African Entertainment: Sammie Okposo speaks..I was shaking like a child first time I performed before a crowd

With glistening dark complexion and a commanding body size, he bellows soulful songs that keep his fans fixated. His gyrations are mesmerizing with unmistakable dance steps as every pore of his skin oozes with sweat. His deep engaging eyes are captivating as he looks and inspires his audience who gyrate to his melody. The crowd rises in ecstasy, enraptured by his mellifluous music. It is gospel music but it feels like funk. It is gospel music but it feels like hip hop. It is gospel music but it feels like rhythm and blues. And only one gospel singer will usually pull that off. It’s always Sammie Okposo – a gospel singer with a difference; his stage performances are dramatic and his voice is enchanting. The Delta State-born singer tells Oge Ezeliora about his life as a gospel musician, his challenges, how he fell in love at first sight and how he manages to ensure that his marriage remains intact.

You are close to most politicians in Delta State and you are always invited to perform at most of events in the state. Will you consider being a politician?
Well, if that is what God wants for me, who am I to say no before God? If God wants me to be a politician, I will. But nothing can stop me from singing. I am from Delta; in fact, I started singing at age 10 in Warri – in my family church, Gospel Church of God and my parents were elders in the church while I was in the choir performing as a child. So charity begins at home. I am proud to be recognised in my state. I’m waiting for the right time. A lot of my colleagues are jumping into politics right now. Everything in life is time. It will be a good thing because I’m a change agent. I won’t jump into it for any financial gain because God has taken me to a place that, although I’m not a billionaire, I’m also not poor. I can afford anything I want. So if I’m going into politics, I want to be ready to bring change. I won’t allow the system to change me. I am waiting for God’s time; which is the best time for me. As for my relationship with most politicians in the state, let me say some of them are my childhood friends. Some are even my classmates in school before I became famous.

Can you tell us about your background before you became famous as a gospel singer?
I started as a producer. My first gospel album ‘Wellu-wellu’ came out in 2000. But before people started seeing the artiste in me, I was already well known in the entertainment industry as a producer. Although I did not start off as a musician, I did a lot of Nigerian home videos soundtracks because I was trying to carve a niche for myself under my then boss, Kingsley Ogoro, who taught me basically everything I know about making jingles, TV commercials, theme songs and album productions. I went through that process because I wanted to understand music as an artiste. Today, there are numerous artistes who know nothing about any musical instrument, which is wrong. An artiste should be able to play at least one instrument, maybe not professionally but slightly. I went through that process of being an instrumentalist to a producer because of my yearning to know more about music. I was very functional in the industry as an instrumentalist and a producer which I thought was a necessary school to pass through. My music to date remains gospel.

What is the secret behind your success amidst competition in genre of music?
Well, I bless God because ‘Sammie’ has stood out. I have my unique ways of performing. I am gifted and I know God has blessed me. Sometimes, I ask myself the same question when I watch people display during my performance. I thank God. It’s been a great career and I have nothing more to say than to worship God – he has been faithful amidst storms. I have a new album out already that is enjoying massive airplay and publicity. Its songs are wonderful.

You are one of Globacom ambassadors, how did you feel the first day you were signed in?
I was excited and surprised. Then I asked myself this question in Pidgin English ‘I no know wetin I do wey make God love so?’ I remember the first day I was signed on as a Globacom ambassador; I never expected it because I thought I was still a young gospel musician. To me, it’s a pacesetting moment and a trend that was never expected. I look at it as change that has opened the door for a whole lot of artistes to come in and be as prominent as secular artistes. Like I said everything about me is God.

So how did you feel the first day you actually faced a large crowd to perform?
I was nervous; shaking like a child. Deep inside my heart I was saying, ‘Father Lord, take control. Touch the lives of this crowd I am ministering to.’ And you won’t believe it; I was shocked at the large turnout of people enjoying my ministration. I watched people dancing crazily, praising God with all their hearts. At the end of my ministration, I saw people being moved by the Holy Spirit. I was amazed at the testimonies people gave of how their lives was touched. In fact, God used me to change lives.

