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Issue 001 2009
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                  Juju Music is Dying Gradually ........ Ekundayo

We recently caught up with young, talented juju act in the UK Israel Olayinka Ekundayo and in this very interesting interview, he shares with us his very humble beginnings and how he has managed to grow his band to be one of the biggest in the UK today.

MM:               Hello Israel and Thank you for granting us this interview


Israel:               You’re Welcome.


MM:               Can you please introduce yourself and take us on a trip into your background


Israel: My name is Israel Olayinka Ekundayo, a.k.a. Mr Manna. I am from Badagry, Lagos state, Nigeria.  I was born into a family of musically gifted parents. My father, Prophet A. Ekundayo was the choirmaster and my mum ”Mother in Israel” R Ekundayo was the choir mistress at C&S Church, The Promised Land of Glory. I learnt my trade from the best source available- (my parents).


As my parents aged, I was in the best position to succeed them, and I did. I started my music career as the leader of C&S’s choir group and also formed a live band called “Manna Voices” in 1994. Being a young aspiring musician and with my stage charisma as a strong weapon, it didn’t take long before I started getting gigs and getting known all over Nigeria.


After my secondary school education, I trained as a "lithographic printer" at Ebenkol Graphic Arts Company in Lagos-Nigeria. Also studied "print proof” in London at ‘The London Institute’ {Elephant & Castle}.


MM:   We know your full name is Isreal Olayinka Ekundayo but we also know you as Mr Manna.  Can you tell us where the name Manna came from?


Israel:  It was on this faithful day when I was invited to minister in a church annual anniversary. My songs really passed a powerful message to the preacher and he was really touched. So while he was preaching, he stood me up in front of the whole congregation and appreciated the way I was singing and he said the songs were like “MANNA from Heaven”. From that spot, my friends and family started calling me “Manna” which later spread all over. That was how it started.     


MM:   When and where did it all start and what can we say brought you into limelight


Israel: Born into a Christian family, I started my music career in the church at a very young age. Like many other top singers, I started as a church vocalist in Nigeria and performed few gigs with the church band before finally setting up my own first band which consisted of 19 members.


In 1999, I moved over to the UK and gathered some of the best Nigerian musicians London could offer and continued my career. I have staged many concerts and have supported many other acts such as Jide Chord, Shina Peters and Yinka Ayefele whenever they are on tour in the UK.


In 2001, I released a gospel album titled IRETI ORUN {Heavenly Hope} which was dedicated to God. On the 21st of Nov 2008 was the release of another Album Titled “STEP UP”.



MM:   How would you label your kind of music and what makes your music different from that of other juju artistes


Israel:  My kind of music is a mixture of good afro- juju, highlife, gospel music and stunning stage entertainment. My style of music can be distinguished from any other musicians you’ve heard. You know how you’d want to describe an artiste by saying ‘he plays like such and such’. Well my juju style is classic and unique. In this day and age where there is an abundance of musical talents in all genre of music, it is not enough for a musician to have an “Independent” style that he can be identified with. A musician must be exceptional good with his own creative style.



MM:   What are the challenges that a Juju artiste in the UK face in breaking the international market


Israel: There are several challenges we Juju artistes are currently facing in the UK. One of them is identifying the professionals; In the UK today, there are lot of Juju artistes performing, so some people can not identify the difference.


Secondly, there are limited instrumentalists compared to Nigeria. There are so many lead vocalists with very few band members or no members at all. The money paid on one instrumentalist in the UK can be used to pay for five instrumentalists in Nigeria.  


MM:   Where do you see the Juju Music Scene in the next 10 years?


Israel: Sincerely, I think Juju music is dying gradually. If something is not being done to revive it soon, it will surely go out of fashion completely. The reason is that the western music (American style; Hippop & RnB) is really driving the hearts of many, especially young people away from Juju music. In the next ten years, Juju might probably become old fashioned if care is not taken. That’s why we Juju musicians and upcoming ones should ensure that we do all in our power to keep juju music alive. If the world is going Western, we can also modernize our Juju music to suit the Western style.


MM:   We know you are a happily married man but we also know that being a good looking young man, you must surely have a very large number of female fans. How do you cope with Female Fans wanting to be around you all the time?


Israel: (Laugh)…Well, it only takes the Grace of God for any man to be responsible in all his ways. The kind of job requires me to be around female fans because they make the music world. I know there are temptations here and there but a man has to be disciplined from within. That’s why I went for a young lady that has got virtually everything; I mean my wife is like a goddess, she is pretty, well-shaped, well mannered, she is the best dancer I’ve ever seen, she is a good singer as well. So God has really favoured me. I respect my female fans a lot but I don’t joke with my family. 

MM:   What is your Philosophy about life?


Israel: Life is just too short to be wasted. Always do your best and leave the rest to God. Life is all about turns, it might be your turn to reign at what you do or you may be on the waiting lists, as long as you put God first and you are always honest at what you do, “Believe me Heaven is your limit”.


MM:   What should your fans expect from you in 2009?


Israel: My fans should expect my upcoming musical video. They should also expect some fantastic shows and performances from me and band.



MM:   What are you currently doing now?


Israel: Currently, I’m working hard on my video which is meant to be out by Christmas hopefully. I’m also composing and gathering songs for my next Album which is to be out by middle of next year.                 


MM:   How do you relax?  What do you enjoy doing when you are not performing?


Israel: When I’m not performing, I love relaxing with my family. Also I like going to the fitness club to keep fit.  (giggles) Ha! And I also eat a lot.


MM:   Do you do any other business Apart from Music


Israel: As I said early, I’m a qualified lithographic printer. In the next few years, I’m planning to start something on that but at the moment, my music career is taking so much of my time that I can’t do anything else.


MM:   I’m sure your fans will want to know where and when they can catch up with you. 


Israel: Yes.  Join Israel Ekundayo and the manna band every Friday at Eko Wine Bar, 160 Homerton High Road, London E9 6JA.


*Saturdays and Sundays are for private party gigs. Please visit www.mannamuzik.com or www.israelekundayo.com  to check date availability.


MM:  thank you for your time and is there anything you will like to say to all your fans out there?


Israel: I love you all. You’ve made me what I am today. Without you, there is no Ekundayo. Thank you for your support and love.


Thank you MM.

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