Lecturer-turned gospel exponent, Buchi Atuonwu, is by far a role model to many. In this interview with JOHN CHIKEZIE, he speaks about his career and sundry issues.
How would you describe your background?
I have a parental background traceable in Umuahia in Abia State, but was born in Kaduna State. My early education began in Enugu and later sprouted through Methodist College, Uzuakoli and Federal Government College, Enugu. In 1983, I came to Lagos to study English Language and Literary Studies at the University of Lagos, obtained a BA in 1986, MA in 1988 and later same year took up an appointment to lecture at the same institution alongside a PhD programme in 1990 (though I left while writing my seminars and dissertations). I gave my heart to Jesus Christ on the December 30, 1992 at Christ Embassy Church. However, I am a husband and proud father of a son and three daughters.
How did you delve into music despite your academic qualifications?
Before I became a lecturer, I was already a resident DJ in a Reggae Nightclub, assisting The Reggae artiste, ‘Ras Kimono’. So, when I became born again in 1992, I had to move from the club to join a choir group in the church and that was how the music took off. I performed and recorded up until 1999, when the first album was released.
How many songs and albums do you have to your credit?
I have 55 songs and six albums which were released within an interim of three years. The albums include; “These Days” 1999; “So Beautiful” 2002; “What a Life” 2005, “Sound of life” 2008; “Sound of Judah” 2011, “I See”. Hence, the next three years from the last release, I would be coming up with another album, specifically in 2017. No title has been giving to it yet, it’s still being worked upon.
Are there awards you’ve got to show for the years of hard work?
I would react to this question by stating that the value of a musician or an artiste and his contributions cannot be determined by the numerous awards and trophies received from organisations; it’s not a yardstick or landmark. All the awards depends strictly on individual reckoning, to some I was the best in 1999, others might acclaim 2005, 2008 and so on. I place a limit to the value of awards; despite I have received 29 awards including an international award in 2007. When my house got burnt in 2014 alongside most of the awards and other things except the Holy Bible, then I realised that those (awards) were of little value. But that which endures is the word of God. But there are so many organisations; I say this with respect to all those who have recognised me with awards, who do this for personal reasons.
Therefore, it makes the credibility of awards to dwindle drastically. I am grateful for all of them, but that can neither define me nor my contribution to God’s kingdom and the social life
What inspires your lyrics?
I want to see the whole world come to Jesus Christ; to see the gospel of Jesus becoming the tenet by which society lives. I sing, basically, to preach the gospel, to minister the word of God. As I would put it; the word became songs. However, it’s to bring the love of God to the knowledge of all men.
How would you describe the challenges you faced at your early stage as a gospel artiste?
At first, people thought I was stupid, having moved from circular reggae in the club to gospel in the church. They also found it alarming for me to have dropped a lecturing job for music. However, I left my lecturing job because my passion for the gospel and nation -building which pulled me out; it was beyond artistry but a move of transforming lives through the word of God in music. The major challenge was, basically, the acceptance of the genre of my music and a question mark on the authenticity of my new birth expression or experience in Christ. But, it is pertinent to note that these challenges were visible in order to enhance growth and promotion. I encountered these challenges and I dealt with them, and I grew. Challenges are everywhere and in every career not just in music. More so, when I started as a gospel artiste, o n e of my friends laughed and told me that I wouldn’t have much song to write in this new venture, aside “Glory! Halleluiah! Praise the Lord!
He asked me if there was anything to sing in the gospel; which has no lyrics and probably end up repeating songs. Right after, I told him there is much message in the word of God, yet to be professed to the people
How do you strike the balance between your ministerial office as a deacon, music career and family life?
My life as a music artiste, a deacon and as a husband and father, are not different or separate entities. They are what I do and who I am. I am a deacon because my services in the Kingdom have been found worthy in assisting the leadership of the church, to run church. There is something I am contributing and since there is a criteria for becoming one, my pastor found me to have met those criteria and ordained me a deacon. It’s not a post but a lifestyle. Therefore, all these simply define who I am and also aid direct my daily activities.
In one of your hit songs, Cultural Festival, you said Christianity may not be part of our ancient history but it’s certainly our culture. What explains that?
Christianity may not be a part of our ancient history in the sense that if you trace back to our African origin, Christianity visited us and wasn’t with us from the beginning. But if culture is a people’s way of life and thinking, then Christianity has become our culture because it has been with us long enough to be called ours. We dream and live Christian; it is not an act that we put up. Our great parents and grandparents lived as one. Most of us have never seen a juju priest yet we have been induced, especially by home videos, as being a reality. But I see that as a dead culture.