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Blessing Okorji

When Blessing Okorji was invited to perform at Naparima Bowl in Trinidad and Tobago, her reaction was instant amazement because that was her biggest event as a gospel singer. Okorji is a gospel singer based in UK, her musical journey has taught her patience and the virtue of waiting on God's timing. She is equally not willing to compromise gospel music for anything, not even fame.
 She told Daily Sun in a recent chat that music for her is deeper than just spotlight, money and the so-called making it, it’s all about her passion for God and for touching souls.Excerpts:

How did music start for you?
 I believe music has been deposited in me by God. My grandfather constantly taught me songs when I was growing up. When I arrived the UK at the age of 8, my mother placed me in St. Mary’s Church of England choir and from there, I grew up to become a choir leader. I was led by God to start my solo album and I thank God for his directions, for the many experiences he helped me through in order to create an effective ministry of songs. Successfully, in May 2009 I launched Whole World in his Hands, my first debut album.

 How are you different from other gospel artistes?
 Every artist has his/her own ordained ministry, I personally, can only say I'm not willing to compromise in the area of music. I am just here doing the will of God and that’s all that matters for me. I am unique, original and allow the Holy Spirit to take control and it is all about giving God the centre stage. I honestly don’t compare my music with anyone else.

 Most Nigerian musicians who started out in churches have delved into secular music, do you see yourself towing that line?
 I am determined to make a difference in the gospel scene with a fresh, new sound.
 I am excited with a lot of love and passion about gospel music, because of this I do not see myself doing anything else. So, the answer is a big no.

 What do you think is responsible for switching from gospel music to secular one?
 Everyone has their own path, so I cannot comment on that. All I can say this, in anything you do, you have to be passionate about it, have a vision of where you are going and know what you are doing. People should understand the meaning of gospel music, how it refreshes, heals, encourages, uplifts, anoints and brings in the presence of God. You can call on him, worship and praise him through rough times and good times then you really don’t have a reason to look back. So, it is creating room for the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ and God to operate in our lives, that’s just it. I am just so blessed to be able to bring out positive music because our new generations will follow what we leave behind.

 A lot of people say gospel artistes don't make much, do you have a contrary opinion?
 What I do isn't for money, although it's one of the benefits. I am very blessed where by God has given me the wisdom to have more than one stream of income. I model, own a child care business and planning to go into other things. So, the beauty of my life is that I am not driven by the money I make from being a gospel artist. I am driven because I have been called by God and I love it. In life, there is God’s plan and our own, I have chosen God’s plans as number one in my life, I believe He will bless the works of my hands.

 What are the challenges you face?
 The entertainment industry can be very tough, because at times you don't know whether your closest colleagues are companions or competitors. Also, the time-factor, having to divide myself into several parts because of all the other projects I have running besides music. I’ve come to really learn that having patience and waiting on God’s timing is the best.

 What comes to your mind when you perform your songs?
 It is really funny but I get very nervous before I am called to minister, I just keep praying inside and telling the Holy Spirit to take over and sing through me. Once I get on stage, all nervousness vanishes and I see myself in the presence of God touching souls that are going through trials, God uses me as a divine connection for their solution through my songs. At the same time, I minister to myself while singing.

 Do you have any regrets about being a gospel artiste?
 Never, it's my calling, my gift, my talent and I am proud of it. I cannot see myself replacing that for any other thing. I remember when I was younger at a very popular Pentecostal church in London, I was always put at the back of the choir group, never given a solo, never given a chance be noticed as a member of the choir. My choir leader at the time told me that I would never be given a solo to sing and my place was only to sing backup, this hurt me and I became very insecure because words have power, and this affected me negatively.

 I sought advice from several voice trainers, who told me there was nothing wrong with my voice and that my voice was bold and lovely. I took lessons in breathing, scales and voice projection, all this contributed to my regaining confidence, it took time but confidence came back. My microphone was often not even switched on during our choir ministrations, but I continued singing, it was much deeper than just having spotlight, it was passion, I was singing to the glory of God, so whether my mic was on or off – He heard me.

 What inspires your tunes?
 They are mostly my life experiences and the many years of sitting in the congregation listening to pastors minister the Word of God. I have a strong belief that when you receive the Word of God from the pulpits, this changes and transforms your life, but it doesn’t end there, we ought to take that Word into the world and spread it in any way we can so it touches others. My way of spreading that word is through song, writing my life on paper and turning them into a melody. My Current Album Whole World in His hands is full of different style tracks, and no matter the taste of the listener, there’s something for everyone.

 What should your fans expect from you this year?
 I have a few programmes planned this year my record label Alpha Records International and my manger Dawna Durham are working hard to organise my event performances and product placements this year. I am very excited this year being invited to Kenya, Canada, USA and Ghana to minister, it’s all very exciting, but time is a huge factor, ask me again at the end of the year and see what I was able to squeeze in. However, we are always open for more invites.

