Lagos - Nigerian-born UK based gospel artist, Columbus
Ikeh-Chikweh has identified Gospel Music as a powerful tool for the much
desired change the country craves at this time.
He reckoned, in this interview, that Gospel music has the
potential to impact good morals and religious tolerance that has become the
bane of the society.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am Columbus Ikeh Chikwem from Ehime Mbano in Imo state
south east Nigeria. I lived my early life in Okigwe where I had my primary
education at the State Primary School, and later moved to Imo Barracks Primary
School. While at Okigwe I lived with a catholic priest at St Marys Catholic
Church and functioned as an altar boy at St Marys Catholic church. I wanted to
become a priest, about fifty five candidates that sat for the entrance to Holy
Ghost Juniorate, Ihiala only three of us got the admission from Okigwe. I
attended the seminary for a couple of years, eventually left and finished at St
Aquinas Secondary School, Osu Mbano.
What was growing up like for you as a young man with
music ambition, how supportive was your family?
Soon after my secondary education, I started trading and
went to Lagos with my little savings I made as a student, i bought Lionel
Richie and Michael Jacksons posters, travelled back sold them. A certain
medical doctor said to me if I framed the pictures he would buy them for so
much which I did and that gave me employment until I eventually went to the
Federal Polytechnic, Oko to study Mass communication. I shuttled between my
school and Republic Benin to buy fairly used clothes to sell at school to enable
me pay my school fees and other things. At the Polytechnic then I
intermittently did music. I graduated and served at Sobi Baracks Ilorin Kwara
State. I also did a musical project then as a Corps member which I titled then
Good Morning Nigeria. At the end of the service I was awarded a certificate of
commendation for Hard Work and Industry and also was part of the team that
represented Kwara State Chapter of NYSC at the International Youth Global
conference held at Nicon Noga Hotel in 1994. I am by Gods grace involved right
now in the preaching of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in word
and music (gospel artiste).
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Did you have a special encounter with God before you
finally decided to go gospel?
I gave my life to Jesus on 6th of November, 1994 at the
Yipata permanent orientation camp. I am still looking for the brother that led
me to the Lord. It was a remarkable event for me. And that marked a turning
point in my life and everything. Everything changed; my lifestyle, direction
etc. So much so that the lady I was to marry who was in the USA then got a
letter from me, announcing my new life in Christ. I remember telling her if she
was not born again we could not continue that relationship that was very
drastic. Obviously my thinking had changed I started attending bible believing
churches though it was tough, but like the biblical Nicodemus I knew it was the
way to go and that gospel music was going to be new found experience and
expression. To be candid I am forever grateful I found Jesus Christ.
Are there musicians that you look up to as role models?
Musically I had so many influences around me. As a young DJ
back then in Nigeria, I listened to all kinds of music. I enjoyed good music
irrespective of the language even down to classical music. Some strong
influences I had then aside my mum and dad ,were people like Chris Okotie,
Bongos Ikwue, Jide, late Sunny Okosun, Bob Fitts, John Denver, Albert Hammond
etc. These great musicians and whole lot of others attracted me to music
especially how morally laden their songs were, their perfection on various
instrument and how much they were widely followed across the world for doing
music. As a young boy I functioned very effectively in the town where I grew up
as a DJ. Almost everywhere there was party I was invited to come and play. But,
that took me away totally from my religious upbringing.
I would say music for me is partly hereditary and
inspirational. I would watch my mother sing and dance for us. My Father was a
hard worker. He would sing melodiously while working. Both parents were
musical. I had a happy family though we didn’t have much.
What is your take on Nigeria’s gospel music industry?
Gospel in Nigeria has come a long way. The genre has
maintained its path and track record, despite challenges. Nigerians are
predominantly God fearing people and so gospel music is readily appreciated.
Gospel music in my understanding is the message of our Lord Jesus Christ, call
it good news, which is musically expressed through praise, worship, hymns,
spiritual songs etc. I don’t want to be limited; it is like gospel must follow
a pattern or style for which it is known. I think the most important factor is
the message. The moment you have good message, then allow the song to find the
best way or style it expresses itself. If you listen to my current work you
will discover it is mixed genre reggae, hip hop, afro beat and high life.
For me gospel music is a very powerful tool for the much
desired change in Nigeria. We know the country is bedeviled with corruption.
With the right attitude gospel musicians can rise up and speak against it and
perhaps point the society to the right direction.
Tell us about your current album and upcoming projects?
My current music tracks were borne out of my life
experiences and the relevance of my spiritual encounters, in other words my
brush with Christianity. Being born again was not anything I ever envisaged or
intended to do, but was inevitable for my spiritual trajectory. My born again
experience put me on the path of destiny. The current tracks are basically
testimonies of Gods saving grace upon my life and serves as a source of
encouragement to listeners not to hesitate in coming to the saving knowledge
and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. My target is for all hurting souls. I cry
to God to enable me write, sing songs that would bring healing, deliverance,
hope and encouragement to my listeners or everyone hurting. All over the world
about 90% of people you meet on the road have emotional issues, very battered
on the inside. Most need healing balm that comes through the grace that Jesus
The entire album soon to be released, is a ten-track
audio/video CD produced and mastered in the UK. Hopefully it is intended to
bring some succor to my fans.
Some sections of the society are not too comfortable with
the quality of gospel music we have in Nigeria presently, what in your opinion?
Because of the crowded nature of gospel music now I honestly
think a lot has been compromised. And because of economic hardship, in a bid to
break even, most artists try to sing what listeners want to hear somehow
voiding the gospel message. But generally I have heard Nigerian gospel artiste
sing very inspiring gospel songs. Comparing Nigerian gospel of the early years
I would pick the pioneers because by mere listening to them someone would get
converted or change their lifestyle
If you were not doing gospel music which other genre
would you have done?
I think what is missing is the heart; the motive behind your
music. Let gospel music glorify God and everything God represents. Well,
if I was not doing gospel music, I don’t know? I should have done something
else, I can’t really say, may be some country stuff. But God knows
better. I choose to go gospel over other music genres because I am now a
Christian. Not only that, I am inspired by what is true and Jesus Christ the
way, the truth and life. He died that I may be forgiven, rose again from death
that we may walk in total freedom. That is the gospel. I choose to exalt His
holy name in all that I do.
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