Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports how Music Director of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Kunle Ajayi’s enduring career was based on a miraculous recovery from a childhood health challenge
When a guy leads a choir that has a membership of 30000 and carries the designation of the Music Director of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) worldwide, there is no doubt that an event in which he takes centre stage is certainly to attract an incredible quality crowd. That is exactly what happened when Pastor Kunle Ajayi celebrated his 30th anniversary in music at the Eko Convention of the Eko Hotesla dn Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos.
The event which was themed ‘In His Presence’ was attended by all the glitz and glamour befitting the persona of Ajayi and some of his valued guests which included Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and his wife, Bolanle, former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke and his wife, Onari, former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, the Vice President was represented by Pastor Oluseyi Malomo, Chaplain of the Aso Rock Chapel, the wife of the General of the RCCG, Pastor Folu Adeboye, Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, the Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Senator Remi Tinubu, Mr. Tunde Fowler, Chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service and Pastor Idowu Iluyomade.
From the beautifully decorated walkway, corporate participation and sponsorship of the event was highlighted by Nobel Carpets which ensured that guests strolled into the venue a specially branded rug embossed with the logo of the celebration, PKA@30. The VIP guests were quartered on clearly marked tables, while all other guests were directed to the upper terrace of the hall, which was crammed and overflowing. But for the huge screen on the right side of the stage, this category of guests would not have enjoyed the show at all.
Kunle Ajayi may have been celebrating his 30th anniversary in music, but more than that it was a time to make merry for his life. As a child, he was diagnosed with a lung disease that brought about complication in breathing. He suffered many things in the hands of many doctors and was left for death. Ajayi told his audience that he did not believe that he would live up 20 years. He is close to 50 years today. “If I die now, I feel fulfilled. There is no achievement that can be accounted to a man that I have not made.”
At 14 years, he took a decision that changed his life forever. He lived at Idi-Oro near to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s residence at Moshalasi. From a distance, he observed Fela’s skill on the horns, particularly the saxophone and he decided to play on the instrument. But the challenge was the illness that he was bugged down with. It was a critical point in his life. Caught between the rock and a hard place, he made a covenant with God that should he be relieved of his trauma, he would dedicate his life to His service and blow the saxophone to His glory. It took four years to learn the ropes. When he made that decidsion his father encouraged him by gifting him a saxophone.
That very first musical instrument was on display at Eko Hotel that night and he jokingly said nobody should steal it. “I met my Daddy (Pastor Adeboye) and he prayed for me. I began to do things I could not do before. I started practicing in 1984, but the evidence of the work I put in started showing in 1988. That was when I made my first album, ‘How Great Thou Art’. Donald Duke surprised many who did not know that he is an accomplished musician by joining Ajayi on stage with his own saxophone to deliver that song.
This became the established pattern as he was accompanied by Chief Commander, Ebenezer Obey, when he did his song, ‘Eda to ba Mo Nu Ro’. At some point, Tosin Bee took over the vocals. Michael Alagbada joined to sing, ‘He is a Mighty Man’. He enjoyed the companionship of Krstabel to perform the song, ‘Honsana’. From Nathaniel Bassey to Wole Oni. Sammie Okposo and many more, the ‘In His Presence’ Concert was a huge testimony to the number of persons that Ajayi has collaborated with during an illustrious career.
For Ajayi, it was instructive to tell one instance that has created a special bond between him and the GO of the RCCG. “We had played the song, ‘Heavens Came Down’ before Daddy came to minister. When he came on the podium, he requested the congregation to clap for the choir, while observing that Heaven really came down when we played that song. From that day, he instructed that we must play that song before he ministers. Indeed many of the songs credited to Kunle Ajayi are popular choruses but he put sufficient ingenuity in the instrumentation to enable lay claim to ownership of the song. Ajayi also showed that he was a multi-instrumentalist when he demonstrated his dexterity on the guitar.
Governor Ambode who spoke at the event described it as a different kind of concert. Pastor Folu Adeboye portrayed Ajayi as one of his children and said it was the set time for his celebration. Encouraging everyone to support Ajayi’s dream to build an ambitious music academy, Pastor Idowu Iluyomade donated N5 million for his wife and himself. A highpoint at the event was when his two sons came on stage with their saxophone to join their father.