 How has it been building your career in UK?
 It has taken off well, although I have not spent a lot of time promoting my music in London. Since my album launch in May 2009, I travelled right after that to the United states, touring and performing at different events and conferences for seven months. I felt a lot of love and warmth there. It was from America that I was invited to Trinidad and Tobago to support a fellow gospel artist’s concert at the Naparima Bowl, which is currently the largest venue I have ever performed in, I am yet to see another like it, I was in amazement. This year, I plan to do more tours in the UK.

 Do you have any plans of settling down in Nigeria soon?
 I was born in Nigeria and it will always be my home, but my plans are to settle in USA. I move by the direction of God, He orders my footsteps according to Psalm 37 vs 23.

 How has life been treating you as a Nigerian in UK?
 Being a Nigerian doesn’t make it any different living in the UK from my perspective, once you have a goal and focus in life you go for it, no matter where you are. The UK is my second home. I arrived when I was 8 years old and was breed in London.

 Do you think you stand a chance of making it as an artiste if you decide to settle in Nigeria?
 My motto is with God all things are possible. So far, in Nigeria I have been received well. It’s not so much standing a chance, it’s being given that chance to stand and showcase what God has gifted me with and share it to win souls, to touch lives, to break people under the bondages of heaviness. You can tell just by just talking to me, that it’s deeper than just spotlight, money and the so-called making it, it’s my passion for God and for what I do that drives me.

 What in your view are the qualities of a successful musician?
 In my opinion, originality is key, being a first class best of yourself instead of a second class copy of some else is major, if it takes you time to find another artist like you, then you are on the right track. Patience is another quality, the ability to wait and see the work of your hands blossom at the right time, having a positive mentor to give you daily guidance and the right backing. Also, put your all into what you produce so, quality production is another key. From the above, I am still learning to apply all of these qualities because learning is a continuous process.

 How are you coping with the stress that comes with what you do?
 When the feeling of stress tries to creep in, I tell myself, I’m too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed. You should try it and give me feedback. On a serious note, we are all humans and we are bound to get stressed, it’s all a part of the process, makes you appreciate when things are good. It must come but how do you deal with it when it arrives, do you persevere or do you relapse, we have a choice and I choose perseverance as stress only lasts for a while.

 How would you rate Nigerian gospel singers?
 They are very creative. God has blessed them with uniqueness that influences others across the globe.

 Can you call yourself a successful musician?
 Successful? What is success? To me, success is a person who is in the center of the will of God, fulfilling their destiny. I am doing what God called me to do and so, I am successful.

 What are your tips for keeping it together as an artiste?
 Just simply being myself, knowing my worth and remembering how God saw me through hard times. When you keep all this in mind, there is no way you cannot keep it all together and continue moving forward.

 What do you enjoy most as a gospel artiste?
 I love the fact that I am able to be used by God to spread his words through my songs. I get inspired to create something new every day.

 What aspect of being a musician do you dislike?
 People trying too hard to become something they are not, people not learning from each other and people singing just for the money. That’s all so far.

 Who are the gospel musicians you look up to?
 I have grown up listening to the sounds of American artists like, Yolanda Adams, Bebe & Cece Winans, Kirk Franklin, Commissioned and Nigerian artists like, Princess Njideka Okeke, Agatha Moses and Paul Nwokocha.

 How would you describe your relationship with other gospel artistes?
 A lot of gospel artists have reached out to me for us to connect and build God’s ministry, these are artists from different parts of the world and I would say for those I have met, they are delightful.

 Aside music, how else do you express yourself as a person?
 I am into seasonal styles in beauty & fashion. I love to travel to explore different cultures and I also love to express myself through the many dishes that I can prepare.

 Are you currently signed to any record label?
 Yes, I was signed last year to an American company called Alpha Records International. I am very excited because they are doing a lot of inside work, I love my manager Dawna Durham, she is on her toes taking care of business round the clock. God is just wonderful bringing these people into my life.

 How do you handle your many male admirers?
 I am grateful to be admired, I am God’s creation at the end of the day, so long as they see past my looks and hear what I am ministering, it is a blessing to me.

 Have you an embarassing moment as an artiste?
 Yes, recently at the airport, I was waiting to be checked in, a conversation began among the people on the queue, they asked the nature of my profession, and when I told them that I am a gospel artist, they were excited. They began dancing and clapping loudly, telling me to sing to the beat of their claps. It was really embarrassing but also funny at the same time because I know when you are asked to sing at any given opportunity you should sing but at that time and place I was shy but just kept laughing. I gained a few memorable friends from that experience, as I explained to them that I minister in songs and know nothing about ministering as a comedian.

 Any last words for your fans?
 To all my supporters, friends and family, I just want to consciously say that I love you and appreciate all your prayers, encouragement and support. Remain focused, run the race of righteousness because in you lies a winner.
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