit albums. As she has never rested on her oars, Rukayat emerged number one Female Islamic singer, a profile she has been coveting in the last 2 years and she has not failed to keep up the momentum till now. Recently, the sonorous-voiced singer paid a visit to City People for a round-table interview, which was coordinated by City People’s Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, and our Movie Reporter, GBOLAHAN ADETAYO. The singer, however, explained to us how the journey started for her 23 years ago among other interesting stories you need to know about her. Excerpts:
Most of your albums are colabos, why?
The essence is to pass messages through collabos, most of my jobs are family centered and via collabos, we can really dramatise to people the essence of family. The need for a family to be together and the rest. So, I use drama in my music to pass the message and drama isn’t something a person can solely do.
Why are your albums always centered on family or are you using experience in your marriage to teach people lessons of life?
It is not because I have issues in my marriage or I am a saint, I just think that most of the problems that happen in marriages need to be touched and reviewed so as to educate our patrons or the people of the world in general.
…. And what has been the reactions of the public to your albums?
I really appreciate God for the level of acceptance they’ve recorded, most especially the comments I received after the release of my albums. Some people would call to tell me that through my music, they have been able to solve some the problems dogging their unions. I am always happy when I get positive responses from my fans about my album, that means we are making sense. When I released an album entitled: Ogbe Okan, a story of a family visited by armed robbers with the primary objective of killing the husband, but later suggested sparing the man’s life if his wife allows them to have a nice time with her. Without consulting the husband, the wife allowed them because she never wanted her husband to be a victim of untimely death. Eventually, the man told her to pack out of the house. Now, she did the unusual because she needed to send message across to homes and families that it is only what you discuss with outsiders that they would know. That there are so many things within your family, which nobody would know, if they are not exposed and your marriage would not break, and more importantly the essence of love is tied to resolving your differences without an outsider’s interference. I treat love in most of my albums. If checked, Ogbe Okan, Alao Jowu Jowu and Agboko Lori, you would observe the essence of love. I talk about family values. Husband must learn to tolerate his wife and the wife needs to know how to respect her man also. The first day I released my first collabo album, I recorded so many missed calls and that showed that people enjoyed it. Now, I receive invitations across the world to perform, that shows that the collabos are really accepted and people are really reacting to them in positive ways.
Don’t you get calls from. the public, accusing you of exposing their secrets?
I received so many calls. In fact, there was a lady, who placed a call to me to say it was as if I was narrating her story. The essence of the job is to build perfect homes not to break it. When you build a story, you should be able to build it in way that people will learn from it and that is what I have been able to do.
Share with us the challenges you faced in making all these dreams a success?
I don’t think I have any challenge from outside the industry but within, my colleagues, whom we came out the same time, I face many challenges from. Away from those ones, I have no challenge.
As a corporate man, how supportive is your husband to your career?
When my husband and I met on stage performing, he promised me that he was going to stand by me all the days of my life. ‘This is what you said you want and you are happy doing it. Don’t worry, I will be 100% in support of it’, and since then, he has been very supportive. Sometimes, when I am not at home especially when I go to location, where I spend days, he understands that I am at work. I don’t have any problem with him. I am the type, who doesn’t discuss her family matters on the pages of newspapers; so, let’s move on to other questions.
How was your growing up like?
I grew up on Lagos Island, precisely at Oke Popo Area and growing up for me was very challenging in terms of having a personality as Alhaji Aremu Gawat as a father and you know my father was very strict. I am the type that wants to do things the way I love it, but my dad would say CAPITAL NO. I have to do everything according Islamic injunctions. Right from my youth, my father inculcated fear of God and Islam in us. My father was always telling me about Quran and he brought us up to be addicted to Islam. Glory be to God, all his efforts on me are not in vain and that is the reflection you observe in what I do now. That is why I love my father so much. You were part of my father’s remembrance event last year and we organised almost the same thing this year as well. For the remaining time of my life, I would consistently be remembering him for the good things he did in my life.
It’s rare seeing someone brought up on Lagos Island, doing Islamic songs, how convenient is it for you?
It is very easy for me because I grew up with it. I was brought up in that religion and again, right from my youth I was “Azakira doing Zikiri” kind of music. That was how I started my music career and from there, because I have the talent and I studied Quran as well, I find it so easy doing the job.
