Alhaja Medinat Irewamiri is a singer who, despite many hurdles, has struggled to succeed in the Yoruba Islamic music industry. In this interview, she speaks about these challenges and more. Excerpts:
Weekly Trust: Islamic music seems to be on the rise in the South-West. What do you think is responsible for this?
Alhaja Medinat Irewamiri: You are right. This shows that many people are learning from it. It isn’t like any other type of music but comes as a form of evangelism. Also, clerics are there to point out any song that is not Islamic, so this will close doors to some. These songs we sing meets the demands of our followers and is one of the ways we preach the goodness of Allah and the love for our religion to the Muslim faithful.
WM: Gradually, this form of music is arguably being dominated by women. Why is this so?
Irewamiri: There are many women now going into Yoruba Muslim music now unlike when the industry was dominated by men. This is a positive sign that women are increasingly being given free hand to operate. We are no longer relegated to the kitchen. It is now left for us to use the opportunity well. We should know that there is a limit to what we can do compared to our male counterparts. That does not mean we are inferior to them. There is a limit to what Islam permits us to do and we should not argue that, not only for the sake of Allah but for the sake of our children and the society we belong to.
WM: Talking about Allah’s limits. One of the concerns with female Islamic singers is the mode of dressing, particularly as regards the dancers. It is seen by some as an opportunity to expose their bodies rather than preach the gospel. What do you have to say about this?
Irewamiri: I don’t think I will entirely agree with you on this or those making such an allegation. If you are a Muslim and you believe in Allah and His Messenger, as a woman you must know how to dress in your neighborhood not to talk of in a video that will be available on the internet and social media. You can’t claim to be preaching the words of God and at the same time engage in what He forbids. Apart from the fact that you will lose God-fearing followers, you will have a big question to answer from your creator.
However, there may be some isolated cases of indecent dressing. My colleagues should please fear Allah in whatever they do and relevant authorities should set up or empower officials of video censors board to look into some of these things before approving music videos for release. Maybe that will serve as a check.
WM: Is it true that some female artists sometimes find it difficult to keep their marriages? What do you think is responsible for this?
Irewamiri: This I cannot dispute. But it may not be due to some of those reasons some people think. Some think female musicians may attract interest from some of their fans and this may not be so. I am not speaking for the women, but then, as I said earlier if you are singing for the sake of teaching your fans about the dos and don’ts of Allah, you will not engage in fornication. We all know the punishment that awaits any Muslim who engages in fornication. Again, the people who spread such allegations need to fear Allah too because it is also a great sin to level such allegations against any woman if you cannot prove it. They must change their perception about us.
Back to your question. Some men think we no longer give them enough time at home and may decide to end the marriage, while some just want to use us for some opportunities because we are celebrities.
WM: How many albums do you have so far?
Irewamiri: I am a young artist, however I have three albums to my credit so far and I have done many joint albums with my colleagues in the industry.
WM: Why did you decide to become an Islamic singer?
Irewamiri: I loved music from childhood and made up my mind that one day I must produce an album. Because my father enrolled me in Islamic school and I picked the Quran early, I decided to go into Islamic music instead of other types of music. Maybe if not for the early contact I had with the holy book, I would have been singing fuji music, hip-hop, or reggae. But I thank God, I have fulfilled my aspiration. I see Islamic music growing because more people are coming in and introducing new styles of music.
WM: The issue of piracy seems to be affecting the music industry tremendously. How do you think this can be curbed?
Irewamiri: The impact of piracy is devastating. People put in money to produce only for the work to be pirated, which makes it difficult for you to recoup the money you invested, not to talk of making profit. We need a strong copyright law and effective enforcement so that we can reap from our work.
WM: You recently marked your birthday…
Irewamiri: Thank you for this. There is reason for me to celebrate and appreciate Allah’s mercy on me, my family and my loved ones. It has not been easy but I thank Allah. Growing up, I hawked pure water on the street, worked as a house help and in a photo studio. The road was actually rough but I give thanks to God. I can now eat comfortably and even travel around the world. I appreciate my fans, my loved ones, and journalists. I owe them a lot.