Can you name some of the artistes you have collaborated with?
I worked with popular names way back like Lekki Sunsplash from the days of Alex Zito, Blackky, Tina Onwudiwe, Charly Boy, Chris Mba, Mandy and others.

What is your view on gospel music industry in Nigeria?
We are evolving. I bless God that we have improved. It has definitely improved from what it used to be. There is a lot of development; we have new and wonderful talented gospel singers in Nigeria. In fact, I’m very happy that a lot of younger people who did not believe or think they should use their talent for God or become gospel artistes are having a change of mind. So, we have a lot of young boys and girls who have taken up gospel music. Gospel music is appealing across board to a whole lot of people now than before. But I still believe the best is hasn’t come.

As a pioneer in the industry, what do you make of the claim that most gospel artistes’ songs are inspirational, not gospel?
Yes, we have a lot of them out there that are changing the status of gospel music. Along the line, they move and say ‘we are now inspirational.’ Well, I’m not going to condemn anybody because this thing is a personal decision and persuasion. It’s what they are comfortable with. It’s not like something that has to be encouraged, but you really cannot tell a grown man or woman what to do with their destiny. If they decide that, ‘you know what I started off with gospel and I don’t think I want to do that anymore.’ It’s their personal decision. It’s really between them and the Creator. A lot of gospel artistes that have stopped doing gospel songs are wonderful talents and I would have loved them to stay with us and get the success story with us. But if a lot of them have chosen to become secular or inspirational artistes, I think the decision is totally up to them. I’m not here to judge or condemn anyone.

What are the challenges in your music genre?
In the entertainment industry so far, the challenge that I have always talked about is keeping yourself, your brand and music relevant in the industry. This is because the Nigerian entertainment industry is very competitive. If you sleep and wake up tomorrow, there’s a new song and artiste. So, my biggest challenge is staying relevant in what I do. God is helping us. It’s not just a gospel artiste’s thing; all musicians go through same. Every artiste wants to be relevant and talked about. Every artiste wants to be part of the highflyers as far as the industry is concerned. So, it’s a general challenge for secular and gospel artistes.

Have you ever been criticised for being a gospel music artiste?
Why not? People will always discourage you once they understand you are gifted. This world is full of evil people and many people will rejoice at your success and blackmail you at your downfall. Sometime you hear them saying, ‘These church people, they have come again!’ There have been concerts where artistes are performing and they say, ‘Sammie Okposo is here; is he the only gospel artiste? Let him go and open the show nah.’ But a lot of times, God has surprised them because when I’m done, the show will be practically over. When I come in, I give the people my best. They used to think that gospel music is church music. They really do not have the same respect and regard they have for secular artistes. But all of that is changing now. I’m a gospel artiste, but I have a corporate endorsement – I’m a Globacom ambassador. I’m relevant in my industry and in government. So the mindset now should be not to look down on gospel artistes because they are on top of their games.

What’s your message to upcoming artistes who want to be like you?
Well, if you want to be inspired by me or you want me to be a mentor, you have to identify who you are. If you want to be inspired by somebody like me, you must have something peculiar. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be like somebody, but if you do that, it would only sell for a while. Discover yourself and bring out that thing that makes you who you are, so that when they hear your music, they know that’s Sammie Okposo, Daddy Showkey or J. Martins.

You are married with a daughter; can you tell us how you met your wife?
I met my wife in the United Kingdom and she still lives there to date. I met her during one of my trips. I went to perform at Kingsway International Christian Centre in London – Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo’s church. Her whole family came to watch my show and when I was signing autographs on my CD’s, they came to buy. It took just one glance. I was so busy, I wasn’t even looking up. People were on queue; they bought the CD and I signed. But immediately I saw her hand, I looked up, saw a very beautiful woman, but couldn’t do anything because there were so many people on the queue. Later, when I left for my hotel, I still couldn’t get her off my mind. My heart was troubled. Then, a friend called to say he wanted to take me out because I complained of boredom. Along the way, he said we should stop over first at one exhibition going on, and reluctantly I accepted. I said a little prayer to God about her that if we were supposed to meet, it should be soon. I went back to my hotel to prepare to leave the UK, when I got a call from the friend who wanted to take me out. We went for the exhibition which happened to be organised by my lady’s sister. And to my surprise, she walked in and we got chatting. She refused to give me her contact and finally I went back to Nigeria without getting it. That got me more interested. But as God would have it, that whole period, I was getting more invitations to perform mostly in the UK. That gave me more opportunity to interact with her and after some serious chatting, I finally got her number and we were able to communicate easily.

