Not a pushover in the entertainment industry, Queen Salawa Abeni has been on this terrain since she was 13. Now 58 years old, QSA, as she is fondly called, has her bag of success stories full.
Just back from Hajj after a 10-year hiatus, the Waka Queen, who was challenged in her health for five years revealed this was her first hajj after the illness that claimed all that she had.
“Glory be to Allah because this is a significant trip,” she said.
Recalling her ordeal some years ago, QSA believed her last pilgrimage was significant.
“I just returned from lesser hajj. I went to thank God after 10 years that I’ve been there. I was there in October 2008 but fell terribly ill on February 1, 2009. I was bed-ridden for five years. Today, I thank God I am back on my feet.”
How has she evolved over the years especially now that she sings modernized Waka?
“To be up and retain the position is not easy. I have to also evolve so that I wouldn’t be stagnant. I’ve had collabos with my son, Big Sheff, I’ve had to feature in many shows/concerts to pass the message across that Queen Salawa Abeni is back,” she exclusively told,
Accommodating and support me since I came back. The prayers, messages, kind words are quite encouraging.
I always advise that anybody challenged should learn to pray to God. Also, such persons should not be shy to tell others about such challenges. I am not shy to seek assistance. If you like, abuse me and start telling others, I don’t care because I want the best for myself. Don’t be moved by criticisms/hearsays. I don’t give up. If you fall, you will rise again.
I have a handful of mentees and they are doing well. Though some of them don’t sing Waka, they have chosen to toe the religion line.
Whenever I’m on stage, my inspiration is the crowd. Whenever I see people and a crowd of loved ones, I am inspired. It strengthens me.
Life as an artiste
I believe an artiste should be focused and refuse distraction. For young artiste, I think they should sing meaningful songs that would extend beyond the time they are. Young people should be patient, prayerful and meaningful. I remember a concert I performed in Germany. I try as much as possible to allow fans understand whatever I am singing. God is also my strength because you cannot claim to be happy and singing without dancing.
God has always surrounded me with good people who assisted me and still do in every step of the way. The journey has not been easy especially when I was raising my kids. To be able to still be relevant after so many years in the industry is a mystery. My first trip abroad was in 1978. I also went for Hajj in 1978 and from there; God started upgrading me to the next level. After that, I started travelling abroad.
I would not forget Benson and Hedges show which held at Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos some years ago. It featured Sir Shina Peters, Femi Kuti and many big artistes. We were accommodated in Federal Palace Hotel and I was instructed to perform the last show. That could be a challenge to some artistes because fans could decide going before you climb the stage.
The show was quite unique because you can’t even watch another artiste before your performance. When it was your turn to perform, organizers would come and request for your appearance. My turn was 6am. By time my name was announced, the crowd surged! They made so much noise and I was so happy. I started singing and they sang along with me. By 8.30am, the crowd still asked for more. They sang, ‘All we are saying, Salawa, give us more music,’ I was surprised because I would have continued but I had a show in Ijebu in the afternoon. It was a great time. Also, I would not forget another show I had in Queen Elizabeth Hall in England. That was about four years ago and two of us performed. I was the only black artiste because the other performer was a white man. I sang and the crowd asked for more because I was the artiste that closed the show.
It comes from God because I don’t drink or smoke. I realise that anytime I start to perform, I get inspired and the strength to go on and on comes upon me. You can’t perform without strength because I love dancing . At 58 now, I dance and dance while performing. Whenever I see older artistes like King Sunny Ade, Evangelist Ebenezar Obey, and others are still performing in their 70s. Even artistes in their 60s are performing .
Whatever you are doing that gets you a livelihood and you become famous or successful, people would get jealous and could bad-mouth you.
I was once married to Chief Kollington Ayinla but we are no longer together . I don’t want to comment on that because the union produced wonderful children. Now, I am not married but I have lovely kids. That a woman is successful in her career and still married is good. That’s a plus. On the other hand, it does not mean the woman who is divorced or single is of bad behavior—she is not abnormal. It could be a challenge and such women should move on and stop seeing everyone as an enemy.
They should also learn to ignore whatever negative words people are saying . There is no woman who doesn’t want to be married. Though there could be challenges, I believe God can give everyone a new beginning. Even at my age, I know and believe God can give me a new beginning. So, don’t give up!