Sophia Omotosho, popularly known as Sophy-Yah, was born into music. She started featuring at Christian concerts, award ceremonies, seminars both in Nigeria and the UK at a young age. In 2012, she was member of a choir that recorded the British Broadcasting Corporation’s, theme song, title “First Step” at the legendary Abbey Road studio for the 2012 Olympics. She has shared platform with great gospel musicians like Chevelle Franklin, Diana Hamilton, Isabella Melodies, Noel Robinson, Bob Fit, Original King Arthur, Madeleine Kerzner, LCCG Choir, Sonnie Badu as well as a host of other UK, American and African gospel artistes. On a recent visit to Nigeria, Sophy-Yah tells Samuel Ajayi about her decision to stick to gospel music and why she wants to build a fan base in the country
• I Started Gospel Music When I Was 13
Born into Music
She was born in Nigeria but her career blossomed in far away United Kingdom. For Sophia Omotosho, music flows in the body. She was not only born into it, her father, Godwin Obodozie, was a prominent music promoter and producer in the 80s and 90s called Romantic Records. Though native of Imo State, Sophy-Yah, as she is now called, is married to a Yoruba man, and is the eldest of seven children. According to her, she had an encounter with her Creator when she was just 13 and since then, she decided she would use her God-given talent to praise the Lord.
“I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and grew up in a family of seven where I am the eldest and I am from Imo State. I actually grew up in Lagos. I had my secondary at Ojota Secondary School and I was the Social Prefect when I was in school. And from there, I proceeded to the famous Yaba College of Technology where I studied Catering and Hotel Management. After some while, I relocated to the United Kingdom. There I did a course Digital Marketing as well as Business Marketing. As I was doing this, I was also pursuing my musical career and I recorded my first album in the UK and after that, I have released three singles. I have worked on two music videos on my YouTube channel. I also have videos of musical ministrations in churches and events as well,” she said.
An Encounter with God, she recalled, at 13
Sophy-Yah said she chose to pursue gospel music because of her encounter as a born-again Christian at a young age. To her, she could not see herself doing another genre of music apart from gospel.
“To start with, I got born-again when I was 13 years-old at Deeper Life Church. Having been surrounded by music as child, I had to pick the kind of music I wanted to do. My dad had a big record store at Ikeja. My dad was even managing some artistes like Felix Lebartey and the late Sonny Okosun. The name of my father’s label was Romantics Records. He also managed the Mado Martino and Negroes International Band which was a band from Cameroon. So I have always been surrounded by music but having given my life to Christ, I decided to do gospel music instead of secular music.”
Upon relocation to Europe, the reception in the United Kingdom has been quite encouraging. Though her music is hip-hop, it is equally laden with considerable reggae influence that makes it a dance-hall sought-after any where it is played. And one thing that has worked for her is the fact that it is the kind of music that is well accepted there.
“I have had a good reception in the UK. I do R&B hip-hop gospel music which is very much accepted there. It also draws the young people to church because they believe gospel music is boring. But doing that, they embraced and liked it. What I try to do is to cater for all age groups and not just young people. I have songs that cater for young and others that cater for old people; people from 50 and above. What I also do is to add African flavour to my music. My song, Hail Him, is a dance hall track. What I did with was to infuse African languages into it. Dance hall is Jamaican stuff. So I feature a top Jamaican gospel artiste, King Arthur. He did patioa part.”
Need to Build Her Home Fan Base
As much as she is a household name in the United Kingdom, Sophy-Yah admits that not being able to make considerable presence in his fatherland is what she is working on. This is even despite the fact that she has over 63,000 Facebook followers and she has fans all over the world.
“I am on a platform called Radio Airplay. I have fans from the United States, Israel, Turkey, Nigeria, Australia, China and so on. I have loads and loads of fans on that page. I always try to keep them updated on projects that I working on. I also have fans on Twitter; with tens of thousands followers. I also have thousands of followers on Facebook. At the moment, I have 63,000 followers on Facebook since I have reached by 5,000 friends limit.”
She admits, however, that she is still trying to woo the Nigerian audience to key into her music.
“I am trying to record songs that will be appealing to my local audience. They are songs everyone can relate to. I am doing some recordings in UK and doing some here. I want to add more African flavour in my music now that I am around in Nigeria and I will be doing some studio work and I will be recording songs that will include worship tracks with infusion of African languages. I will also be recording some hil-songs. Hil-songs are peculiar to most churches in London which they use for their praise and worship. Churches that have Jamaican or Zimbawean pastors use these.”
It Has been Good but can be Better…
Financially, Sophy-Yah says it has been rewarding but not as she would have wanted. She believes with the efforts and quality of her songs, it should have been better than it is now. Though she says she has been able to resist pressure from fans who want her to do secular music.
“Many people say I should come and be doing secular music and I will make so much money. But I always tell them, God’s time is the best and at the right time, God will make the big break possible. Let me keep doing the right things. Having said that, by virtue of my music I have met so many top personalities and these are people if I was not a singer, I would not have been able to meet them. They send me private messages expressing their appreciation of my music and I thank God for that. It is not just about recording songs. You have to produce it, promote it and market it. So I am crossing my fingers and people will continue to appreciate what I am doing. For now, I am okay with what God has done so far. The awards I have received show that people appreciate what I am doing.”
When asked of her message to her Nigerian fans, she says she could only thank them for their support so far.
“I want to thank my fans in Nigeria for their support for liking my pages and pictures on Facebook. I get thousands of likes. I thank them for following my career. No matter what they are going through, I always tell them God can. God will take them to their expected ends and grant them all their hearts’ desires. I love them. I am using this medium to say I love them all and thank them once again. I implore them to keep following me. I thank them all.”