By Anote Ajeluorou
He started out as a circular artiste in the late 1980s and early 1990s and led Tony Osei’s Youth Generation band. While at it, he had a swell time scouring the nightclub scene and other performance places in Lagos and environs. But all that was to change for Ben Orise in Conakry, Guinea where the band was on tour for UNICEF. Orise was actually on his way out of the country to Holland to try out his luck.
But that was how far he could go. He had the good fortune to attend a church in Conakry. When the altar call came, Orise could not resist the force that pulled him towards it. According to him, “I experienced wilderness in Conakry. I resigned from the band; I ended the contract and had no money on me. It was in the band I met my wife, who also resigned from the band for gospel music. But that was her own decision; I didn’t influence her.
“As God would have it, the band owner, Osei also got converted and changed the band to a gospel band. So, at the church in Conakry I got the call to go into gospel music. I no longer had satisfaction in circular music I was playing. I was in the band on tour of West Africa and on my way to Holland. I didn’t know I was in a place where God wanted me to be. If I had gone to Holland I might not have been changed; God might not have had my time. It was a total experience that was also a revolution as the band changed to a gospel band”.
Orise, who was in Hot & Nice band in the 80s and 90s led by Lance Perry (a former Lagos PMAN chapter chairman), did not find things easy when he returned to Nigeria after the tour in 1998. He had to limit himself to studio work since he could not perform circular music and gospel music was at its infancy, with little or no popularity to it. Ever since also, Orise has been a church music director with Redeem Christian Church of God, where he also worships.
He conceded that gospel music in Nigeria had seen phenomenal growth in recent years. Orise said gospel music wasn’t doing badly as it was years past when he newly converted in the late 1980s and early 1990s; gospel music had very little chance or future, and therefore no encouragement from any quarter.
But all that has changed with the likes of Sammie Okposo, Midnight Crew and several other gospel artistes on the scene. As he noted, “Gospel musicians are not doing badly at all. They have taken gospel music to places, not what it used to be. There’s an explosion; it has gone nuclear and comparable to what we have abroad. It is now a revolution unlike in those days when nobody wants to play gospel music, as there was no encouragement. People shied away from it”.
For Orise, his new music entitled Celebrate is “about singing gospel music to the ends of the earth to reveal Christ to the people. Celebrate is about sharing God’s love to the unsaved for them to also receive God’s redemptive power”.
Other tracks in Celebrate include ‘Thou art worthy’, ‘Trust’, ‘Onyeoma’, ‘My son’, ‘Unconditional love’, Lift up’, ‘Seek’, ‘None like you’ and ‘I go worship’. Launch for Celebrate has been scheduled for May although no specific date has been fixed yet.