Though I've traveled far and wide, Africa remains my dream place - Lara George - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Though I've traveled far and wide, Africa remains my dream place - Lara George

By Paul Ukpabio

Being a member of the defunct sensational all female musical group known as KUSH, was indeed fun for Lara George, but even more fun and most rewarding it became when she rose out of the ashes of KUSH, dropped her debut 'ijoba Oorun' and emerged a successful, multiple award winning gospel artiste afterwards.

Lara George created an intriguing aura of finesse and creativity around her act, which attracted a huge fan base to her over the years and today, she remains one of the few that keeps the gospel musical genre aglow.

In this interview, the singer bares her mind on how she keeps a healthy singing career with the fun of raising a family, amidst the challenges of life in the entertainment industry.

In what ways would you say your early life contributed to the person that you are today?

I grew up in a very Christian family with very strong work ethics. I have parents and siblings who totally exemplified and still do, all things honorable. Some things were simply not acceptable to do to one another and we lived within a code of conduct which didn't seem stressful at all because that was my normal. Today, I continue to expect that people be kind to each other, that people honour God and treat everyone with respect because this is how I was raised. Its important to keep your word and be a person of integrity and not sell your ideals for money or power. This is how I was raised and this is my normal.

Your educational background

I am an Architect with a B.E.S/B.Arch degree from the University of Lagos. Prior to then, I attended the prestigious Queens' College Yaba Lagos, and for primary and nursery schools, the University of Lagos Staff School Akoka.

What do you think influenced the choice of your going into music?

I wanted to do music that would inspire people to all things good and basically turn people in the direction of God. I want that every time that people listen to my songs, they see things from the God-perspective or come into an encounter with Him.

The KUSH days, how did your parents feel about you being in a band, a girls musical band and then did they believe you could sing?

My parents were a bit skeptical, although my dad was a bit more supportive. My mum, on the other hand, would have none of it, and her reason I think, she felt that music was for the never-do-well. I realised that I needed to prove that I could be smart and educated and still sing. I made sure that I did well in school so that they would never get any excuses to keep me from singing and because all was well with my education, it made it easier for my parents to allow me carry on with KUSH.

You went solo at some point, is it because you didn't believe in the group again?

Not at all. Infact, KUSH actually broke up in 2004 and I didn't release my first single as a solo artiste until 2007. I had at least 2years of silence in between the breakup and my emergence as a solo act. During that time, I had actually resolved never to go near music again because I felt at that time that it had brought me nothing but heartache. I started a 9 to 5 job in a regular IT firm and tried to forget music but as you can imagine, music kept calling. I kept writing songs and before I knew it, I was back in studio, recording my own work. I never stopped believing in KUSH. To be quite honest with you, I still haven't stopped believing. But two cannot walk together unless they are agreed. And I have come to realise that scripture does not only speak of people in different faiths. To walk a journey with someone, your ideologies must be the same. Your mindsets on how to deal with issues may perhaps need to be the same. KUSH was a classic case of break-up due to the famed term 'irreconcilable differences.' 

KUSH came back some years later, how was the re-union, what's the state of things today?

KUSH never really re-united. Emem and I came together to remake 'Let's Live Together' which was the popular KUSH single way back then. The remake featured the artiste Flavour and was used as the theme song for the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Half of a Yellow Sun.'

Let's talk about your music, is it all about talent, or you also had to get training in music?

Much of what I do is God-given and I am extremely grateful for that. I did get some training while I was in secondary school at Queens' College Yaba. We had excellent music teachers and they taught us not only music theory, but also voice-training and I actually even started to play a bit of the recorder and keyboard while I was in junior secondary school but sadly had to replace music with technical drawing once I moved up into senior secondary school.

Tell us about some of your songs and what was the motivation for each, what were your thoughts then?

'DANSAKI' is a song of thanksgiving I wrote while I was pregnant with my 2nd child. The song, which means 'to hail,' and is a Yoruba word originally borrowed from the Hausa language, was written at a time when I simply wanted to celebrate God for all He has been to me over the years. 

