Funmi Williams is a United Kingdom-based Nigerian gospel artiste. In this interview, she reveals her challenges in the UK as well as expectations from gospel artistes. Excerpts.
Can you give us an insight into your background?
I was born on February 4th, 1968 to Mr. and Mrs Theophilous Olaniyan from Oke-Mesi in Ekiti State. I am the fourth child in a family of eight. I am a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Maiduguri in Borno State. After my graduation, I worked as a journalist at the defunct Lagos Horizon newspaper before I left Nigeria in 1993. Before my relocation to the United Kingdom, I was involved in music. I had my major breakthrough in gospel music in 1988 after I got born again at Foursquare Gospel Church national headquarters. I was one of the Praise and Worship leaders of the choir until 1992 when I got married to Olamide Williams, and left the country to join my husband in 1993.
How has it all affected you?
Gospel music has changed me. It has made me to become very careful of the kind of life I live, as I am very conscious of the fact that I carry God’s presence. I make sure that my life is always right and my deeds are in line with the word of God. I must testify that leading worship all these years has brought me closer to God.
What is your favourite musical instrument?
The talking drum.
Who are your mentors in the gospel music industry?
Ron Kenoly and Byron Cage.
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What are your biggest challenges in gospel music?
I am finding it difficult to find a reliable and effective marketer for my albums. Many marketers in Nigeria are not sincere in their business dealings. After spending a lot of money to produce my music, they want to buy my master tapes at ridiculous prices; I mean peanuts. There is lack of trust among marketers. When they sell your albums, they will never show you their sales report. Rather they will pay you any amount of money they deem fit. I also have the problem of securing an efficient manager and promoter. Since I don’t live in Nigeria, there is nobody to create awareness about my albums. This has enormously affected me. I am being left out of the major concerts and programmes in Nigeria. Moreover, most concert organisations, churches, ministries and fellowships are scared of inviting me to their programmes in Nigeria. Whenever they hear that I live in the United Kingdom, they quickly assume that I will cost a fortune if invited to play.. But that is not true. I am a minister and a businesswoman. I am very much affordable. We can work it out with each party contributing to its success when I am invited to minster. What the churches in Nigeria need to do is to extend their invitation to me, and then we can negotiate on our contributions.
In fact I am ready to pay half of my travelling expenses to Nigeria. Also ministering in churches especially in the UK is challenging. Some of the churches want a live band to back me up, but they don’t want to pay for their services. Since my debut, I have been the one solely financing the production of all albums from my personal savings. I am also the sole sponsor of my concert- “In his presence” which features Nigeria’s best gospel musicians such as Kunle Ajayi, Hope Davies, Anne Inyang, Buchi, Tosin Alao among others.
How do you strike a balance among all your engagements?
God has blessed me with lovely children and a loving husband. My husband is fully in support of my career, so sometimes he follows me to my outings. But most of the time, all the children are with me and I usually prepare their minds towards any engagements.
I also try not to take too many invitations on weekends so that I can have enough time to be with my family.
What is that change that you would like to see among gospel musicians?
I will like to see gospel musicians and worship leaders coming together and working more closely. And I will also like to see more demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit instead of the artistic and glamorous show-offs among gospel musicians.
How can gospel artistes best harness the business opportunities in their gifts?
This will depend on the calling of gospel musicians. Some are writers, I mean songwriters and some are not. So, depending on their calling, the business opportunities can be best harnessed. When you know what you doing and where you are going you will surely succeed. For instance, if you are gifted in the area of song writing, you might sell your songs to good singers. You can also explore the copyright opportunities and give the right of your songs or music to film makers who will use your music as sound tracks and pay you for the right.
How do you rate gospel music in churches?
It is okay for now, but it is usually too short. I wish to see longer sessions of praise and worship that are intense. I pray that God will help more people to be involved in worship. My church is predominately made up of white folks who don’t react like Africans during praise and worship. You know that we Africans like to express ourselves during worship. I will like to see more expressions such as dancing, singing, clapping and shouting during praise and worship.
What are your plans for the development of gospel music in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, I have discovered that many gospel artistes don’t have the full understanding of the music ministry. They mostly lay emphasis on the physical show-offs of their skills and vast musical talents and stagecraft instead of the most important spiritual aspect of their ministration. I intend to hold gospel music seminars, workshops and conferences exclusively for gospel musicians and worship leaders relay to them the true essence of gospel music ministration and worship which leads to excellence. These projects will focus mostly on the spiritual impact of the music ministry. We will teach music ministers and worship leaders how to pay less attention on the physical aspect of their music ministry and how to excel with the spirituality of their ministration which we as Christians should be most concerned about. Gospel music is not like the secular showbiz where the artistes show off their carnal musical gifts to attract more patronage and fame.