Do you have time for your daughter?
My daughter and I are very close. She is a wonderful, intelligent, beautiful, young angel. I must also add that I was never for one day denied access to my daughter by her mother or members of her family. There is nothing we don’t discuss. She is very open to me at all times. Even when I travel each time I return from my trip she will disclose everything that happened in my absence to me. My relationship with her is very cordial.

How were you able to sustain the relationship?
Then, I was getting shows almost every week in London. So, we were always seeing. My manager would call me and say there’s this show but what they are offering is not much. I would say, ‘Take it! Shebi they will take care of accommodation, flight and so on?’ Just to see the lady I was in love with! So, I was always going to London, seeing her till we got married. But nobody knew this until we got married. I kept it as a secret to everybody till I proposed to her.

When did you propose to her and how did she react?
The first time I saw her – immediately I saw her – I was carried away by her beauty. Then I told myself I had to find her. I started monitoring the things she was doing at that particular time. Then I teased her by saying she looked like the woman I was to marry and she said, ‘Well, we’ll see about that. We have been married for two years now and I’m happy.

Many artistes’ marriages have broken down few years into the union. How do you ensure that your wife is happy?
I thank God for my wife and her level of understanding. It is not easy though we try to manage our time together. Bringing my wife into my crazy world of entertainment was a process. Initially, she did not understand why I could not work during the day and would not be coming home because I had to do a night session. Also, the kind of hours we spend on location seemed strange to her. As time went by, she began to understand because I deliberately took her with me. I also made sure we always went in one car. She would have no choice but to stick with me till I was done. My wife is very romantic and clingy. We engage in public display of affection and I don’t have a problem with that. I thank God she loves her man so much and I am so proud of her.

What is the most precious thing in your life today?
My wife. She is everything to me and I can’t live without her.

What is your greatest moment of joy in life?
My family. Specifically my wife and my beautiful daughter. They give me so much joy. I do everything beyond my capacity to satisfy them. Seriously i don’t joke with my wife and daughter. They are my greatest sources of happiness.

How do you cope sometimes when you and your wife have issues or moments of friction?
Well, there is no marriage without misunderstanding. Yes, we do have those times. But the good thing is that we are good friends, first of all, and I and my wife have realized we can not do without each other . And no matter the issue, we just have to reconcile. There is nothing that is irreconcilable. And we try to hear ourselves out and then we put ourselves in each others’ shoes. And we happy together. So she understand me very well.

Did you ever imagine you would become this famous?
When reality comes, you can start crying. But the truth is, God, most of the time will not do a thing for you without showing you what you will become. But when you become that thing, you just find yourself shedding tears because it is possible to miss it. So I just thank God that I made it today. And God has been the reason why I am what I am today.

Why did you choose gospel music, does your songs bear spiritual fulfillment or it is for commercial value?
God chose me to bless him with my songs. Like I said, I was born into a Christian home. My parents were elders in church and I minister in my church Choir. I am actually doing what God wanted me to do. Singing everywhere and blessing lives. I have perform and testimonies. Like a young guy who had given up hope about life and was at the verge of committing suicide after listening to my songs he was touched then he asked God for forgiveness. Secondly, a man disclosed to me how his daughter was healed from illness after listening to one of my songs. Since then, I realized that everything I do have a way of reviving and giving people hope. And since then, my aim is to ensure that I inspire people and make them happy and not for commercial reasons. I give God the glory for making me what i am because I grow up singing gospel songs and till date, I will not stop singing gospel for the Lord.

What are your regrets?
Nothing by the grace of God. I am very comfortable with what I am today.

Culled from Thisday

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