Popular gospel singer and member of Midnight Crew, Mike Abdul, speaks with TOFARATI IGE on his career and other issues
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently promoting my new single, Different Case , which was released some weeks ago.
What’s the inspiration behind the song, Different Case?
I felt the need to inspire people – to let them know that despite whatever they’re going through, they can overcome. It doesn’t matter what you go through; once you’re connected to God, everything becomes different. We work with God’s economy and not the earthly one. The song was also borne from my desire to express my Igbo side. I do not speak Igbo but I love the language and I understand a few words.
In what ways has your experience as a solo artiste being different from being in a group?
My experience as Mike Abdul is different from being a member of Midnight Crew in the sense that as part of a group, you could probably give only 25 per cent of your expression, unlike when you are solo and you can express yourself totally. Midnight Crew has a template; so, even when I write or sing for the group, I have to work with that template and the principles of the band.
As Mike Abdul, I think differently, so I’m able to express almost 100 per cent of my thoughts. That’s pretty much the difference between both positions.
When you started your career, did you ever imagine that you would get to this point?
Even before I started singing professionally, I always believed that I could surpass my present level. However, I am thankful to God because it is possible to ‘think it’ and not achieve it, but God made my dreams come to reality. I was able to dream it and it’s looking like where I’m going to.
What are some of the challenges you faced in the early days?
Some of the challenges one faced in the early days included getting the right producers and getting the right platform for one to express oneself. I initially thought it was all about recording a good song but I later learnt that it doesn’t end there. You have to get out there and promote your songs if you want them to go far and get people to take notice. In all, I thank God that I was able to surmount those challenges.
You have recorded a lot of great moments in your career but what was the first sign that made you know that you had become successful?
One very memorable moment for me was when Midnight Crew performed at the first ever Experience concert organised by the House on the Rock church. Our performance was electrifying and we were excited. That particular performance remains very memorable to me. I think it held in December 2006 and it set the tone for everything that happened to us as a group in 2007. It made 2007 easier for us and that was the same year we recorded the Igwe album. The album became a ‘blast’ in 2008.
What drives you as an artiste?
As an artiste, I am driven by passion and the need to tell people my experience. I am passionate about discovering new sounds and translating my message in that sound to people. I always like to do things differently. I am driven by the zeal to tell stories of life in my songs. I am very passionate about music just like an artist is passionate about his paintings. In my own case, I paint with sounds. I really want to do more and give more.
In what ways did Davido’s 30 Billion Gang influence 30 Billion Halleluyah?
Thirty billion is a number just like every other number out there. But I feel that when we are thinking numbers, we don’t go that far. Thirty billion was very daring of Davido because that’s a lot of money. So, I decided to give God 30 billion halleluyahs. Before then, we had been talking about giving God seven or three halleluyahs. I felt 100 halleluyahs isn’t enough for God, considering what He has done and what He will still do for us. The message behind the song is that you really cannot thank God enough. If we had to shout 30 billion halleluyahs, it would take each of us 1,700 years to finish chanting it. Definitely, Davido was also an influence.
What has your experience been like running Spaghetti Music?
It has been a new experience running the company. Now, I am not just thinking for myself, I have to consider other people on the label as well. I have to think of their sounds to make sure that they don’t sound alike and that they stand out. I am also a performing artiste; so, I have to think of my career too. I also have to concentrate on managing the administration of the company and other important tasks. It is quite challenging but we are learning every day and putting things in place. We also have to make sure that proper structures are laid so we don’t derail at any time.
At a point, some people felt you were overshadowing other members of Midnight Crew. Did you, at anytime, share the same sentiments?
I don’t think so. I believe that we all worked at our different pace. We are different people so we would definitely have different ways of doing things. I don’t believe anybody thinks I overshadowed others in the group.
What are your thoughts on the gospel music industry at the moment?
I don’t think we are there yet but things look promising. A lot of young, talented people are coming into the industry. Despite the lack of platforms, people are still trying their best. We just need more opportunities.
Do you think the church is doing enough to support gospel music?
I think the church is really doing well for gospel music. About 95 per cent of the platforms gospel music enjoys in terms of live performances are provided by the church. I know it can be better but it may not be by building more churches. I think we can also develop more platforms for ourselves outside the church. If not, the industry may remain stagnant. The rate of development of gospel music is not the same as the rate of development of churches. That said; if we have more support from churches, that would be nice.
How and when did you adopt the fuji style of singing?
I adopted the fuji style in 2001. Midnight Crew needed to perform somewhere after we had performed in six different places. We knew that some of the people in the audience had witnessed some of the performances and we didn’t want to do the same thing. So, somebody suggested that we should do fuji and it sounded weird to us. We eventually agreed and the lot fell on me to sing it. We thought that would end there but people kept talking about the performance and that was how we started spreading the gospel through fuji music. And it has been beautiful ever since.
Some people say that your style of music sounds secular. What do you have to say to them?
I don’t believe there is a secular sound or religious sound. I think sound is just sound. The difference between them is the message each carries and the spirit behind it. I totally disagree that my music sounds secular.
Have you ever wished to be a secular artiste because there is more money and attention there?
The attention is huge in secular music and they make a lot of money. But come to think of it, it is not everyone that is doing secular music that is making money. There are lots of them that are not making money. It will be a waste of my wish to desire to be a secular artiste. I may be there and not be successful.
Have you ever been in a situation where a female fan made advances at you? How did you handle such?
I don’t have female fans making advances at me. I think I handle it well.
What’s the best moment of your career?
I really cannot pick one but I must admit that I’m enjoying this moment. Things are looking very promising for me and I’m enjoying it. I think it’s my best yet and I will continue working.
What’s the lowest moment of your career?
That would be at the beginning of my career. There were some places that we went to and people expected so much and I couldn’t give them what they wanted.
There was a time I was to sing in Warri (Delta State) and just when I was about to start, people started moving out. I felt very bad and I had to ask myself if I was sure music is my calling.
Apart from music, what other talent do you have?
I don’t think I am multitalented. Everything I do revolves around music. However, I like to write. I write songs, prose and poems. I once wrote a novel but I lost the manuscript.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt as an artiste and as a person?
The greatest lesson I’ve learnt is to take life one step at a time and keep things simple. Once you do something simple in the midst of the complexities of life, the ‘simple’ automatically stands out.
How would you describe your personality?
I am a joyful person, irrespective of the situation around me.
What advice do you have for young gospel artistes?
Keep doing what you know how to do best and don’t be tossed by every opinion. Know what you want and be focused on getting it. Also, always keep working on yourself and improving. Love God, your neighbours and yourself. Don’t let money inhibit your career. I consider money a tool, not a possession.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I’ll describe my style as simple. However, I love shoes that ‘speak’.