After a short hiatus from the music scene, Hannah Ola is back and making her voice heard in UK Gospel with her new remix track “Baba Dey” – which means God Lives. We got to catch up with the Hannah to find out a little more about her and her music.
What did you do professionally before singing?
I’m a lawyer by profession – with other specialisms besides. I like a challenge!
Lawyer! So what made you decide to enter into the UK Gospel arena?
I just want to release my God-given music! I have been writing songs and singing since I can remember but always procrastinated about recording professionally until a near-fatal car crash in 2013. I realised like never before that one must not take for granted any gift, particularly one that has been impacting positively the lives of people around you. You see, I have sung in church for decades, led choirs, ministered on various platforms and I thought that this was enough – particularly with a challenging secular career that involved lots of travelling – but there was always a feeling within me that there was more. The car crash in 2013 forced me to re-prioritise, and forced me to take my music more seriously.
You released your debut album in 2014 then went quiet for a while, where’d you go?
So I recorded an album called, “Expectation”, which is a self-written 16-track album, featuring amazing artists and producers to much critical acclaim and remarkable reviews. I had no release strategy, no promotional plan. I knew I was anointed and just went ahead and released a high quality product that was very well received and things happened very quickly; within weeks I was featured soloist at the Mission to London and I also featured at Premier Gospel Week (this is before the Premier Awards began). Then a few months afterwards I was blessed to become pregnant with our second child. Looking back I had enough quality material to release a song per month but, as we know, it takes time and resources to do these things well, particularly as an independent artist. I didn’t want to compromise that so I continued working in my secular career and ministering actively at my local church and external events right to the end of my pregnancy but did not release any more tracks from the album apart from the multiple award-nominated “Overwhelming Praise”.
You came back on the music scene recently with the release of your track “Baba Dey”, what’s the meaning behind the song?
“Baba Dey” is a popular broken/pigeon English term which translates as “God lives” in English. I wrote Baba Dey during a period when I wondered whether God could see the injustice happening around me, and why He would allow it to persist. The song was a personal encouragement to me not to give up in dark situations because indeed, “Baba Dey”! God is real, and continues to confirm His sovereignty in my life, even when it is difficult to accept or understand, He is always in control, and the results always prove it!”
You’re early on in your music career but have already worked with well recognised names like Tim Godfrey (who produced the remix of “Baba Dey”), Evans Ogboi, and Faith Child. Have you got any other big collabs coming this year?
I love collaborations so I would love to keep working with great musicians like those you’ve highlighted. I would especially love to minister with Sinach, and Nathaniel Bassey.
You saw good success off the back of your debut album, what are you hoping to achieve with your music in 2017?
The awards are not the reason I make music, but having been nominated a few times I have to say it would be lovely to bag a few wins and I am so blessed that my releases so far in 2017 have received such a fantastic response. I want to continue to make quality music that people love and connect to, and that pleases God!
What/who are your musical influences?
I have so many! Being born to African but very international parents, and having lived and worked in many countries of the world I am a melting pot of diverse cultural influences – and you see that in the album. So everything from Pop (Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston) to RnB/Soul (India Arie, Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill), to Traditional Gospel (Shirley Caesar, Clarke Sisters), to Contemporary Gospel (Kim Burrell, Kirk Franklin) to Neo-Soul (Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild) to Highlife (Sony Ade, Ebenezer Obey), to the Fela Kuti, to Afrobeat music….just to name a few. However, I am currently in love with gospel music coming out of Africa, so Sinach, Nathaniel Bassey, Sammie Okposo, Tim Godfrey, are huge inspirations right now.
Yes, your “Expectation” album features a number of different styles but given the increasing popularity of Afrobeats will you be releasing more music with this sound or keep mixing it up?
I have been resisting the Afrobeats and generally the African-style music for many years. Either because the “protocol” of the places where I was ministering per time did not allow/welcome it, or the audience may not “get it” or advice that it might be too limiting a genre to focus on, particularly because as a versatile artist I can do other things. However, the more I tried to stay away the more I kept being drawn back to the Afrobeats/African-style influenced music so I am not resisting any longer! That said, I write and sing music influenced from a wide range of genres – my latest release for Easter, “Blood Song”, for instance is as far away from Afrobeats as you like. So I think I will just continue to make quality music that I enjoy, and that hopefully blesses the lives of the listeners too!
What do you think it is that sets you apart from other artists in UK Gospel?
I think an industry expert might be able to describe my difference better than I can. However, as far as I can see I am a unique offering in UK Gospel and the viral hit “BabaDey” showcases a new Afro-Western fusion sound that over 100,000 people (and counting) responded to fantastically within one week of release. I just love making God-given music, and I am so blessed that the people continue to respond so wonderfully to my music. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone that has supported my music in one shape or form, and to you wonderful Juicy Ladies of Vinejuice who are truly the business!!
Have you got any live performances on the cards?
Yes, the diary is open for bookings and is filling up, having just concluded the IGNITE Women’s Conference, I am at the CCLC auditorium on Saturday 8th, some Easter appearances including at Glory House church on Sunday 16th, and on the 23rd of April I am with SOHS in South East London – full details on my website www.HannahOla.com.
What makes you juicy?
My love for God and people, and serious handbags! Selah.
“Baba Dey” is available for download on iTunes.