Salau Aliu Olayiwola aka Testimony (Mr. JAGA) is a gospel minister and artiste with good aces up his sleeves. With hit tracks, Jehovah, Igara and Lambano to his name, Mr. JAGA has introduced a stimulating style to gospel music with a compelling blend of Fuji and Apala, which he brands Fujipop.He spoke with Benneth Oghifo
What does JAGA connote?
Jesus Associate God Ambassador (JAGA). I represent Jesus and I am God’s Ambassador. So before anyone or any brand endorses me, whether Glo, MTN or 9Mobile, God has already endorsed me. So, it’s as well a double portion for any brand that subsequently does.
What inspired your foray into music?
I would say my grandfather. I was once a secular music artiste working with the likes of Obesere, renowned producer Dabiano, Skally metal, etc. I stopped secular music in 2011and ventured into gospel music in 2012
What informed the transition?
Actually my encounter with God, I got myself in trouble in 2011 and was arrested by SARS and taken into police custody. While there in the police cell, I made a promise to God that if He got me out, I was going to come back to him.
You said you are from a Muslim family
You know when I was in secondary school I got attracted to music. We had a big hall in my school at Alagbado that was always rented by a church and whenever they had rehearsals, I was attracted. So, I started going to the church and joined the choir because of the music. But I never had the consciousness of a Christian until that incident drew me to God and I gave my life to Christ.
Fuji is not a common trend in gospel music, what informed this electrifying incline?
I call it Fujipop. My grandfather was an Apala musician. If you listen very well you will realize mine is a blend of Apala with Fuji. He was a musician. He told me lots about himself and his music which he couldn’t hit big with for obvious reasons. I didn’t really understand Apala music, you know as a young boy coming up Hip hop was it. When I was young and on vacation at my grandparents, I had the privilege of hearing my granddad sing. That was all. He never had any album, you know in those days, they just had a band and went from place to place singing. There was no opportunity to wax an album. On subsequent vacations, my grandma would say I sing like my grandpa whenever I sang. I asked her what kind of music my grandpa sang and she said Apala and I was lost since I didn’t know the kind of music Apala was. At a point however I said to myself that I’ve got to take over from grandpa and make it work. I decided to find out about Apala music and listened to Haruna Isola, Ayinla Omowura and afterwards made up my mind to explore the genre and take it from where grandpa stopped. That is how I began infusing it into my own music and blend it to what people would like. So yes, my grandfather inspired my kind of music.
Have you at any point been tempted to go back to secular music?
Yes I had, in 2015. When I left secular music in 2011 it was pretty tough. In 2013, I started going for boxing and it just seemed things were getting worse. In 2015, I resolved that if I didn’t have the opportunity to sing on the platform of Pastor Chris, being the platform we all look forward to in the ministry, just like a music minister in Redeemed Church looks forward to sing before Baba Adeboye, then I was going to quit and go back. I also at the time had the opportunity to travel to Cuba to further my boxing career. I just wanted to be successful in anything apart from stealing or robbing which I couldn’t do anyway. I was actually very good in boxing.
As God would have it, sometime in 2015, I got a call from Sinach, telling me they wanted me to open up the International Music Conference (IMC). That was how the opportunity came. Thereafter, I called my Boxing coach and told him that I would not be travelling to Cuba again. From then, my music career took off for good.
Your song “Jehovah” speaks of comfort or blessings you derived from God. Can you recount some of those blessings?
There is an award by the IMC called the LIMA Awards. In our ministry, it’s our own version of the Grammy Awards. In the history of the awards, no music minister has ministered twice but that changed with me. In 2015, I opened the awards concert and along the way, Pastor Chris called on me to come and sing the same song again.In the course of it as I sang, Pastor Chris jumped up from his seat. I was glad the song I sang made him do that, which I knew was inspired by the Holy Ghost. I am forever grateful to Pastor Chris
Then in 2016, Evangelist Kathy who happens to be Pastor Chris’ younger sister called and told me the Holy Ghost asked her to train me. So I started being trained by her and while that was going on, her own son, known as Dezman Oyakhilome, who is a major youth influencer in Africa today told me one day that he wanted me to accompany him to a programme. While there, I ministered a song on the second day of the programme titled ‘Take It’ and he was so touched that he flung his car key to me and said ‘take it’. That was my first car – a brand new Toyota Muscle. When we got back to Lagos, I was with my family rejoicing and later on while I was praying, the Holy Spirit told me that was no my car and told me to give it out. So I gave it out as a seed. When the news got to Dezman that I had given out the car he gave me, he called me to confirm. The next thing he did was ask me to go to his garage and pick any car of my choice and when I got there, there were big pretty and slick cars but I chose a small one I could maintain, a Toyota Sport 2005 version. He then asked why I preferred that among all the cars I saw and I replied him that it was the one I believe I was capable of maintaining. He was impressed and promised to be giving me a car every year. And that’s how it’s been.
Which of your songs would you consider the biggest?
All the songs are big because they glorify God. I started with ‘David Dance’, then Lambano and then Igara. Let me say Igara opened some doors. It brought the street to the church and took the church back to the street, but the song Jehovah brought the money. Another one is still coming; so it is from glory to glory. I can’t say one particular one is the biggest.
How effective has the Street Gospel Movement been?
It has been amazing because taking gospel music to the streets has wowed many people who had no idea that gospel music can be fun and done in an exciting manner. Consequently, we have people who have joined us. We set up our band in the streets, go to them where they smoke and drink and share with them. I don’t have to condemn them in what they do because I do not come with a message of condemnation but that of good news. So they easily accept Christ. We therefore need to be creative in taking our music to the world. And Christ can trend better and indeed should. To buttress this, MTV Base in one of their programmes used the Igara song. It was Igara that was playing in the background. I’m not sure it has ever happened before. So yes, we can do more as gospel artistes to attract young ones to Christ and away from immoral inclinations with our music, through creative ways.
Apart from the music business, what other business are you involved in?
I have a clothing line called JAGS Wear, I have TMJ Audio; these are branded music speakers. There is also TMJ Gas, a retail gas outlet. These are all small businesses meant to service the common people and encourage them. I also have my band ‘The Testifiers Band’. We play in weddings, birthdays and other events.
How do you contend with the distraction or attraction from women?
I see them as blessings. You don’t want to go to any show and see only men. It depends on how you see them. For me they are no distraction.
Are you in any relationship? When are the bells ringing?
I am not married but I know one day I will when the time is right. I am not into any relationship either and I am not searching. For now, I am more focused on soul winning. It’s all about the gospel and also about my career. It’s an opportunity I have been searching and waiting for, so I am taking full advantage of it.
Where do you see Mr. JAGA in the next 5 to 10 years?
Mr. JAGA in the next 5 to 10 years will become one of the greatest, impactful, creative and richest musicians across the globe.
What are your hobbies and how do you wind down?
I love boxing. I love cooking and I am still a studio rat. I love to make people laugh all the time. I love music and wind down with music.
Is there any message to young aspiring gospel artistes and your teeming fans out there?
For the aspiring gospel artiste, I’ll say don’t try to run faster than your shadow. Don’t imagine you’d just wake up one day and become a superstar without working towards it. Most important of all, have God and give Him prominence in your song and in all you do. For my fans, you are all wonderful. Always remember, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.