By Bamidele Kolawole
Fausat Ayo Ewebiyi popularly known as Mama Oriki is a national award-winning Ewi exponent and performer. She is into singing, dancing and choreography, but her dancing is passive. In addition, she writes scripts, produces plays, as well as soundtracks.
Speaking on why she could not hold this year’s annual event tagged “Ogo Yoruba Gbode”, a Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural event packaged to further promote the rich cultural heritage of the Yoruba nation for those at home and in diaspora due to some reasons best known to her.
She spoke with Friday Extravaganza, on how her career as a female poet started at Unilag 34 years ago. Excerpts:
Let me start by asking you about “Ogo Yoruba Gbode, ”What really inspired Ogo Yoruba Gbode?
Ogo Yoruba Gbode is targeted at the Yoruba youths of today, many of whom are becoming estranged with the cultural values of the Yoruba. This event is aimed at rejuvenating their sense of belonging and appreciation of God-given prestige and richness of the Yoruba race.
As it is known, the glory of a nation is embedded in her citizenry, anyone of Oduduwa descent is a glory of the Yoruba race. Being a Yoruba son or daughter by birth alone is not enough to be called the glory, but having the right character and making a positive impact on the society with the blessings that Olodumare has deposited in one’s life. Being a cultural ambassador and crusader, culture could be a tool that could be used to sanitise the society. So, to further promote the rich cultural heritage of the Yoruba nation both at home and in Diaspora, we started Ogo Yoruba Gbode, aimed to give recognition and celebrate the Yoruba sons and daughters who are making the Yoruba nation proud.
Your career, poetry, how did the journey start?
I was born into a family of six, the only child of my mother and I was named Fausat Motunrayo. I started what I’m doing now when I was in primary school because I believe art is innate and not something you pick up when you grow up. It is something that is inside you and blows when someone comes around to help you realise that dream inside you.
When I got to the University of Lagos, I studied Creative Arts and majored in drama. During our project, a man named Mr Lekan Oduntan asked me if I could chant and I performed it. Surprised, he asked me who taught me and I told him that it was something that was usually done in my village. That was how it all started in 1987. I never knew it was something that would be accepted.
While in the village, I would follow the Ogun worshippers and make a mental note of everything they did and later re-enact it, but now, rather than put efforts into praising the orisas (deities), I learnt through my mum and guardian that there is a superior Orisa greater than all of the Orisas in this world and that is Olodumare (God Almighty). I take delight in praising Olodumare. This is what precipitated my first album, ‘Good Morning Olodumare’. Olodumare is the one who is the master of mysteries and all. He lives inside of you, so why won’t I praise Him? This is why I began my album with Oriki Olodumare, Elese Osun (One whose feet are camwood lotioned). My latest single is: Mofayobere because I’m starting this year on a joyful note.
What influenced your decision to go into the entertainment industry?
At a point, I was working as a computer operator. I would sit for hours to set a large volume of documents and I never got tired because I loved it so much and I was very fast. Each time I finished my work before the deadline, I would set scripts and songs and soon enough the computer memory was full. One day, my boss noticed this and advised me to resign and study Theatre Arts. I took it as advice. She paid me gratuity and that took me to UNILAG.
I was faced with lots of challenges, but there’s an adage that says: “A road that is trodden every day, if not deserted, will become a very smooth path,” so I kept forging ahead. Today, I’m not where I want to be, but I’m closer to it than I was before. Then, I went on to do jingles for corporate bodies as well as for the Lagos State government like the one that ushered in the present governor during his first tenure as well as when he wanted to re-contest titled “Ewa gbo iroyin ayo” meaning come and listen to good news). It has been a fruitful ride ever since.
What kind of genre is your music?
It falls into traditional folk art. I call it Gospel Folk Art (GOFAR) and my band is “Ayo and Alayo voices”. My style of music praises Eledumare and talks about being thankful all the time. It preaches morals as well as gives a melodious tune. It is fused with Western instruments and traditional voices.
Have you performed for Yoruba Monarchs who are custodians of Yoruba culture and heritage chanting your lyrics?
Yes, to the glory of God, I have performed Oriki chanting for several Obas including His Imperial Majesty, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty, Oba Oyetunji Olanipekun, Ataoja of Oshogbo, Ologidi of Ogidi, Oba Suleiman, in Kogi State. Oba Rilwan Oluwalambe, Olojokoro of Ojokoro, just to mention a few.
How would you describe the industry as a whole?
The entertainment industry is thriving and I would say that it is not a place where you get into and you begin to say you are rated according to the number of years you’ve spent in the industry. If you have a good idea and there is no finance for you to bring it out, it is just like an idea whose time has not come, and when the time for an idea has come, nothing can stop it.
Tell us about your current projects?
I’m a theatre arts practitioner and not just a singer and I have a number of things that I have worked on. I had a project which shot in two states in the US; one in New York and the other in Maryland and titled: Osundagbonu.
This is the story of soul twins, the story is about a white female journalist who came for Osun festival and she partook of the benevolence ritual for women seeking for the blessing of the womb and Osun answered her prayer.
I participated in Yemoja with the national troop of Nigeria and was also among the group who took Iba to Egypt and the Gods are not to blame to USA. I have represented Nigeria in different countries like Ghana, South Africa, Dubai and Cotonou.