Nigeria is full of great talents that are not only making the country proud, but also representing the African continent well wherever they are.
One of these great talents is Ayo Onofe, popularly known by her stage name as AyoDoubleJoy, a gospel artiste who is propagating the gospel of Christ with her sweet sonorous voice.
Ayo Onofe’s music career spans over one decade but according to the beautiful mother of two, she has been singing for over 30 years.
In this interview with AKIN ALADE, Ayo Onofe opened up on the challenges she is facing as a gospel artiste, how she is managing her career together with raising her family, among other issues.
How long have been singing professionally?
I have been actively singing since I was ten years old and that is like 30 years ago. But professionally, I have been singing since 2009.
Who is your mentor?
When I was growing and I was trying to train my voice, I studied a lot of Yolanda Adams because of my pitch because I have a very big voice and of course, I also wanted to make sure that I expand, take on any challenge musically and she was the person that was just great for me when it comes to vocal range. I really did a lot of understudy of Yolanda Adams. Lyrically, my mentor is Erykah Badu. Mentorship wise, those that really mentored me are Chevelle Franklyn, Cassy Jay and of course, Sinach, I commend the grace upon her life.
What are the challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?
Challenges, for me personally, as an individual gospel artiste is one, doing it solo. I’m an individual sponsored gospel artiste, I don’t have anybody sponsoring me, I don’t have a music label, I have my own gospel music label which is called, Lace Nation music. Financially, I sponsor myself, I have to do all my work solo and I always like doing exceptional work, I don’t come cheap. My first two tracks, Faithful God, Yes You are and One thousand tongues, I did them with live band. Every instrumental was played live and it doesn’t come cheap as well. So, one challenge for me has been the financial and after doing that, I was promoting my songs by myself because I came on the scene just as a solo artiste, I don’t have any endorsement and I don’t have any popular artistes buzzing about me, people talking about me. It has just been my work that speaks for me solely. So far, it has just been that and nothing else. Nobody talks about me, nobody knew me, I have to put myself on the scene and keep pushing and keep producing great work. So, the charge to be able to produce great work, to be relevant, I just have to trust the calling because God told me to do this and I’m doing it for him.
Another challenge that I experience here is the fact that Nigerian community think I’m too American and American community think I’m too African. I go to an American church for instance and when it comes to leading praise and worship, they want to stereotype you into African praise and then the Nigerian community feel like she is associating with Americans now, she no longer Nigerian and we cannot relate with her.
Quite a lot of churches around here though are African churches and Nigerian churches, Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG) really embrace me. They really supported my ministry, they really created a platform for me for sure, I cannot deny that, but then you will still be seen as been associating with Americans too much, more than she associates with the Nigerian churches and because of the fact that I didn’t marry a guy that goes to a Redeem church, that is always one challenge. So those are the kind of challenges. But ultimately, I trust in fact that God called me to do this and doing it because God sent me to do it. I solely depend on that.
How do you intend to overcome this challenge?
For one, I want to point out that the American community, at least the church that I go, they really really embrace me, they play my songs in their church all the time. Those that embraced me, they like the fact that I bring diversity to the table and just like you rightly said, I’m not trying to prove that I’m American or outshine the Americans because they do what they do best but on the other end, I don’t deny my roots at all and that is why I made sure that Africanism is still in my name – Double Joy still means Ayodeji and I made sure that people understand that I’m Nigerian, I’m Yoruba, I’m African and I’m not denying my roots.
Secondly, if you listen to all my tracks, they are very, very African-feel. Faithful God has Yoruba in it, One thousand tongues also has Yoruba in it. One thousand tongues means egberun ahon and the chorus is one of pur regular CAC choruses because I went to CAC as I was growing up, it is Yoruba through and through and I intend to constantly put Nigerian, African dialect in my tracks. My dad’s roots is also Eguun so I have songs that I have that I translated into Eguun and I do hope that I’m able to produce them eventually. I’m hoping that some day I will be able to sing with Angelique Kidjo who is from also Benin Republic which is my side. I intend and pray to always do with African languages so that it will always be established that I’m from African decent and I’m trying to shy away from that or deny that.
What churches are you looking forward to minister in?
Thank God for the churches in Africa, in Nigeria. I will to minister in all the living God churches of the world. I have been privileged to go to a lot of churches in Nigeria, I have been privileged to minister in a group of choir though but as a solo gospel artiste, alters that I will regard and honour to praise God on will be definitely churches where they are serving the living God. In America, my uttermost dream is really to be able to lead praise and worship or be part of the worship lead is Pastor T.D Jake’s church in Houston, that will be my uttermost privilege. By the grace of God, we get a lot of Gospel artistes who come to worship in my church but I hope I will be able to worship with Israel Aston one day, to worship on the alter, to lead praise and worship at Pastor Joel Aston’s church or Pastor T.D Jake’s church will be such an honour for me.
