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Even with master’s degree, I chant for a living – Azeezat Yusuf

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Even with master’s degree, I chant for a living – Azeezat Yusuf
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The Chief Executive Officer of Ariyike Chanters, Azeezat Yusuf, tells BABATUNDE TUGBOBO about her career and other issues

How did you start the chanting business?

During my friends and relatives’ birthday celebrations, I usually write positive epistles to them. On December 6, 2019, which was my sister-in-law’s birthday and the day she gave birth to her twin babies, I told myself that I was not going to write an epistle. Then, I was doing my Master’s degree at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State. I did my research about twins’ panegyric (oriki) and I went to mothers, who had nursed twins and are still nursing twins in my neighbourhood. I asked for twins’ eulogy, I got some and I also went online to get more. I sat down and memorized them and I came up with my own tune of chant and did a video. The video went viral; some of their friends gave me money, while others started requesting for their lineage praises. I didn’t turn any of their requests down; instead, I did more research. That was how I started my chanting business.

What is the biggest gig you have handled?

The biggest gig I have handled was when I received a call from a real estate company’s boss that I should eulogize one of his colleagues. It was a dream come true for me and I performed excellently.

How much were you paid for that gig?

Well, it was quite rewarding because it was a six-digit amount.

 How do you advertise your business?

We live in the era of social media, so I use social media to my advantage.  I advertise on Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp.

What are the challenges you face in the course of doing your business?

I face challenges with clients. Some clients would not give out information until the day of the surprise (gig), while some would delay me and my team for more than four hours before we could perform. I usually get flimsy excuses for delaying my performance. However, all these do not stop me and my team from remaining calm.

Did you start your business due to passion or as a means of survival?

I have passion for my business and that is what has kept me going and still going, though survival instincts cannot be erased. But the passion keeps me going and I am maximizing it

Why do you think lots of people are now embracing entrepreneurship in Nigeria unlike in the past?

People are now embracing entrepreneurship unlike in the past because some people do not have a choice. Entrepreneurs are born with the spirit. For others, it is because of insufficient job opportunities. Also, sometimes, it is an idea that makes entrepreneurship unavoidable. Unemployment is also an important factor that cannot be overlooked.

Has there ever been a time when you felt like quitting the business?

Yes, there was a time I felt like quitting the business because a lot of people are now into it, which spoils the business for talented people like us. Some chanters will chant for clients for free, so they can at least post a video on their statuses and social media platforms. Hence, some clients will expect the same from me and it is tiring.

What are your most memorable moments as a chanter?

One of my most memorable moments as a chanter was when I met one of my clients from the United States of America. She had been patronizing me on Instagram. She told me she would be coming to Nigeria. She came on her birthday and my team and I serenaded her. She gifted me one of the latest Samsung phones and also appreciated me with some dollars. It was indeed a beautiful day.

What are your other areas of interest?

As an educationist, I would love to lecture in a federal university or work in a manufacturing company.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to become a chanter?

I will first advise them to discover themselves. Self discovery is key. They should discover if they have passion and talent for it. Also, they should discover what to do to make them different from others.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt in the course of running your business?

The most important lesson I have learnt is that man is the most difficult to manage among living things. As a leader, I have learnt to put band members in their place and also make sure my decisions stand. I also have learnt to manage business funds myself; not assigning such a vital role to anyone but myself.

How do you deal with difficult clients?

I have dealt with different customers by being patient. Patience is never enough because we are created differently and we also react to things differently. Patience is never enough.

How many employees do you have?

I have eight permanent employees and two contract workers.

Have you undergone any form of training or tutelage to make you more proficient in what you do?

Yes, I became my personal trainer because I always source indigenous panegyrics from elders I come across in the course of my research.

Has there ever been a time that people looked down on you because of what you do?

Yes, there was a time when people looked down on me because I chanted. According to them, illiterates are the ones who chant or they are people who are lazy and do not want to work for money.

What are your educational qualifications?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, and then I proceeded to the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, to obtain my Master’s degree in Biochemistry. I specialized in toxicology. I will be going for my Doctor of Philosophy next year by God’s grace.


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