Kenny Saint Best’s (popularly known as Kenny Saint Brown) life has been an eventful one. Apart from being a sister to entertainment and media mogul, Kenny Ogungbe, she has also made a mark in showbiz. In this interview with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS, the mother of two speaks about rejection, why she changed her music genre, fate of Nigerian gospel music and her recent ordination as a pastor.
Don’t you think being a full-time pastor will affect your music?
It depends on the notion you make of it because I have been serving in that capacity for almost 10 years unofficially. I have been under the same man of God. I used to be in charge of the teenagers, but when they created a youth church, I was promoted and automatically, I was given charge of it. If you have been following me properly, I had a concert in December, ‘KSB Live in Worship.’
So, I have always been a minister of the gospel. But this time, I am being ordained as a preacher and teacher.
For me, it is the same gospel and it is an enhancement. My new status will only propel me to do more for God. Many years ago, I shifted focus to gospel music alone. But now, I am going back to praise and worship, just like the days I started out. I do not regret taking the steps I took then because the sweet vibe I added to my music made the mainstream to accept it. However, now that I am a pastor, there are certain shows I will not take part in again. But I do not always accept all shows right from the onset.
Do you agree that gospel music is losing relevance in Nigeria?
I do not think it is exactly correct to say gospel music is fading. Then, what I did was to bring gospel music to the mainstream and God gave me the grace to do it. Unlike many other gospel music, my songs were being played constantly on radio and the streets. For you to be on radio, it requires a lot of money. People buy airtime, people buy the media.
To push your song, it is either you’ve made a name as an artiste or you have money to share. If I release a song now, it would be played. But for the upcoming ones, the media is not helping them. Gospel musicians cannot buy the media like the secular musicians do. Also, the Nigerian Christian Committee is used to praise and worship. But I was doing urban contemporary gospel music.
I KNEW I WAS PIONEERING SOMETHING NEW, I KNEW IT WOULD BE LONELY AND I KNEW THERE WOULD BE REJECTION. I KNEW I WOULD NOT BE ACCEPTED IN SOME GATHERINGS. WHEN THEY PUT TOGETHER NAMES OF GOSPEL ARTISTES, YOU WOULD STRUGGLE TO FIND MY NAME ON IT. INITIALLY, IT WAS PAINFUL AND I FELT I WAS BEING REJECTED BY THE CHURCH. BUT I HAD TO HOLD ON TO GOD SINCE HE GAVE ME THE ASSIGNMENT
After I became successful with it, certain people picked the style up. While some had to go fully secular along the way, others retuned to praise and worship. I heard Simi was a gospel singer. She had to move into secular when acceptability was low. In my case, I was totally into contemporary urban gospel music and I was consistent with it. Do not forget that I had the support of the media too. Nikky Laoye is doing what I did. She has the energy; all she needs now is to connect with the streets.
Was there any time you thought of becoming a secular musician?
I did secular music. I was doing hip-hop, but with a message different from that of the secular world. My belief is that I do not need to sing worldly songs before I do commercial music. In some cases, some of my songs can be inspirational as well.
But I was never tempted to do secular songs despite mingling with them. But for gospel music, I would not be singing. I just tried to upgrade my music to be relevant in the mainstream.
My stance is that if the radio stations and DJs do not play you, no way you could be heard. And if you are not heard, it means you are not doing anything despite sleeping in the studio and making songs daily.
I was also lucky, as we had our own radio and television stations. If you had decided not to play me, our radio and television stations must play me. I even got advice from DJs on music productions, but it did not change my direction.
I was under the tremendous grace of God to continue to do gospel music. It might not sound like a gospel song, but when you listen to the message and its content, you would be proven wrong.
Are you aware that certain people don’t see you as a gospel musician?
I have had lot of situations like that. Some people even thought I was not born again and some said I was hiding under gospel music. But I could handle the pressure. I lost certain things too. I was not getting invitations from churches because they wanted people who could lead their praise and worship sessions. But I knew I was pioneering something new, I knew it would be lonely and I knew there would be rejection.
So I had to understand that I would not be accepted in some gatherings. When they put together names of gospel artistes, you would struggle to find my name on it. Initially, it was painful and I felt I was being rejected by the church. But I had to hold on to God since he gave me the assignment.
So, I adjusted, became stronger and songs kept coming. And the acceptance by the streets was stronger than that of the church. I was able to evangelise to people who were impossible. Once my music could be played in clubs and on streets, and it was acceptable by God, it was okay by me.
Many have also questioned your lifestyle, saying it is not worthy of a minis- ter of God. Why did you choose to ignore them?
This is the person I am and I believe God wanted me to be like this. When you give people the impression that God does not want them to look in a way, it pushes them away. If Gods wants to get to a carpenter, He uses a carpenter.
If He needs a tailor, he uses a tailor to reach him or her too. He believes they understand themselves better. I believe God wanted people who are fashionable to accept Jesus and I was there to be used. God saw that in me and He felt He could use me as tool to spread the gospel. God is not bitter, outdated or ugly. God is a highly creative being.
Is it not disturbing that radio stations only play gospel music on Sundays?
The earth belongs to God, including everything inside it. I do not understand why they cannot play gospel music on radio stations like any other music. Like I said earlier, it was the reason I changed to contemporary urban gospel music. If they play a D’banj’s song, I wanted them to play my song next to it. Gospel music could be groovy and still carries the gospel inside it. It is a challenge, but it is a jinx I broke. Other needs to follow suit; I cannot do it for them.
Have you seen signs of your children taking after you?
I was called by God. They have the gene of creativity. They can sing, draw and are very artistic. So it is left to God to direct their paths. My son raps and he calls me to listen to him. I just smile. If he chooses to do secular music, I would not stop him. I am only expected to put him through being an entertainer as well. My daughter acts already and she has done a couple of jobs with MNET.
What do you wish to change about yourself ?
To be honest, there is absolutely nothing I like to have differently. For every mistake or good step I took, it was ordained by God. If I had power to change something in me, I would probably not be where I am today. I just want the will of God to take place in my life.
Does this mean parting ways with your husband was ordained as well?
I do not want to talk about my marriage. I have decided not to say anything about that in the media again