What was the reaction of your dad when you started singing?
Right now my daddy is so proud about me. Before I left Nigeria, I was singing in the choir, he already knew that I was already going to the studio. At first when I started going to the studio, I was trying to do secular music. I kept going to the studio then j met Junior and Pretty, they were my very good friends. Pretty is still my very good friend, he is the current President of PMAN. Junior died, I was there when he had an accident, he got infected and later died.
Then I used to the studio to sing secular music and my dad was against this but I kept going. One day, I boarded a one chance bus, one of the armed robbers pointed a gun a at me, that was when I actually got the message that God was telling me, that he doesn’t want yo do secular music. So, I stopped going to the studio and from that day I stopped doing secular music. I started doing gospel music and my dad was aware of all this. He is very very pleased right now that I’m doing it for God because my dad is also a Deacon in church, all our lives we were raised in the church, we didn’t have no option, it was God or nothing else. He happy that I’m in Christ, I’m using my gift to praise God and because my dad is old, he doesn’t see everything that happens on the Social Media but whenever my siblings show him my songs, he just calls me and pray for me. I want believe that he pleased with where God is leading me, especially when it’s all God and I’m not doing secular songs, it he is pretty pleased.
Are you fulfilled doing what God has called you to do?
For me, fulfilment is like, for every step, being able to accomplish that step to satisfaction is some fulfilment but by and large, I pray and I dream to be able to take the gospel to around the world. The Holy Spirit keeps telling that when God called me to do those things and I was like, no, I’m not going to do it, for me my life and prosperity depends on praising God. For every time I praise God, I get a breakthrough. So in the church that I was before they were preventing me from getting my breakthrough because there was crisis and I was not been allow to praise God but God kept telling me to get out, go out and praise God and then even though I was shy because I’m a shy person, I don’t people being on my face, I don’t like people being in my business, so after I went out, God kept telling me that “I’m going to put you on world platform, that is my plan for you, stop waiting for people”. So for me, that is the uttermost goal. That is where we are going to.
I’m waiting for anything God says, I just go to the studio, I pray and pray on it – Lord let people here you when they here me, bless lives, minister to souls, that is all I do when I produce a track. And I just hope that it blesses people. So, for me, fulfilment will be I just want to do what God wants me to do and as long as He as told me that the world is my platform and I’m being able to spread the gospel across the world and I know that there are so many countries that I have never been to, that I have never heard but I know that there are so many people that hear me in so many other countries. So, being able to reach out to those places across the world, that will be my uttermost fulfilment and by the grace of God that I do not fall short of whatever God wants me to do.
How did your husband propose to you?
Laughs……My husband is not so romantic but because we knew each other from High School, we just kind of reconnected and be just told me that there were so many things that I wanted to tell you when I was in High School but I couldn’t and bla bla bla…and I always liked you. He just told me what he wanted to tell me in High School that he couldn’t tell me back then. And I just laughed at him and I told him, I’m in London and you are in America, you are just going to come over here to come tell me in person. So, he flew down to London and came to tell me. I was like, you are kidding right, you are not serious but he was very very serious. Basically, he just asked me out and then in London, I was at the point where I was trying to get a new job and then they were giving an hard time in the job, I just got fed up and then my mum came to London and said maybe it was time for me to come down to Nigeria and I’m like no, what’s happening in Nigeria? And my husband was like yes, go to Nigeria, let’s go get married and then we will back to America, we didn’t even talked about it. Marriage was not on my plan then but of course, I have been praying for a life partner and he just came into the picture but at that point we hadn’t talked about marriage until that day and that was how I got married and came to America.
What are the virtues you saw in your husband?
At the time I got married, I was totally out of the phase of love. I had grown a lot spiritually with God and I was at that point where every decision made was based on what God was saying. So at that point, I had been praying, I had gone through a lot of disappointments in life, so, at that point I was just like talking to God about my life partner, who he was and help me to know him and all that. When my husband came into the picture, I just heard the confirmation from the Holy Spirit and the things that God kept talking to me about, the things I had prayed for and the way everything happened and also another confirmation came from my mum when she was like, yes, we have been praying because my husband is not Yoruba and easily my parents are like no, we don’t want Igbo, we don’t want Hausa, we don’t want this, we don’t want that because I’m Yoruba. I’m like you guys are kidding right? I don’t want to marry a Yoruba person so you guys should get over it already. I just used to say but then it just suddenly happened that, in the midst of everything that I was going through, with all the disappointments that I had experienced, he came into the picture and it kind of just followed through and for me, it was more of a confirmation from the Holy Spirit, knowing that God gave me a through and through confirmation with everything that was happening around me at that time. And when I also introduced him to my mum, immediately, my mum was like, yes, we know that it is him but I’m like, why would you say that because he is not Yoruba, but my mum said she has been praying about him. So, I just kind of have that type of all round confirmation and that was what just sealed it. For me, it was what God said about him and not like what made you crazy about him.