The song 'HALLELUYAH' which is on my 2009 album, is another one of my favourites. I wrote that one at a train station in London after a particularly bad experience in the hands of the hosts of an event. It was a time in my growth when I was still defining structure for my work and so was open to much 'amorphousness' from various angles. It was during one of such encounters that I wrote the song and said to myself, in every situation, 'halleluyah, halleluyah, halleluyah.' I made up my mind to keep praising and keep exalting God no matter what. And not allow the bad experiences make me bitter but better, and to keep my focus on Christ.

'TOTAL SURRENDER' is my newest single and is currently available as free downloads online. It was released on the 1st of January this year and is a song that speaks literally of absolute surrender to the Most High God. Everytime is a good time to give over all control into the hands of our Maker, and sometimes as humans, we think we have it all figured out until we find out that even our money, position or whatever else it is we rely on, cannot buy us out of a given matter. We need not wait till we are pushed to the wall to tell God that He alone is always in control.

There are many other songs I could talk about: IMELA- (meaning Thank You) another new single, OBA OGO- (meaning King of Glory) yet another new single and so many more, but will stop here.

Gospel music, that is a terrain that few artistes last for long, what is your stay power?

The face of God invigorates; the presence of God refreshes a person and makes whole and new. I believe that when you have seen God's face, it translates into glory in your life. I pray for that. I believe God for that. And I hope that maybe that is what I enjoy. God's exceedingly great grace and mercy. I pray for even more longevity because I feel like I have only just begun this journey.

Marriage, how do you do it?

I just take one day at a time quite honestly. Of course, there is much planning of schedules and trying to work around a lot of things - children, home-front and of course being wife to my husband. Its interesting working things through and very gratifying when things do work out. I'm particularly happy to not be walking this journey of life alone, particularly as a woman in this sector of work. Marriage is not the be-all and end-all of life, but I am thankful to be experiencing it and joyfully so too.

We hear you travel every now and then, what projects are you working on?

Sometimes I travel just to get away from the Nigerian environment I have lived in all my life. At other times, it is for work - could be Dubai for an event, the US to shoot a video, the UK for an industry-related course; diverse reasons really. I am currently working on new songs.

As an artiste, have you ever been embarrassed? How did you react?

My most embarrassing moment as an artiste was probably when I fell into the middle of the stage at an event in Zaria. I just sat there and laughed and was helped up by people on the stage. The audience held their breath and didn't know what to do when they saw I had fallen. Thankfully, I was wearing trousers so it was an easy fall to recover from (laughs).

Music in Nigeria, how satisfactory is it for the female singer or performer?

Life can be anything that one makes of it. If you are determined enough, I believe that you will succeed, whether you are male or female. Of course, the female has more to do to prove herself. For some reason, it seems to me that there is a glass ceiling that a woman needs to break in order to do as much or more, than her male counterpart, but when you do, satisfaction will be complete because there then is no stopping you.

Can you describe yourself?

I like to describe myself as an introverted extrovert. I love being around people but am guarded about who comes into my personal space. It takes me a while to un-bundle myself but when I connect, it is for real and no holds barred. I'm a stickler for all things proper and no it's not because 'na me holy pass,' but just because I believe that white is white and black is just that... black. I love mimicking people and can do a few good imitations especially accents, a few though. I am unashamedly Christian and make no pretenses about that. I am also a bit of a social activist and hate to see injustice being perpetrated in any form or fashion. I like to call it zero tolerance for 'iranu' (meaning 'rubbish').

What does success mean to you?

Success to me is achieving one's purpose in life. Each one's calling in life is different. Some are called to teach, and they do so patiently and with so much kindness that they raise a brand new generation of awesomeness. I remember Mrs Quartey who taught me in my fourth year in primary school and I feel she was a resounding success. 

Success to me is hearing someone say "Lara, your music changed my life for good and pulled me through a tough patch I was going through." Success to me is being invited to sing at a praise concert for someone who had had a stroke and was unable to walk but listened to my music and had faith enough in her to believe that she would walk again and actually did. Success is hearing the testimony of the woman who came out of a coma after having DANSAKI played into her ears. Success is being told that a breech baby changed position after hearing music from Lara George. Success to me is seeing a generation praise God like David did and worship like never before because the music helps them to do so and then go out to conquer territories in His Name. That to me, is the beginning of success.

