Evangelist Dunni Olanrewaju, popularly known as Opelope Anointing, is a gospel musician and cleric She clocked 60 recently. In this interview by SEYI SOKOYA, she speaks about her life and her vision of the gospel music ministry.
You recently celebrated your 60th birthday, how has the experience been as a veteran gospel musician and how is life generally?
It has been great and so interesting. I thank God for the journey so far and the grace for the gift of life. I don’t think I would be where I am today if not for God. The successful journey of my 60 years so far in life, including my music career, has indeed enjoyed God’s backing. I prayed to God to give me the spirit to compose and He answered my prayer in 1976 and the rest is history today. I am grateful to God, looking back at how I started and how far He has brought me. I didn’t have it in mind to be a gospel singer, but joining the church choir back then in 1976 helped me. I also prayed to God for the spirit of singing. Thank God, in 1988, I was encouraged to compose a song and I released ‘Adun Igbeyawo’ and that was how everything started.
You became famous with your popular hit, Opelope Anointing, how did you feel with the turnaround?
The experience was amazing, so exciting because for me, Opelope Anointing opened many doors that I didn’t even think of in my entire life. I have met a lot of people, travelled far and wide and I have been blessed with everything any human being can think of. I can see the hand of God in everything about my life. That song turned everything around in my life. I had the song on July 7, 2000 and released the record on August 31 of that same year.
What is your greatest challenge in music?
God has been faithful to me in sustaining a successful career. Though so many challenges have surfaced here and there, we have always overcome through the help of God. The most challenging experience in this industry is the issue with marketers. It is the worst thing that I will not wish on my enemy. If not for God, the story would have been different. I thank God for His power and mercy, and the Holy Spirit for taking care of every difficult situation with the marketers. I only remember because it was quite an experience. That was a bitter experience for me, but I thank God.
Aside the fact that you are a gospel musician, you are also a cleric. How have you been able to combine both?
I started the work of God even before my music career. We started praise night when God asked me to give Him a one-day praise special programme. Gradually the programme gave birth to a worship centre. I thank God that after the programmes, people gathered together to worship, that is why we named the location Praise Centre. Before then, we had a church. To the glory of God, the church has grown in leaps and bounds and we bless God for numerous wonders He has done through the ministry. Being a musician and a minister is not strange, in fact, both callings are interwoven. This is a double grace and I cannot thank God enough. Though it is not an easy task, God has been our great supporter all the way.
You are not really active in the gospel music association, why?
I am free to sing anywhere and I am happy with everybody in the industry. But I don’t have the interest to hold any post in the association, except God says otherwise. But for me as a person, that is not in my plan at all. I thank God for how far He has brought me in the industry. I am successful and grateful for where I am today. I see this as divine grace and I am not taking it for granted. So, aspiration for position in the association is not my main goal.
What is your advice for the new generation gospel musicians?
I believe whoever is interested in listening to my story and heed our advice can pick one or two things from our success story. The easiest way to success in this career is to know what you are doing, that is the legacy. As a musician, I was so determined to succeed and devoted to my calling, I guess this is why God crowned my effort with a shining light and made me famous through my talent. In one of my latest works entitled My Experience part 1,. It was not rosy from the onset. I had a rough experience from the beginning, but I was resilient with my dream. In the work, I made people know that I sold ceramic plates before I saw God on February 13, 1976. On that day, I fell and my wares broke, so I had to tell my mum, and that experience led to my turnaround. I had several terrible experiences, but the miracle worker turned everything around. At some point, I became a fashion designer and I was popular in that profession in Ikorodu, Lagos, that time.
With your wide experience in the industry, what legacy do you want to leave behind?
I still have lots of veterans in the industry such as Mama Bola Are, Mama Funmi Aragbaye, Mama Fasoyin, Baba Adelakun and Daddy Sola Rotimi. And we are still looking up to them. I thank God for their lives; they are my mentors in this industry. They have tried and still giving their best to ensure that the industry is fortified. At least we will continue to pray and do our best to make sure the industry gets better.
Are you satisfied with the state of the industry?
I am not, because the advent of social media has affected the industry greatly. It is only God that can take control. The industry is uncontrollable and this is discouraging. For instance, the social media will be saturated with your programme or event in the twinkling of an eye without prior permission. I am not comfortable, but in a situation like this, there is nothing we can do other than to hand everything over to God.
Did you encourage your children to take after you, because we see some of them as your backup singers?
They work with me anytime they are around, even those that are not in Nigeria now. Before they travelled, they were my manager and personal assistant. I have nothing to worry about. Also, my mum is my mentor; she sings a lot, even till now. My children, particularly the last born is enthusiastic about music. This is a good work that anyone can inherit. I am happy that they are taking after me, that shows that I am living a legacy behind. I am a proud mother and a gospel musician. I thank God for their lives. I am transferring God’s work to them just as I inherited it from my mother and I am not ashamed that I am transferring it to my own children too.
How is your relationship with young gospel musicians in the industry?
It is very cordial. I am happy to see them around me and I have been able to contribute my own quota to the growth of their careers. I am always delighted to see many genuine gospel musicians excelling in this ministry. It is a way of populating the kingdom of God in various ways. I want God to use me for upcoming musicians. I have a lot of things in the pipeline to support people’s dreams and I pray God will help me. In fact, I was so full of joy seeing many of them rally round me during my 60th birthday celebration. I cannot thank them enough. I only pray that they shall be celebrated too.
Would you say that you are fulfilled in life?
I am grateful to God for granting me the grace to witness such a unique age in life, even and still be relevant in my calling. This is a special grace for me and I cannot appreciate God enough. When I look back, I see grace because I never envisaged that life would treat me well as this. I was overwhelmed to see the high and the mighty, my mentors that thronged out to make the celebration memorable. I cannot thank them enough. I cannot start mentioning names here because they are numerous. My greatest joy is that the celebration was a success and those that came to celebrate with me from far and wide returned to their various destinations safely.
So, what is next after 60?
I am not desperate for any aspiration in life again. I am grateful for what God has done so far. I am successful in my calling and God has blessed me beyond measures through the gift of music, not just mere music, but gospel songs. Opelope Anointing which I recorded two decades ago now is still relevant till date. It has even turned into a brand. God surrounded me with good people, so I am not fidgety.
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