If you have an opportunity to come back to this world, would you still marry your husband?
Laughs…….If we have the opportunity of reincarnation or coming back to this world, it is going to be the same thing. It is just going to be according to God’s leading, whatever the Holy Spirit say, it going to be what it is for me. For me it is going to be 100 per cent about that.
What has been the reaction of your husband to you singing?
I believe that when you are working in line with God’s will and purpose for your life, He order your steps and makes everything fall in line. My husband comes from a very musical family, my husband is my drummer. My husband and I actually wanted to be singing in High School because when we were in High School, we were both Social Prefects, he was a Social boy and I was the Social girl. We lost touch, we never communicated outside the fact that we both Social Prefects, we later hook up in the future, we met when I was in London and we were reunited. He was also in music in America, he is an instrumentalist for the church that he attends and I was a gospel artiste in the UK then and it amazingly turned out that we were still both social and still in music. Every single one of my ministration, he goes with me. He is also a professional drummer and when artistes come out to him, he drums for them. The last one we had when Frank Edward came out here, when Nathaniel Bassey was here, my husband was the one that played the drums for them. When artistes come here, he is the number one drummer that they are going to call. He is also very very active in the gospel music as an instrumentalist just as well as I’m a gospel artiste, so it makes it very easy for us. But at first, it wasn’t very easy, in the beginning there were challenges but now, we don’t have a choice, we go everywhere together.
In the next five years, where do we see AyoDoubleJoy?
In the next five years, I hope that I’m able to have toured a lot of countries, I’m able to have produced a lot of tracks that would have blessed lives and I’m praying that I have songs that people can worship to just the same way we listen to Sinatch now, we listen to Tim Godfrey, we listen to a whole lot of artistes and we worship with their songs. I’m praying that in another five years, I have those songs that can be on every radio station, on every church use it for praise and worship just to glorify God. In another five years, I’m hoping that I’m able to come to Nigeria more frequently because my heart is really Nigerian. I’m able to come there and go to different churches for people to be able to worship with me physically rather than just listening to my song. I want to be able to be there in person and come worship with people. I want to a voice that people can reckon with because in the journey of my life, I have experienced a whole bunch of things and every time I ask God why did you let me go through this, He tells so that you can be a blessing to other people, you are going to share your story to other people and they are going to be blessed, their lives are going to be transformed.
So, I’m hoping that between now and the next five years, I’m able to have share those stories and I’m able to have touched lives, I’m able to have transformed lives. I know teenagers, I know young girls go through a lot of things and sometimes they really don’t have adequate information to help them through, I’m hoping that some day, I will be able to be that voice that can actually give hope to young girls and actually them it’s okay to make mistakes and there is a support system that they can always rely on. In five years, I hoping that yes, I’m have been able to accomplish all that and touch lives far and wide.
What is the most memorable day in your life?
One of my most memorable days, of course will be the day I had my two kids and one thing that makes it really memorable is that for my son, I was looking for the fruit of the womb. I have done all kinds of tests and the doctor said I’m perfect, my husband is perfect, nothing is going on. They scanned my womb, they did all kinds of ultrasounds and they didn’t see any reason why I’m not getting g pregnant but one day, through the help of the Holy Spirit, through prayer, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that, I had fibroids and they were really big, they were outside. So, all together, I had six fibroids and the smallest one was measuring about eight inches. While I was praying, after six months, my doctor said maybe we should go take them out because they were really big. So while I was trying to get clearance from my insurance to cover the surgery, all of a sudden, I did a test and I found out that I was pregnant. I was really surprised, I was pregnant even with those fibroids, the baby was fine, I carried the baby to 40 weeks, the full term with all those six fibroids.
During the time I wanted to deliver the baby, I had some challenges. But I was praying and eventually I had my baby naturally. I didn’t bleed, in fact, there was nothing out of the ordinary, immediately, I had him, I stood up. I was such an amazing testimony. Some people think that was normal but for people that had fibroid that have complications with child birthday, that have been barren before, they can relate with this. That is by far the happiest day of my life because we don’t even know how we were going to conceive but I conceived, I carried the baby to full term and I had the baby naturally. That is a major testimony for me and by far the happiest day of my life.
When I had my daughter was another happy day because as soon as I had my son, I took out the fibroid six months later and I conceived again, I carried to full term and she was like nine pound but we had the baby and God took all the glory. Those were the best testimonies of my life.