Friday, September 20, 2002

Tunde Oyedoyin
[email protected]
London, UK

A gospel singer leaves for Ghana

Helen Yawson
ne of the least things that would have crossed the mind of any young school leaver travelling to London from Ibadan in 1986 was the idea of having to leave the former to another country in sub-saharan Africa. But that is exactly the position Helen Yawson finds herself. 16 years after coming to improve on her GCSE results in the domain of Her Majesty, HM, Helen returns to Ghana, a country where she once visited almost 20 years ago, and the native land of her hubby, Pastor Andrew Yawson.

Relocation may not be a particularly new word in her vocabulary, considering that her secondary education was outside her state of origin, Bendel state (now Edo and Delta states respectively). Her first experience of moving from one continent to another dates back to about 30 years ago, when after two years of being born in London, her parents decided it was time they returned to Nigeria. There she was bred until shortly after her secondary school education at Ibadan. Being one of the girls at the prestigious places of learning at that time - St Annes school, Molete, Ibadan - Helen developed a flair for dramatic arts and was always acting or singing. She told me recently that:"my cousins reminded me that as a little girl, I used to entertain them at home," and as far as she remembered, she's been singing and she enjoys it.

If going to make her home in one of Nigeria's neighbouring countries wasn't part of her initial thoughts, neither was getting hooked to a man from a different culture. But after sorting out her academics and improving her lot, she realised how impossible it was to say no to a young, slim and tall pastor in her place of worship, the Kingsway International Christian Centre, KICC. What started as a mere friendship blossomed into acquittance and the rest, they say is now part of history. So, on one of those lovely saturdays in 1996, a ring was thrust into her finger as she said yes to the man of God at a marriage ceremony that sealed their love for each other.

Although her primary aim of coming to London was to retake her GCSE Ordinary level exams, like most people, an MRS. degree wasn't a bad idea afterall.One other thing Helen found herself involved with, was being asked to be part of a musical group that was being set up, and 12 years on, she has mastered the art of singing and also released some songs into the market. Among the things she remembered after joining the group was 'I started having the burden for people to worship God. I think I play two roles: worship and inspirational music, but when I write, I go into the role of worship. Worship is the context, its not a style. Worship can be rock and roll, I think its not confined to a brand. To me, worship is what you're saying, its not a particular style, it could be juju or fuji or raggae." If you make yours hip hop, she wouldn't frown at you either.

For someone who didn't hesitate to display her talent as a primary school girl and later as a teenage artist at St Annes, the future couldn't be brighter and nothing would prove a stumbling block in her desire to perform at the highest level. Her efforts have culminated in the release of two CDs. According to the mother of two,"My first solo CD was released in Jan 2000 and the second in Aug. 2001 with 10 tracks and 5 tracks respectively," the last, Helen said, was co-written with her producer. Going down memory lane, she said, she never trained as a professional musician but the private lessons she attended made it possible for her talent to move to a higher gear." I used to work as administrative assistant at the Ministry of Agriculture in London, I'm not an academic in the area of music, but I did go for private lessons to develop my voice."

'For those aspiring to sing: I think that you need to know that you've been called to sing, one thing is being able to know you can do it, another is for someone you look up to, a mentor, being able to recognise and confirm same. Whether its your pastor or someone else, who can be able to tell you, I see this gift in your life and you should do something about it and that will be a confirmation of what God has already spoken to you. You have to keep on developing yourself and maintain a good relationship with God. Although you can get the money, glamour and fame, but as a gospel singer, if your relationship with God is not intact, it will affect the message you deliver. I think you need to know that you're called to it. if you're called to it, you'll pursue it and its during the difficult times that you'll know whether you're committed to what you're doing. Whether you're just in a little choir where everyone is complaining and murmuring, you'll be able to say no, this i! s where i'm supposed to be, even if everyone is leaving. So, you've got to be focused. Its also important to know where God has called you to be, otherwise, whenever everybody is murmuring, you'll be double minded, if you're double minded, you'll be unstable, but you need to be focused."

How does she combine singing and mothering?" I think its important that when you're into something, you have the support of your partner, and if you have their support, the job is half done. I have the support of my husband and he is very interested in what i'm doing? He helps me a lot and the fact that we have a foundation agreement as to what we're both doing, it helps in working out whatever comes up."

Did she envisage she would be saying: 'till death do us part to a Ghanian?" I don't think I have anything against cross cultural marriage, but I was not thinking about it. It was quite strange that the thing I was making fun of happened to me, I was amazed. For me, i'm committed to what i'm doing and it doesn't mean when you're into something, everything has to be straight forward, but you make sacrifices, and at the end, God will reward you. The reason why you're doing this is because more people can come to know the Lord, the sacrifice is worth it on the long run. You might not be able to do what everyone is doing, but you make some sacrifices. The main aspect of my ministry is worship and I believe that people can come to the Lord through it." Some of the songs Helen has written include: Bless and Highly Favoured, Forever Grateful, etc.Her ambition is to do more in the years ahead.

The gospel, she said, should be presented in a more relevant perspective because 'People are looking for a word that is relevant to what is happening to their situation and that's what i'm interested in and I just want to be available to be used by him." Having bid farewell to friends, admirers and church members a few weeks on the last saturday of August, Mrs Yawson has now left London to join her pastor husband, Andy Yawson in Ghana, where they've started a pioneering work for the Reverend Matthew Ashimolowo at the Kama Conference centre in Accra.