Many of your colleagues have blended their lyrics with Fuji music, why is yours different?
You know, when you are doing something that you love, there is no way you won’t keep to it because you would always find contentment and your fans would be your zeal. Musicians are like preachers and I see myself as one of them. Sheiks and imams preach the gospel and I am using my talent to do that through music.
Professionally, how many years have you been singing?
Since 1994 and that is 22years now. I was in JSS1. When I was in primary school, I was the leader of a group of pupils from primary 3 to 6 doing Islamic music back then and when I got to JSS1, there was an Asalatu society in our area known as NADUAT and when they were holding their first anniversary, my dad was the MC and I was the Azakira. That day was the first time I appeared on stage. The list of those who would perform was given to my dad he was shocked to see my name Rukayat Gawat, he looked through the audience but I hid behind a person. Eventually, he invited me to the stage. Immediately, I got there, I did one or two things and people came up to the stage in numbers to spray me with naira because of my dad’s status. I had enough money that day, but to my surprise, my dad collected the whole money from me and said on behalf of my daughter, “we are donating this money to NADUAT. I wasn’t really happy with that move because I was like why, but who would I ask? My father is someone I respect so much, I feared him a lot and you know, you couldn’t do anything than to move on. He was really shocked when he saw me performing.
How did you feel, seeing your dad as the anchor of the show where you were to performe?
I knew my dad was coming to that event, but he was not aware of mine. I was happy because I wanted him to see me and be proud of me in public. I wanted to impress him.
What impact did that outing have on your career?
I met many people at the event and that was the day a man called Alhaji Ganiu Aboto told my dad to allow me to continue my music career because he had fallen in love with the way I sang. That was the beginning of my music career. That was where I got the confidence that I can actually stand before anybody in public. That was how I became conscious that music is my line. It is my calling and this is what I should do. It was a turning point for me.
How has the journey been since 23 years ago?
We thank God because along the line, I went to the university and I was there for some years. The journey has been fine.
What is the secret behind your success because you seem to be number one female Islamic singer in the last 2 years?
I don’t have any secret, but all I know is that people know me as a woman, who sings pure Islamic music without diluting it with any other musical genre. People also talk about my mode of dressing. Second, most of us preaching the gospel make up a lot. That may be part of what is still keeping me in the business. The truth of the matter is that, musically I am very hardworking. Like today, I was busy in the studio forgetting that I have an appointment with you, Thank God, for my manager, who came to bring me here. God really blesses me in terms of resources. Despite that, I think I am still one of the most humble in the industry. It is all about humility and consistency. Nobody in the industry has the type of records I have. This year alone, I have produced about 6 or 7 albums that came out. They are Ijo Ope, Alao Jowu Jowu 3, Oba Nla, Iya Oko, Ewura. I don’t think there is somebody in the industry, who could do that because that alone requires huge resource. I still have about another 7 albums in the works but yet to be released by my marketer. About 3 of my jobs would be out for this coming Sallah celebration. Odo Eye, Igbatiwa and Oba Nla are coming out soon apart from the ones I am currently working on.
What determines the way you dress before you leave home?
That was how I was brought up. I can’t dress anyhow. My dad was a very strict person. You could not dress anyhow in his presence and that informs my dressing and many ways of carrying myself in public.
Can you tell us what people don’t know about your dad?
He was a very strict man, he hated lies or claiming to be what you are not. If you come to him to say bad things about anyone, he would excuse himself and secretly invite that person to come, so that you can repeat and express yourself in the presence of the person. My father beat me in public one day for wearing trousers. He was coming from work and he saw me. That was somewhere at Oke Popo in Odunifa. I stood with my friends and the next I heard was a hard hit on my head from behind. I was in SS2 then.
How do you see yourself in the industry in the next 5 years to come?
It is Allah who knows everything, but I wish to see myself in greater heights. My wish is to be number one in the industry and I would do my best.
As a shy person, what prompted you to go into music?
I may be a shy person as you said, but do you know one thing, if you invite me to perform on stage that shyness immediately vanishes. I become a different person. You will say this is not the girl you used to know and that is what they called professionalism.