Actor and musician, Gabriel Afolayan, speaks with KORE OGIDAN about juggling his acting and music career
What can you recall of your background?
Although I’m from Kwara State, I was born in Lagos and grew up in Ibadan. I’m a graduate of Theatre Arts and a theatre practitioner. Also, and very importantly, I am a proud Nigerian.
Who is Gabriel Afolayan as an actor?
As an actor, I’ve been blessed to be on the scene since as far back as 1990. I had my debut as a child actor in a film my late dad’s best friend, Baba Sala, who is now of blessed memory, produced. It was a short film titled, F’opawon. After that, I went back to school and re-launched my career in 2003. I am still practising.
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How would you describe Gabriel Afolayan as a musician?
I have been a musician since the nineties. I remember then that I used to move around as a one-man band. I also served as a musician in the churches I attended. I established my craft by joining the choir and also forming my own musical groups. Music wasn’t just about me singing; it involved other things, such as learning how to play instruments. I decided to go fully into it in 2011, dropping my first official single, Kokoro Ife (Love Bug). I must admit that it was one of the best things that happened in my life. It was widely accepted.
At what point do these parts of you converge?
There is really no point of convergence because I’ve always been in the practice of both crafts. My father could act, sing and dance; he was the total package. He also played several musical instruments proficiently; all at the same time. The fusion of this unique artistry heavily influenced his works. He was known for all. I picked my muse from him. So, at every moment of my life, I’ve been doing these side by side with no interference. It’s all about proper planning.
What influenced your decision to go into acting professionally?
I was actually stirred to become a professional actor because of my zeal to make a change. I also believe it’s within my essence as part of life’s fulfilment. I have loved it all my life. I have lived around people who inspired me to take a walk on that path. The truth is that I was not pushed into the industry just because my dad was successful in the field. The love of the craft grew wild in me. Popular Indian actor, Amitabh Bachchan, also inspired me to become an actor.
Did your father’s popularity and influence give you easy access into the film industry?
My dad’s name will always pave the way for us, his children, whether in the arts or not. Obviously, it was part of what helped me out in the industry. but most importantly, I’ve had to earn my place, and I’m still working hard to hit the mark for myself.
Is this where you saw yourself earlier in life as a kid?
Honestly, I’ve always seen myself doing this as a child. Nothing else comes to mind. Doing the craft much justice is the motivation.
When do you regard as your breakthrough moment in your acting and music career?
My breakthrough in acting was when I had an awesome outing with the person I regard as the best director in Nigeria, Tade Ogidan. He made it happen in his work titled, Madam Dearest. It was a great story with interesting plots and characters. I played the role of Dosu and it was so much fun. We made magic with that project and it is still talked about in the industry. For my music, I would say my breakthrough was my first single, Love Bug, crowned with my follow-up single, Awelewa. The video was directed by my wonderful brother, Kunle Afolayan, and it was shot on the beautiful island of Seychelles.
Do you find it difficult combining both acting and singing?
I really don’t face major challenges. Everybody knows I’m up for both. All I want to do now is push more materials out. Planning and promotion is currently the key to making all work out. As an actor, I’m filming every now and then and for my music, I get shows based on bookings with my management. My album will be released before the year ends and the title is Instinct. Everything is moving appropriately.
What steps do you wish you had taken differently in life to get you to where you are now?
Definitely, we all have errors we’ve made in life but what can we do? We have to forge ahead without regrets. Meanwhile, those regrets are nothing but lessons on how to live better and for me, these are not things I’m willing to discuss openly. However, one thing for sure is, wherever you find yourself today, give thanks and ‘if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself up and try again and again’.
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How did your background influence your decision to be in the entertainment industry?
Firstly, it’s important to note that I have a strong artistic legacy. It’s a filmmaker’s house and we live for the art. Though some of my siblings are into other fields of endeavour, the ones in the art industry are successful. My childhood was fun and tough. I grew up in Ibadan and you can imagine life in the eighties and nineties. All the military regimes had their effects on us as it had on every other Nigerian.
Which schools did you attend?
I attended United Native African Primary School, Ekotedo, Iya Olobe, Dugbe, Ibadan, for my elementary education. Then, I proceeded to the Polytechnic High School, Ijokodo, Ibadan, for my post-elementary studies. I bagged a Master in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan.
How do you plan to successfully blend acting and singing to become one of the greats in both fields?
With God and hard work (it is possible); that’s all! I’m not chasing a barrage of plans. I personally believe that you don’t work out a plan for God. His ways are not and will never be ours. At times, don’t even try to figure out the route, just keep walking. So, I’m on that and I live by that.
What can you recall of your first time on set?
My first time on set was absolutely magical. Everything seemed a wonder. It was so unreal that I was in awe the entire time.
What are the highlights of your career?
In 2014, I was in Sri Lanka to shoot a movie, A Love Like This. It was a Hollywood project and I was privileged to have been a part of it and even played the lead character. It was worth all the 35 days we spent filming. Also, it was a lot of fun because we were moving from one country to another. Sadly, I lost a co-actor I worked with at the time; her name was Shoki Mokgapa. She was a talented South African actress and we lost her to depression. It was really nice working with her. The project was directed by Chandran Ruthnum, and produced by the African Film Factory producer, Rahul Nehra.
Moving forward, what should we be expecting from you; film and music wise?
I’m actually working on a few things but you should expect my first feature film soon and like I said, my album will be released before the end of 2018.
How would you describe your marital experience so far?
Marriage is divine. It’s honestly a blessing to whoever can be patient and highly disciplined. I recently got married and I must say that mine is starting off really good; I’m loving every bit of it. My wife has a beautiful soul and I’m glad and grateful to God that He led me to her.