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Legacy Series: Muyiwa on BET’s ‘Celebration of Gospel’

This series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of UKGospel.com, ensuring the history and evolution of the UK Gospel music scene is recorded and publicly accessible

  • Original publication date: 28 January 2009
  • Written and edited by: Yinka Awojobi

‘…THERE WERE NO AGENTS, RECORD COMPANIES OR MANAGERS THAT MADE IT HAPPEN…’

Why Muyiwa Olarewaju’s appearance on BET’s flagship gospel show is hugely significant for UK Gospel.

Muyiwa & Riversongz are the first international act to feature on BET’s influential Gospel music TV showcase. It was time to find out how that all came to pass…

You probably know the bible states that God exalts the humble. Muyiwa Olarewaju is the archetypal humble guy, in the most sincere sense of the word.

Humility

In my view genuine humility is hard to pull off.  When any talent presents obvious evidence of itself, the talented individual in question can almost come across as the very thing they are trying to avoid: at best unable to accept a simple compliment and worst, ever-so-subtly arrogant.  

Or maybe I’m just projecting my own frustrations here… 🙂

Caught Out

When Muyiwa says he’s just as caught out by his astounding rise as everyone else, I believe him.  Even the cliche, ‘it’s all God’ stock response we all revert to doesn’t sound so corny coming from him…

Anyway, the annual BET ‘Celebration Of Gospel’ 2009 is aired in the UK on the 8th Feb 2009. Muyiwa and Riversongz are the first international act (not just a UK one) to feature on this massive show. 

When I heard about it, I knew it deserved more than just an entry in the News section.  

So I fired off a few quick questions to the man.  I’m sure I’m going to do more with him (there’s also a rather decent ‘Behind The Beat’ feature he did a while back on UKGospel.com Version 1 which I need to transfer here), but for now: have a read of this and be inspired. 

I certainly was….

How did you get the gig?

Good question!  Interesting, it was something that some of the artists on the bill at the event asked us and all we could say was: God… It truly was!

There were no agents, record companies, managers that made it happen. It was just God.  Of course once the inquiry was out by BET, then booking agents, etc, got involved.  It should be an encouragement to the guys here in the UK who are quietly beavering away…   

The bible puts it this way: ‘…Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding…’

What was the experience like?

Where do I start!?  I could talk all night about it!  We have all been talking about it since 8th December 2008!  What was happening really didn’t register before we got there.  

When we landed in Los Angeles’ LAX Airport there was a limo that was bigger than anything I have ever seen or been in before.  Driven by an ex Navy Seal… We felt safe!

Then we get to the hotel and I had a meeting with the Head of International programming who told us that apart from our performance, they will be making a 30-minute documentary on us! This was great.

Then we get to the rehearsals, and you see all these artists where the only reason I had seen or been near them before would have been my radio show… Then finding out that we were the first ever ‘International act ‘ on the show, as they put it…

There is so much to tell but BET certainly treated us like – to answer your question in one word after my long story – Amazing!!!!!

How much do you think the UK sound is appreciated over there?

I really can’t speak for other times but from this one experience at the Orpheum Theatre, it would appear America has been waiting for the ‘UK sound!’ 

Every time we rehearsed the place came to a standstill, it was like: ‘who are these guys???’

Then it’s followed by rapturous applause. UK def gained a few fans!!! LOL!

What would your advice be to other artists looking to achieve (and even exceed) this kind of level?

So much to say to them:

  1. This level can be easily exceeded if you hold on!
  2. Apart from ‘Jesus is Lord’, the other mantra that Muyiwa & Riversongz have is ‘RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS! RELATIONSHIPS! RELATIONSHIPS and RELATIONSHIPS!!!!!’   It’s not money you need, it’s RELATIONSHIPS!!!!!
  3. Like Russell Simmons said in his book: just ‘DO YOU’. 

America and the rest of the world is not waiting for a copy of what they do, we didn’t get onto the show because we were trying to do the American thang.

We were doing the Jesus UK thing… Innit, though!

Having been selected for BET’s Celebration Of Gospel, what do you think is the challenge for the UK in sustaining a presence at that level?

I think there are many obstacles. 

  • For many in the UK it’s a struggle to get a record done.  Then when you scrape and fast and pray and do everything to get it done, you have no resources to promote.
  • Artists don’t attain the COG level only because they worked hard, but the distribution of the albums is wide reaching, the promotion (TV, radio, online, etc) is very strong… The list goes on…
  • All these things require resources.  For us the challenge now is tying up the right relationships to make the necessary thing work, but we are looking to God to open doors… 

We already have more invites to USA in the month of January than we did all 2008.

What’s next for Muyiwa?

I definitely need to keep the radio show and in-flight entertainment shows going [Muyiwa presents an In-flight show called ‘Sounds Of Africa’ for Lufthansa Airlines, produced by UKGospel.com’s George Luke].  

COG inspired all of us a great deal to go back and continue to strive to be the best we can. 

Whilst we were at the COG and the 30 minute documentary was being made about us, BET got me to present a few bits, and one thing led to another, so it looks like there may be some TV work coming but don’t tell anyone…lol!!!

What’s next for Muyiwa & Riversongz?

To think when ‘Declaring His Love’ was number 1 on HMV’s charts for 5 months we thought we had arrived – only to be shown another level…. Bring it on!!!!!!

  • We will be doing a great deal of travelling! USA, Europe and Africa… 
  • We’re also in the middle of writing the next album ‘Declaring His Name’. We are doing some appearances in China, Pakistan, and India with local worship leaders…
  • We also have a one day event for worship leaders, pastors and all who are interested and involved in music in church: ‘What If…’

We should be launching it soon and the event is later in the year.  You can hit us up on riversongz.com and find out more… 

Explore More

PROFILE

  •  A seasoned radio presenter, Muyiwa  hosts the the flagship show  “Gospel Tonight” and “Worship Tonight” on Premier Radio as well as presenting  “Sounds Of Africa” on Lufthansa Airlines.
  • Since releasing his three albums ‘Restoration’, ‘Declaring His Power’ and ‘Declaring His Love’, Muyiwa’s voice has become instantly recognisable and one that he hopes will unite people of all races, cultures and denominations. 

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