Physically impaired Olubunmi Dada lost both eyes to a dreaded childhood disease at the age of three. A graduate of Theatre Arts, Dada the computer guru, gospel artiste and philanthropist, believes so much in the saying that there is ability in disability and has maximised every opportunity that has come her way. She talks about these and many more in this interview with Mary Ekah
How did your musical career start?
I started singing while I was in the primary school. Even in my secondary school, I was also a member of the choir and when I got into the higher institution, I still joined another choir group. In fact, I was one of those writing songs for the group. After I graduated, I went into music fully, starting from ministrations in churches, concerts and seminars. From there I released my first album titled, ‘Alive’ in 2012 but it didn’t really do well because there was no support but that didn’t stop me. I wasn’t discouraged but moved on.
What did you study at the university?
I studied Theatre Arts because I love music and writing. I specialize in script writing, although in my first year at the university, I did virtually all aspect of Arts but at a point I focused on script writing. Meanwhile, I had both primary and secondary school education in Lagos and Kwara State respectively; afterwards, I proceeded to Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo State, where I studied
Theater Arts. I also proceeded to gain a proficiency in computer studies, where I had both my basics and professional knowledge in computer appreciation with a well-known British Computer Institute (Niger Wives Computer Institutes for the blinds), Victoria Island, Lagos. I also bagged a degree in English from the National Open University of Nigeria.
At what point did you decide to take music as a profession?
I decided to take music as profession right from the onset but just that it wasn’t really pronounced and even the support I get now is not really like I desire but with God, we would get there. And for upcoming artistes like me, the challenges we face mostly are issues of promoters, no marketers, nobody to support you, you raise your money yourself, pay your studio fee unlike when people get to sponsor your job and then you enter into agreement with them on how to share the profits. But now, you are left to do it all on your own and most of the distributors don’t even want to collect our jobs because they believe we are not popular enough. So after the recoding, you still have to distribute your work yourself. Like what I do is that I take my albums to churches, concerts and seminars during my ministrations. I also take advantage of the social media.
What particular challenge have you encountered as a physically impaired person?
First is discrimination, but then I would say that the Lagos State government is trying so much to curb that. You know before I used to go out on my own, at times I even jump the bus. But at such times, someone would come slot into your palm N5 (five naira) – someone I am sure I can even help. I don’t blame them because it is the orientation they have got and because of that, I stopped using public buses and resorted to hiring a car each time I want to go out. But despite all, I have proved to people that I am able and that in every disability, there is ability. In fact right now, I work as a computer administrator, aside doing my music, I work with a private firm in Lagos.
Despite your challenge, you forged ahead and today you are doing extraordinary things. What has been the driving force?
In everything in life, we need to give credence to God; so I would say God has been the number one driving force for me, then my parents. My parents have been extremely supportive. They believe in education a lot so they encouraged me a lot to get educated, my father, especially did so much to see that I had good education. My younger ones have been very supportive because I am the first child. My brother is my manager presently. And I will also say that the motivation is from the inside of me because the decision to go forward is an inner decision. But let me say God first, and then your inner decision that keeps pushing you to do more.
What inspires your songs?
The Holy Spirit gives me inspiration. I get inspired mostly at night and I write most times in the night. While other times, situations around me inspire me. Basically the Holy Spirit inspires me because for you to write a song that would really touch people, it has to have a spiritual backing, which even I cannot explain.
How many albums have you produced so far?
I have two albums for now. My first album titled ‘Alive’ was released in 2012. It was co-produced by two renowned producers, Cobhams Azuquo and Tolucci. I released another album years after, titled, ‘The King’s Praise’ in 2016, produced by the duo of Wole Oni and Tolu Obanro (Tyanx). Meanwhile ‘The King’s Praise’, features some popular gospel musicians like Mike Abdul, Kenny Kore, Babatunmise and Jeduthun based in USA. Like I said, earlier, I didn’t really get good distributorship for my first album, ‘Alive’ and in fact I still have copies at home right now that I still take to churches myself for sale.
