The Okokons, a family of eight, popularly known as the Larlebee, are all gospel musicians. The uniqueness of their God-given talent brought them out of obscurity, having won a talent hunt competition organised by CEO Africa, at the last Easter Fiesta event held in Ibadan, Oyo State. SEYI SOKOYA reports the story of this family.

BEFORE now they have been trying to push their music career to the next level. They had performed at the Carnival Calabar festival and several social gatherings. Their dream came through recently when they were certified as a talented group during a talent hunt show which came with cash prize and three-year record deal. The Larlebee – parents, five ladies and a young man – one family voice now set to take off with their music career. One of the family members stated that, “We are one family, one voice and one body set to impact on the nation, Africa and the world.”

The story of the Larlebee, however, became more interesting when Sunday Tribune engaged the family during their recent visit Tribune House. When asked how they felt emerging the winner of the competition, the father of six and head of the family said: “I feel extremely excited because this is the first time, we, the Larlebee, One Family Voice, decided to come out for a competition like this. The Lord ministered to us a month before the event that we should get ready for a programme coming up on March 28 and we had no idea of what it would look like. We have been around quietly in the city of Ibadan for some time now.
“As missionaries, we move around to where God wants us to be at any given time. Fortunately, we heard about the competition over the radio and we put in for it. But we have been preparing even before now and as God will have it, we emerged winners of the competition. Indeed, it was an Easter to remember for the entire family.”
It may be a bit surprising that the whole family of eight is into music, but Mr Okokon explained it saying, “I think that was how God wants it. We can’t even explain it. Personally, I have passion for music; I even waxed an album entitled: ‘Bone of my Bone,’ as a student at the University of Ibadan. I was also involved with the music icon, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey, where we set up the first gospel music competition at the National Theatre in Lagos. This could have served as a genetic factor that has been transferred to my children. I remember I had this vision a very long time ago, precisely when I was in the university; Jesus Christ visited me in person in my hostel and gave me a revelation that is gradually becoming a reality today.”
Okokon also revealed that the stage name of the musical group, Larlebee, was also divine. He said the name would not have been complete if the group had not been up to eight in number as the stage name was formed with all the first letters of every member of the family. The father is Louis; the wife is Adiki Barasika; the first daughter is Ruth, followed by Louise, Esther, Blessing, Elizabeth, who is the last girl, while the only son is Elijah.
“The Larlebee stands for the family and it is incomplete without us (parents). In fact, we have songs that proved that our voices are better than that of the children; there are songs in which we led and, in other songs, they led,” the mother stated.
When asked how prepared they are to compete in the fierce gospel music sector, the family said they are poised to take the music industry with a storm as well as redefine the gospel music ministry with a divine touch. Also, the team already has over 40 songs to its credit and is also committed to correct the wrongs in the industry, as well as affect lives positively.
“I discovered that gospel music in Nigeria started well. The people that are carrying the gospel music flag now have no proper understanding of what it is all about. Most gospel songs we hear today are only lyrics that are dotted with singing about the names of Jesus Christ without any inspiration in them. It is not about having the talent, but what one is carrying. I have been in the ministry for 40 years and I have realised that, as a minister, if one’s vessel is dirty, one’s ministration is already polluted, because one is not a good example of what one preaches through songs. What makes gospel songs gospel is because they carry the word of God and are expected to bring life to the people, share God’s love to humanity and set the people free. But we only have mere entertainment,” the father said.
He, however, advised gospel musicians on the need to re-discover their potential and their mission in winning souls for Christ, by living a sinless life, because a holy life is only acceptable before God.
“Aside the fact that we are missionaries, we enjoy music; it is inside us. We compose our lyrics; we sing and dance to our songs. This is why we don’t perform to entertain people, but to inspire the souls of men. We have surrendered ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit,” Okokons said.
The first daughter of the family, Ruth, also established that the Larlebee is one strong united family. According to her, people hardly believe that the children, especially girls, are not sextuplets. She also noted that she had never seen herself as the eldest among her siblings.
“We are one and we protect ourselves. Our parents are good example of how our lives have turned to be. They taught us the way of the Lord and we are one as gospel artistes. Though, we encountered some challenges, especially when we follow our parents on missionary work, we still have the cause to thank God for making our lives meaningful,” she added.
Apart from music, the children are also entrepreneurs in their respective fields of profession. They have all carved a niche for themselves through vocational acquisition.
When asked on the tendency that the group might eventually become extinct as a result of marriage or other foreseen challenges, the last girl, Elizabeth, replied: “The group has come to stay and would rather multiply with the addition of our spouses, which will make the Larlebee spread its tentacles in the nearest future.”

From Nigeria Tribune

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