Kenny Saint Best has obviously had her topsy-turvy times as a gospel artiste and a single parent. Despite the fact that gospel music has been relegated to the background, she has been able to lend her voice to the less vibrant genre of gospel music. She opens up on her evolution, her TV show, her yet-to- be launched book and other sundry issues in this ,interview with AHMED BOULOR.
WHAT necessitated your change from doing contemporary gospel music to urban gospel music?
I would say that it was God’s divine plan which I found out by being inquisitive and also trying to come out from the low ends of my life. It was also borne out of the need to search for a way forward; it was also
meant to be a search light into why gospel music is being relegated to the background in that it is not being played on radio.
I sometimes find it hard to realise why people enjoy gospel music for the beauty of it. These are some of the things that necessitated my change from doing contemporary gospel music to urban gospel music. I also found out that I was getting bored because there was a whole lot of recycling going around and I am also partaker in that aspect too. I felt we limited God because we tend to want to praise Him only with recycled songs.
What have you been up to in the last six months?
I have been involved in a whole lot in recent past; aside promoting my latest single Bragado which is the 5th single after my evolution into being an urban gospel artiste, after collaborations with Terry G, Eldee, Dagrin and LKT. I have been building on that brand so that when people think of that brand of music they readily think of me. We are also working on the new song titled No Jonzing which will be followed by a video. Also, as part of celebrations for my 15th year on stage, I am also working on launching my book titled ‘My Turnaround Story’. It is about my story from zero to hero; that is in the pipeline. I am also working on a TV production; I have come to realise that I have too much energy and creativity in me. Music alone is not my niche, I have something else to offer and that’s why I am veering into TV production. I am also branching into mentoring and giving kids some kind of positive direction in life. The teenage age is the habit-picking age and you need to positively guide youngsters in their everyday dealings so they don’t mix with the wrong set of people.
What have been your frustrations in the last 15 years?
There have been a lot of frustrations in the last 15 years; there was a time we staged a Kennis Music Easter Fiesta and I was billed out of the show because they said I could not perform because I am a gospel artiste. It was our own show but the sponsors didn’t want me to perform simply because I am a gospel artiste. This was a show that was organised by my brother but I was billed out of the show because of the fact that I am a gospel artiste. That was one of my biggest frustrations; but I realised it wasn’t peculiar to Kennis Music alone, it was everywhere. The more I wanted to push the more they told me to forget about the idea simply because I do gospel music.
Now that you have evolved into an urban gospel artiste, what do you think your chances are?
My chances are amazing and it is not just amazing, it has been established as a genre. So you can now say there are categories because I have been getting awards and recognition. The Turn Around track alone got me nomination for the Channel O Music Awards for The Best Female Act in Africa. I have also been getting main stream jobs too simply because I have switched. The genre has been established and there has been a sudden demand which has been kind of healthy.
How are your fans reacting to your latest single Bragado?
The response has been commendable and they have been playing it on air and that shows that there has been some kind of acceptance. The song came out in December and they are still playing it up till this moment. The song has had well over one million downloads and I have never experienced that before. One of the reasons I feel people connected with the music more is that it has the street language coupled with the fact that the song features LKT who has a whole lot of street fans. The kind of gospel music I do too is that which represents God on the streets, in a way that the people on the street can accept him. Fans cannot wait for the video anymore and the song trended for four days on Twitter and people were happy to identify with the song.
Were your recent collaborations with LKT, Terry G and Eldee geared towards making you more urban in outlook as a gospel artiste?
I would say yes; it was a deliberate attempt and the DJ’s also encouraged me to collaborate with contemporary hip hop artistes because they know who is trending. It was a move made in order for me to tap into their fan base. The secular artistes have the fans. What is the gospel, if I may ask? The gospel is spreading the word to the people and the people on the streets are the ones that need the gospel for redemption. It was a deliberate effort to ensure that my songs get the needed listenership that it deserves and also to let my listeners know that I am a diverse artiste.
Let’s talk about your book titled ‘My Turnaround Story’?
It is an inspirational story, it is a story of my turnaround; it is a reflection of my pit-to-palace experience – from zero to hero. After the relative success and the storm I went through in the past, people expected me to still remain in my ruins. But I am still relevant on the scene despite the challenges I encountered later on in my career. It is also a story of how I got the calling to spread the word through my songs as a contemporary gospel artiste and now as an urban gospel artiste. The fact that there is a recessional phase in one’s life does not mean it is the end. It took a long journey for me to get here and I need to share with people my experience in the last 15 years.
Was Kenny influential in making you to veer into TV productions?
Yes! That definitely has my brother’s influence; funny enough, he gave me that advice 10 years ago. If it was an idea that was originally mine, I would have hatched it. My brother chipped in the idea sometime ago and it was not until I had to go into my own processing that I decided to do something about it. My experience from zero to hero has definitely given me something to talk about and I feel I am prepared well enough to tell the story as it were. People are excited about Light House With KSB and the TV show is already airing on TV.
What has changed about you when you first ventured onto the scene and now 15 years later?
The difference is the experience; the experience has given birth to a new me. It is a chain-like reaction because my experience has improved me and it has rubbed off on other people in the sense that I now offer motivational talk to many people around me who have turned out to be successes themselves.
I hear you are also into catering consultancy?
Yes, I am into catering consultancy; it is something I do in my spare time.
How good a cook are you?
I am a very good cook and I implore you not to eat my food because you may get hooked on it. I don’t boast, but when it comes to cooking, I will gladly blow my trumpet. It breaks my heart when I see food that is not well prepared.
How do you balance being a gospel artiste, a mentor, a TV host and a mother?
Being a mother is my first job; I have time for my kids. I Iove and enjoy being with them every minute of the day. I have come to understand that most parents have missed it when it comes to bonding with their kids. I take care of their schooling, cooking, shopping and laundry.
Has it been a tough job being a single mother?
I am not a single mother; I am a single parent. A single mother gets the bill taken care of while a single parent plays the role of a father and a mother while still picking up the bills. It has been a tough job anyway. I enjoy it, as I said earlier, and it is really a lovely experience being a mother because it is just the three of us.
Has the thought of remarrying ever crossed your mind?
Yes it has! I am a cute girl and still feel cute inside. I still think of getting married.
So you will accept marriage if the right guy comes around?
Yes I will; most definitely…
Did your parents ever encourage you to go into music?
My parents encouraged us to go into whatever suits us sincerely; that is the kind of independence we had. But after I finished my MBA, my elder sister thought it was a waste of money for me to go through that kind of training and decide to be a musician. I later went to Bible school in the UK and when I returned back to Nigeria I decided to plunge headlong into gospel music. Besides all that, I would have been a top career girl making headway in the boardroom.
Sincerely, has it been a fruitful career for you thus far?
I would say yes to that, because a whole lot of people started when I did and they are nowhere to be found today. They have died a natural death; some have diverted and some are now general overseers of churches. It may not be as financially rewarding as it should be but it has been a wonderful experience.