Lara George was one of the KUSH girls that ruled the music scene some years ago. In this interview with TUNDE AYANDA, she speaks about her sojourn in the music world. Excerpts:

You are just arriving from abroad, what was the ex-perience like?It was primarily a visit to New York for the NEA award, though there was a tour that was to take place, but that has been postponed till next year. So I went to New York, where I was nominated and won the Gospel Artiste of the Year and I also performed. It was an amazing experience because the NEA was basically organised by Nigerians in the diaspora for Nigerians in the entertainment industry all over the world. So, we had people from all over the United States and Nigeria present at the event and there were very warm cheers from the crowd when I went up to receive my awards. It was quite an experience because it was the first time I saw the entertainment industry worshipping God. It was beautiful because I know you can’t buy that with money.
You were one of the preliminary judges for the bet awards, how did that come about?
I happened to have met some of the executives of the BET when they came to Nigeria to do a filming for Kirk Franklin’s Sunday Best, which is like a gospel version of the Idols. So they were looking for a Nigerian artiste who could be on a panel for the selection for the Nigerian contestants who could go to America to be a part of the Sunday Best competition. I was contacted and that was how I happened to get on the panel and it was an amazing experience. I met Kimberley, Kirk Franklin and quite a number of international artistes in the industry.

This is your second solo album, how do you feel getting this far?
It’s a mixture of many feelings. It’s humbling, fantastic and wonderful. But I’ve been doing this for a while, I will say I have been doing this professionaly since 2000, when KUSH came on the scene and I was part of that group. This is 2010, and if I should start counting, I think it is 10 years and I can say I am thankful to God, I’m thankful for every tiny support and thankful when somebody listens to my album and has good things to say because they actually truly, love my music.

Why did you chose gospel music instead of secular music?
There was never an option. Not that I didn’t have an option but when I considered everything, it had to be gospel because I think that a talent such as music must come with huge responsiblities as well. Music is something that can easily be used to sway people, you can use music to destroy a nation, you can use it to build people’s lives, you can use it to correct and can also use it to affect and for me, it must always be about positivity, I must use my music to encourage people and I know positivity actually comes from God. I don’t do traditional music and that’s why I like to call my style of music inspirational, because I sing my style of gospel differently. But gospel is gospel, and for me, through my music, everytime I sing, I believe it’s always from God’s point of view. I think that musicians everywhere, especially in Nigeria, need to understand that their music shouldn’t encourage young people to drink, encourage free sex and so many societal ills. We need to understand that there are so many gains when we use our music positively to affect generations and that is why I do gospel music.

Being a gospel artiste, does it affect your religious life?
The truth is that religion is not a good thing, it’s your faith that matters. Religion is when you have the appearance of spirituality. When you follow certain ways of doing things, maybe how you drink your water, how you say your prayers, that is religion. But faith is the true state of your heart before God, when your motives, that part of you that people cannot see is pure and clean before God, then God can look at you and say, ‘this is a man of faith, this is a man after my own heart,’ and that’s where I want to be.

It’s good to know that the kush girls are doing great in their different fields after they broke up. Do you miss anything about the group?
Definitely. I had so much fun when I was with KUSH and that remains one of the experiences in life that you can’t exchange for any kind of cash value. It was so beautiful and it was beyond a music group, it was a family. The group members became my brother and sisters and when the group ended, I missed all of that, hanging out with them, doing things together and going out together. I truly miss all of them but we are still in contact. TY so far has taken all of my photos and Emem and I still work together on some projects.

If you are not a singer, what would you have been?
I could have been many things. I’m actually an architect by training. I believe I could have been a very successful one. If not that, I could have been many other things, a lawyer and other things. I am kind of a firebrand, I’m passionate about justice and making things right.

Gospel music was not given a lot of attention in the past compared to the present days, what do you think is important for this?
Are you saying it is now different? Gospel artistes really have a hard time. Most of us spend a lot of money to do good music, we spend a lot of money for production and videos. When show organisers see a gospel artiste, they will say, it’s gospel and will want you to do it for almost free, but we will continue to do it right. If they don’t encourage us, we are going to have inspirational music relegated to the background, while the ones that encourage social vices will win awards because they have the money. I must tell you that as a gospel artiste, a lot of video directors refuse to shoot my video. That is the kind of discrimination we get. Why? Because the music is gospel and they can’t visualise a song that is spiritual.