Ace gospel singer, Tope Alabi, talks to Ademola Olonilua about her life on and off stage
You lost your mother this year, how does it make you feel whenever you think about it?
I felt bad about her death. Before she died, some relatives called me to express their worry about the way she was breathing; they said she laboured hard before she could breathe. When I told my husband, he advised me to pay her a visit. When I got there, I held her hand to pray to God to spare her life for me because she was a wonderful woman, a prayer warrior, a prophetess and a singer; the Lord told me that I should leave her hand because she was already with him. Immediately I had that revelation, I kept her hand on the bed. About ten minutes after, she died. I am very sure that she has gone to be with the Lord.
You said that your mother was also a singer, was that where you got your talent?
Everybody has a talent of God in them; she was just someone that loved to sing at home. She did not release any album. I call her a singer because while growing up as a child, I heard her sing a lot. My mother never sang professionally and she was not even a member of the choir.
We learnt your mother wanted you to become a reverend sister?
Yes she did and that is because a prophet told her that I was going to be a minister of God. Being a Catholic, she believed that the way that could happen was if I became a reverend sister. They wanted to put me in a convent before she realised that it was not what God had in store for me.
Did you ever face any temptation to be wayward as a result of your humble background?
There were so many temptations but I thank God for my mother who kept me on the right path. I would like to advise parents as well to instil discipline into their children so that they would be able to flee from temptation. My mother did a wonderful job on me because the fear of what my mother would do to me if I was caught doing the wrong thing was always there to deter me from doing anything silly. If at all you tried anything stupid and you got caught, just consider yourself dead. We need parents to take care of these children because temptations come in different forms.
There was a time my mother sent me on an errand around 7.30pm and I was almost ambushed by some boys who wanted to rape me. Immediately I sighted them, I began to shout because I remembered my mother’s advice about situations like that. I thank God because as I began to scream, those boys ran away and that was what saved me. If it were another girl, they would have had their way with her. Despite the fact that we were struggling, my mother made sure she reserved some money for our upkeep like making our hair or buying necessary things. She did not want a situation whereby a man would tempt us with money. Young ladies should also determine in their hearts that they would keep their bodies for their husbands because no man likes a second hand product.
How did you fall in love with music?
I have been singing since I was very small and I joined the choir in Catholic Church when I was about seven years old. I have been singing for a very long time. My parents used to tell me while I was growing up that men of God used to tell them that I would be a minister of God. I discovered my gift when I started receiving some messages from God whenever I slept and had dreams or visions. Sometimes in those dreams, I saw myself singing to people at stadiums. I have been singing for a very long time.
Then why did you delve into acting at a point in your life?
There is a difference between what you like and what God wants you to do. I love acting, comedy and anything that has to do with our culture but God wanted me to be a gospel singer. That is why I acted for some years, did some MC jobs before I finally settled for my calling, which is spreading the word of God through my music.
Now that you are a household name, have you considered going back to acting?
I have several films in the pipeline that I would like to produce but I don’t have the time to do that. My calling is so taxing that I do not have the time. Making a movie would take a lot of my time and I cannot spare any time for that but once I have the chance to do that, then I could delve into making movies. When I have the time, I would shoot the movies.
Because of your tight schedule, how do you find time to rest?
Regardless of my busy schedule, I still have time to rest. Most of my Mondays to Wednesdays are free and I seize the opportunity to rest. I try my best to rest because even when God created the world, he rested on the seventh day.
Do you ever have your weekends to yourself?
Yes I do, it is not all the weekends that I am busy but it is just that in three months, I may be free for only one weekend.
Your job requires you to attend parties most times, do you get tired of them?
I am not tired of going to parties and the truth is that there are some parties that the celebrators always want only gospel singers; it is those kinds of parties that they call for my services. We have some dead pastors and Christians who were my fans while alive. I get calls from their relatives to honour them by coming to perform and I cannot say that I do not have the time.
What if the party does not require your service?
Yes I attend parties if I have the time. I have friends that have birthdays and they invite me to be their guest. I would just sit at a corner and people often come to greet me. The only thing is that once you go there, the hosts would want me to perform even if it is just a song or a chorus; that is just the problem. When they are inviting me for the occasion, they would tell me that I am just a guest but when I get there, they would approach me to perform for them. It happens like that.
What do you do to relax when you are not working?
The problem I have with my leisure moment is that whenever the Holy Spirit knows that I am relaxing, he comes to tell me some things. He ensures that it is at those times that he gives me some songs. I am always with my pen and paper anytime I am relaxing because I know that is when my inspiration would come.
Does it mean that some of your hit songs came to you while you were relaxing?
Yes it happens like that and some come to me when I am on stage ministering as well. God works in ways that we cannot understand.
Do you still find time to go to the market?
Yes I do, for instance about three days ago, I was still in the market. I still cook my husband’s food and if I would not be at home, I would help him pack and refrigerate it.
What countries do you love to travel to whenever you want to go on vacation?
I like going to America for vacation. Most time that I visit UK or Dublin, it is for work purposes. I also work in America but if it requires me staying for two weeks, I add a week just to use the opportunity to rest.
Does your husband also sing?
There is none of my album that you would not hear my husband’s voice. He is a singer and producer but whenever he features on my songs, he is more like a back-up singer and might just have a line or two. He does not like singing with me. My first daughter on the other hand is already showing signs of walking in my footsteps. She started composing songs when she was in JSS1.
You seem to be in love with fashion…
Yes I love looking good. If you want to introduce Jesus to people, you have to look good. If you want to tell people that Christ is a good saviour, the first thing they would look at is your appearance. Also, looking good is good business. My father was a tailor, so I know what it means when you are putting on a very good dress. I go to Lagos Island myself to get my fabrics. When I travel out of Nigeria, I also make sure I buy some fabrics. I have a sewing machine at home. I know what I want to wear and what fits me. I know the colours that suit me. Whenever I get my fabrics, God would show me what style or design to make. From there, I got to know that God is a fashionable God. I sketch the clothes for my back-up singers and I explain the sewing to my tailors.
Does it mean that you sew your clothes?
No, I do not sew my clothes but I do the sketching and cutting of the fabrics.
Are you saying God is your stylist?
Yes, he is and looking good is also part of my ministry.
Do you have any special ritual before going for a performance?
Yes I do. I would also like to sieze this opportunity to advise my colleagues to have a ritual as well. As for me, I make sure I pray before any performance, the duration of the prayer depends on what God dictates. If He says I should pray for ten hours before a ministration, I would gladly heed His instruction. I never have a performance without praying first.