Bukola Folayan (aka Bouqui) has stayed the course since she arrived on the Nigerian music scene about five years ago. She chose to do gospel and do it at par with the demands and innovations of the contemporary secular hip hop style. So far, she has done well and with two albums, B.O.U.Q.U.I and Redefinition, to her name, she seems to know what she wants. But it is not just simple rap music for Bouqui, and in this chat with us, she explains the things that set her apart from the crowd...
Why did you name your last album, Redefinition?
I titled it Redefinition because a lot of people know Bouqui the brand and a lot of people ask questions about who she really is. I wanted people to really see me for who I am and what I stand for. I wanted them to listen to the album and all the songs in it and be able to identify me for what I stand for. I am not trying to compromise, I am not trying to be somebody else. This is who I really am.I kind of redefined myself. My first album was titled B.O.U.Q.U.I and I now redefined what B.O.U.Q.U.I actually is in this second album.
You left the country immediately after releasing the album without doing any promotional work on it. Where is your primary market?
Anybody who has ear is my primary market. I am not an industry person. I am not doing music, I am not an entertainer, I'm not an artist, I am a minister. I am a Christian. I see myself as an evangelist. So, I am not tied to a particular audience. The message is what pushes me to wherever I go. I'm not trying to be like someone else. I am speaking the word of God and taking it to anybody that is ready to listen. My songs are message-driven and it is because I am a Christian and I believe that the first and only thing I should be talking about is Jesus and what He means to me. And so, that way, I take all the styles that come to me and use them to talk about Jesus. He is the one that opens all the doors everywhere I go. Why I keep travelling is because I am not trying to be an artist. If you try to be an artist, they will limit you to a particular genre of music. Nobody does that to me because I am not singing about just love, I am not singing about a girl or a boy, I am singing about Jesus and whatever language or style that comes to me is what I minister with.
Since what you went for was a promotional tour for your album, why didn't you do any in Nigeria?
My music is message-driven. God is the person I talk about all the time. He is the one who opens the doors and when he does, I won't say that I'm not entering because I need to be in Nigeria to do a promotional tour. I am like an arrow in the hands of an archer and wherever I am pointed to is where I go. I don't choose the direction I want to be pointed in. I go to wherever I am sent. I am a conveyor of a message, so I can't say I want to do professional tours in Nigeria when God wants me to go elsewhere. When God wants me to do a promotional tour in Nigeria. He will open the door and I will do it. But if He says it is in America or London, I can't say I am not going. Because the reason why people are not making it in this industry is because they want to be industry people. They are doing what they do for the money, fame, the blings and you can hear it through their songs and what they talk about.
Their music is not message-driven and everybody is just trying to be like the next person and do whatever they feel is acceptable. They talk about girls, booty and all sort of things and because they are talking about those, doors don't open, because people have heard all those before. People need a fresh message; people need something that will give them hope and if God sees that this person has something that people need to hear, then He will open the doors for the message to get to the people. I am not even trying to build a fan base, I am just going as I am led. I am not trying to open the doors myself, when they open, I just go with the flow.
How did the door open this time around?
I don't know. I just got calls, different calls and I kept moving every week. I went from New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, Texas, Arlington, Dallas, Houston, Maryland, over 15 different places. I wasn't even trying to sing in a nightclub. I was singing in churches and concerts. I could have said, “I owe it to my strong management or myself, but it was God all the way.” I have a good management and they are doing well, but when God decides to take you on as a project, He does. I was moving every weekend. I was singing Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I could be in the east coast this week and the next one, I will be in the south coast. I love every bit of it. For five months, I was singing every weekend non-stop.
What was the reception like?
Because of what I do, the reception was fantastic. I am singing to people that understand where I am coming from; people that have been there; people that have kindred spirit; Christians that understand. I am singing in a nightclub where they are drunk, but people that when you stop your song in the middle and you are sharing a testimony, they have been there and understand the power of God. The reception was awesome. When you get someone buying the CD for $5,000, you know that it's not about the money, but the fact that you have touched them.
A girl told me that she drove for seven hours with her husband, just to see my performance. Last week, she told me over the internet that she was sick and then she remembered some things I said while I was in concert and she said to herself that if this girl can have this much faith and God is doing all these things for her, then God would do for her too. Those are the kind of testimonies I want to hear. I don't' want to hear that Alaba gave me N50 million and then the song is crap. I want to impact souls, I want people to look back 20 years from now and remember how I impacted their lives.
But here you still feature at secular shows...
My music is message-driven. What you talk about is who you are, so, if I get a secular show that wants me to talk about a character or value or anything clean, I will go. The issue is not about the gospel, the thing is about message and me having the chance to say what I want to say. The message depicts the platform. When I am invited for a show and there are like 50 people on the bill and you want us to do like two minutes each, you don't get the best out of me like that. You get my best when I can sing and talk because I believe it is the message your life is preaching that is most important. I turn down all those shows because I want to grace stages that not only will feel the gift and the talent, you also relate with me. I am not an entertainer, I am a minister of the gospel and you don't condition what I say on stage. I am not about the money. I would rather go for a gig that is not paying me and I will have the opportunity to reach out to the youths because they are the future of tomorrow. Imagine when a young person thinks that the best way to dress is how Beyonce dresses or the way to talk is the way Lil' Wayne talks. I don't want my kids to grow up like that and since you can't keep them away from the TV and the internet, we need people that would infuse character in their music and make you know that it's not just about the money.
Do you see any competition from others in what you do?
In the secular world, people are running on tracks and they are all trying to overtake themselves. When they get in each other's way, they push themselves around and it becomes rowdy and dirty, but in the world I come from, we are talking of something that people need to hear. If another person comes today to join us to talk about Christ, I will never hate or feel threatened by it because we are talking about something that needs to be heard. For me, the merrier. If anyone comes in and is talking about Christ with a genuine heart, I would recommend you for anything, even when I'm not around because there is a shortage of what I do. I am like the only female rap gospel act in the whole world. Everywhere I went, there was no female gospel rap. There were singers that could rap, but they just rap a little and go back to singing. So, if I see more people coming to do this, I will be happy because that's the only way the job can be done.
Are you interested in getting ordained and becoming a full-time minister?
No. I don't want to be ordained, but I want to always be ready to be used by God for anything. The thing is that I am a different kind of Christian. A lot of people put everything in boxes and stereotypes. I love God so much, I am a rapper, I am still crazy, you can see my hairstyle, but I still love God and I am still taking about Him. Some people could be ordained, but they still won't love God half as much as I do, but we can't judge others. It is not really about being ordained. Everybody has the same ability to teach people about God and about His goodness. If you are doing that, as far as I am concerned, you are a pastor. Even if you are not wearing collars, ordination just makes it formal and that is just a title and you are not taking the title to anyone.
Tell us about your record label.
It is called Bouqui's Place Entertainment. It was launched last year and we are just trying to test the waters gradually. Then, there is the management arm of Bouqui's Place Entertainment.
What are your plans for your Nigerian audience?
I have always performed here in Nigeria and since I returned from this tour, I have been performing at different locations in Nigeria. I am still here for them, but they should recognize the fact that I am a minister of God and the message I have is universal and wherever God takes me to is where I will go.