Tell us about your fashion and style! What kind of clothes and accessories do you like wearing most?

I like dressing casual. On a good day, I'm a jeans sort of person, but with a tendency towards the bohemian in my day to day. I always wear wooden bangles, and I love cocktail rings, especially signature ones. I like shimmer but also love to try different things and not be stuck in just one style all the time.

In what ways would you say that fashion is relevant to todays woman? 

Fashion is always relevant to every woman. Woman has an intrinsic desire to look good and be at the top of her game all the time. Fashion is a statement and can exude different messages: power, sensuality, subtlety, piety, youthfulness. The list is endless. Today's woman uses fashion to speak louder words than her voice sometimes can.

Are you playing any role to attract more young ladies to music or you'll do that in future?

Just being in the industry, I think is an attraction all by itself. I feel like since I came into this industry, many more females have entered in. Could it be because they saw possibilities? I'd like to think so. I am with a label called Soforte Music and that label is currently taking in new talents. I look forward to working more closely with females specifically in the very near future.

As a successful lady, do you still find time to do ladys things like going into the kitchen to cook?

So I made a full dinner for my family tonight with roast chicken and beef and sauces and all that. So the answer to that is a resounding yes. I cook, I clean, I tidy up the house, I oversee the laundry, my children's homework, and all those 'lady things.' There are some household chores I don't do every single time, but I do make sure that I always oversee when I am not hands-on in the role.

We know you sing, do you dance?

I don't particularly consider myself a dancer but I can move in sync with music (laughs).

What fashion accessories like necklaces and so on, will you not do without?

I can't do without earrings.

What do you value most?

I value peace of mind.

When you met your partner was it love at first sight? How does he relate to your work and talent?

No, it wasn't love at first sight. Actually, the relationship grew gradually into a love relationship. We started off being colleagues at work, friends, and then became engaged.

My husband is my manager. He is full of wise counsel with regards to the execution of my work and has very deep insights on the working end of things. He's an 'encourager' and has always fully supported all that I do.

How are you coping with pressure and challenges?

Like I said earlier, I take one day at a time. I try not to run another man's race because that is mostly where pressure comes from. When one will be comparing oneself with another person and feeling bad about not having what the other person has, you won't ever be able to count the blessings God has placed in your life. I release my albums at my own pace, attend events I wish to attend, schedule my interviews, photoshoots, video shoots , all within my own timing. The only pressure could only possibly come from me and I simply refuse to be put under pressure by anyone or anything. I am running the race God Himself has laid out for me to run. No more, no less.  

As a woman, do you think a woman can combine a career with family life successfully? If yes, in what ways do you think she can do it?

Yes, it is very possible. First of all, the husband has to be an understanding one. If the man is not the type who makes life difficult for his wife by insisting that she alone handle all things on the home front, then the sky will just be the stepping stone for the woman. That factor is critical, so dear single ladies, please I beg of you DO NOT marry a man who will stifle your growth. Make sure he is secure enough in himself to allow you to be yourself and do all that God has called you to do. This has nothing to do with how much money the man has either. It's all about the personality and belief system. 

Also, the woman herself has to be reasonable and learn the art of juggling. A woman needs to be ambidextrous and has to be able to remember home and not be so lost in the work that your forget to sort things out in the house. Respect your husband and just do the very best that you can. I feel like God takes over at a point and makes you soar with wings like an eagle after a while. It all just takes some figuring out.

If you were not what you are now, what else would you have loved to be?

I would have returned to Architecture much earlier. I would have definitely enjoyed fully exploring the architectural arena.

You have traveled to some of the most fabulous places in d world, tell us about your travels, where did you enjoy most?

I am not as well traveled as I would like to be, but to be honest with you, of all the continents I have visited, my most interesting destination till date is right here in Africa and just next door in Cotonou, Republic of Benin; a place called Ganvie - a village on stilts and built entirely on water. They have homes, a market, hotels, even graves, all on water. It was a most interesting and fascinating experience for me.

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