But for my second album, ‘The King’s Praise’, I think with the digital distribution using the social media platforms, it would be better. But I must tell you that in terms of the physical distribution, it is not encouraging at all. And for now we have not had any distributor nor marketer because the few ones we have come in contact with have given us terms and conditions that we find difficult to work with. Imagine a marketer telling me to pay certain huge sum upfront before he could market my works. I have already done the mass production for you and every other thing and yet you still want me to bring a huge sum before you can market my works and by the time he finishes selling them, we would still share the profit.
How soon do we expect another album from you?
That may not be so soon because currently we are working on shooting two videos from my current album. And I’m the type that, if I must do anything, it must be the best. I was trained to always go for the best because if you don’t get it right, people will say, she failed because she is blind. So whatever, I do, I want to try as hard as I can to get it right and that means more time and dedication need to be given to everything I do. The same thing applies to my videos. The videos from my estimation may gulp more than N2 million. I want world-class videos, videos that can win awards.
If you weren’t doing music, what else would you have done?
I would have been in the sciences if I didn’t have any challenge because all through my junior class in the secondary school, I was extremely good in sciences but when I was about going to the senior secondary, I was advised to do Arts because of my challenge. Another thing I do now is an annual music concert, which I do for charity. It is called, ‘Come Worship the King’. We bring together renowned gospel artistes during which, we worship God and also extend a helping hand to the physically challenged people as well as children and widows.
This has been done over the years with my monthly salaries and huge supports from good-minded people, friends and family. We want to do more like extending it to giving scholarships to the less-privileged children and so we need more supports and with God on our side, we would get there. Another edition, which is the third, is happening this year. This is a concert I spend close to a million every year. I don’t have a choice but to do it every year because it is something God has committed into my hands and God has been supporting us.
Can you tell me a bit about growing up?
I am from Ogun State. Growing up was interesting even as a physically challenged child. I had this impairment right from the age of three as a result of Measles. So I went through my primary school with this impairment. I went to Parsley School for the Blind where I was taught to be independent, so that I don’t have to depend on people to do things. We were also encouraged to go to normal schools afterwards so that we can have a taste of life. Like I said, growing up was very interesting because I grew up with the whites. I attended Parsley School for the Blind and the white missionary owned the school. And so we were treated like princes and princesses and were encouraged to go to normal secondary schools where we would mix up with other children and then learn about real life situation. And so when I finished from the Parsley School for the blind, I went to a regular secondary school. That was another life of learning process entirely.
There you came in contact with people who were different from you, their attitudes and all of that. It’s been learning and learning all the way.
You have a very beautiful skin. How do you care for it?
I like to be natural. I don’t use any special cream. I use a normal cream mixed with ori (Shea butter) and Adin Agbon (coconut oil) and this is working perfectly for me. My sister buys them for me and then I have a makeup artist who works on me for special occasions. And I have some friends who are very good in the choice of dresses they make for me; my brother too knows much about cloth and fashion, so he does most of the combinations for my attires.
Are you in a relationship?
I am not in a relationship right now. I have had a couple of relationships in the past but it just didn’t work and you know with this impairment of mine, I really need to be careful, so that I don’t fall into the wrong hands. And I must also follow the leading of God in that aspect, because someone might come just to take advantage of me.
You are beautiful and you also have a beautiful voice. How do you feel when someone makes a remark about your beauty and voice?
The Bible says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, so when someone makes such remark, I feel like a queen and I also feel like I am what God has designed me to be.
Are there things in your life you would have loved to do differently?
I believe all things works together for good and if I wasn’t a Christian, I would have said, there is a regret, but I would not say so because God has a reason for everything that happens in one’s life. Someone would think that without this impairment life would have been better but it may not be. So I won’t say I regret anything in life even though I have my challenges.