Nigeria’s leading reggae gospel artiste, Buchi Atuonwu used the platform of his 50th birthday in thanksgiving for protection, promotion of his charities and launch of a new album.Vanessa Obioha reports. Family, friends and loved ones thronged The Grandeur Event Centre at Oregun, Lagos recently to join prominent gospel reggae artiste, Buchi Atuonwu in a four-in-one celebration. Buchi marked his 50th birthday, launched his latest body of recorded works titled, ‘I See’-his sixth album, he used the platform for a grand thanksgiving over a fire incident that ravaged his home and also seized the opportunity for his enduring request for more public-spirited persons to join him in caring for the children at Stephen Centre in Abeokuta whose parents were killed mostly during religious riots in Northern Nigeria.
It was a top-notch social gathering that had prominent personalities like the Commissioner for Finance in Imo state, Deacon Chike Okafor; the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo, Lara George, Ras Kimono, Righteousman Ugbebor, CEO of Brilla FM, Larry Izamoje, among others. The event kicked off on a high note with Buchi’s band, The Big Toonz, playing soul-lifting songs as guests streamed in, took their seats and were treated to a sumptuous dinner and dessert. Popular comedian, Ali Baba was the host of the night. With his witty and savvy remarks, he kept guests laughing for most of the night.
If the saying that 50 is the youth of old age holds water, then Buchi is a living proof. Even the former member of the defunct gospel group ‘Kush’ Lara George testified to this. She would later perform her hit song, ‘Dansaki’ to the delight of guests. Looking resplendent in his white outfit and emblem cap in the company of his beautiful wife, Jane and their children, there was no hiding the smiles of joy that lit his face. Indeed, he has every reason to be happy. To be surrounded by loved ones, friends, family and well-wishers on a special day is a testimony to his integrity.
On stage, it was an emotional Buchi who expressed his gratitude. He didn’t fail to mention the host of the night who not only shares the same birthday with him, but offered his services for free for the night. Deacon Chike Okafor was also appreciated for his relentless support for Buchi and his band. In his words, the Imo State Commissioner is not just a common-place fan. He knows every Buchi song by heart and whenever he is at a show with Big Toonz, he dons their attire as a band member and joins the chorus team on stage. Of course, he did this at The Grandeur to the admiration of many. Apparently, Okafor is also a cheerful giver. He would later support Buchi. Expectedly, Buchi came with a trailer load of gratitude for the Supreme One for His mercies on his life. As one with an amazing personal story of salvation and transformation, which never ceases to surprise and inspire those who hear it, another lore was added to the well know Buchi narrative as he testified of the Lord’s goodness when his house was gutted last March.
As astonishment now dogs Buchi’s steps, he narrated how his studio was burnt to ashes. But it would have been another fire incident if there was not a waving flag of the miraculous God. His new album, ‘I See’ which was launched that day has a track, ‘Fire’ which bears the sequence of events during that unfortunate incident-women crying, wailing and helpless children, destruction of every material thing, but what a miracle, the Bible was neither burnt nor was it drenched in the deluge of water from the effort of the fire fighters! To him, it could only mean one thing, the discernible Hand of God. An affirmation that all things will pass away but the Word of God will endure. In his unique way, he serenaded his guests with music from his new album titled: “I see”. As he also wanted to showcase some of his musician friends and band members, he barely had time for one song, ‘Bari Odule’ (Ogoni for God is good) from the new album. The track is bound to score a big hit with many ethnic groups in Nigeria and a few African countries as Buchi chants ‘God is good’ in their language. One common attribute that Buchi was acknowledged for was how he revolutionised gospel reggae music. Even the likes of Ras Kimono from who Buchi learnt the ropes in the beginning gave credence to him. Perhaps, the Rumba Style master may decide to swing to the side of the gospel sooner than we expect, judging by what he said.
Undoubtedly, Buchi has become a force in the gospel music sector. His is style reggae and he is unapologetic about it. The red, green and gold colours identified with this genre of music were prominent everywhere. However, it is with his lyrics that Buchi makes a huge difference. His words demonstrate the outpourings of a contrite heart. Through the bricks and walls that threatened to crush him, he somehow subdued them and came out victorious. This, he interprets in his songs, praising the Most High for not leaving him dry in the desert. Songs like ‘Strength’, ‘Lo, I Am With You’ and ‘It is Well’ were inspired by the hurdles he surpassed. Buchi’s heart goes beyond singing on stage. With his Judah Charities-a project that supports children who are victims of religious/sectarian violence, Buchi has over the years showed an impressive commitment to raising funds to cater for these less privileged ones. Present at the gathering were children from the Stephen’s Centre, Abeokuta who were orphaned by various types of violence in the country. The gospel reggae artiste seized the opportunity to appeal to his guests to support the charity home.
Fired by personal experience as a university student, Buchi has developed an undying quest to end violence among the youths. He understands the emptiness and deceit of the underworld. Therefore, there is urgency to his campaign to expose these lies before they trap the simple-minded. Having got his life back by a stroke of divine intervention, Buchi now lives for others. He runs a campaign against violence called “Project Ceasefire”. The project was an after-birth of his first novel “Ceasefire”. The book is a compelling narrative that enlightens young people on the destructive and counter-productive nature of all forms of social violence. Born Buchi Atuonwu, he didn’t yield to the higher calling till 1994 when he had an encounter with the Founder of Christ Embassy Church, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome. He abandoned singing in nightclubs to sing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In 1999, he released his first album “These Days”. He was a lecturer at the age of 24 in the University of Lagos where he graduated. Today, he is a celebrated singer, writer, mentor, philantropist, a proud father and a loving husband.