Bigger Jonathan Ibekwe is a gospel musician with albums and singles to his credit. Although, a graduate of Theatre Art; International Relations and Politics; and Journalism as well as Foreign Languages, he believes strongly in the power of music and music industry. He with TONY OKUYEME on his career, challenges of gospel music, importance of reading and other issues
Why the choice of gospel music genre?
I am into gospel because of my commitment. I am committed to spreading the good story of Jesus Christ. That is my greatest happiness, the greatest venture, telling people about Jesus Christ. Of any other thing I do, the commitment I have for Christ goes beyond other things. That’s why I want to use gospel music to talk to people about Christ.
You are a graduate of Theatre Arts…
So, what happened?
The issue is like when we were in school, at the University of Benin, we were told that Theatre Arts will not provide you a job.
They told you that?
Yes. The film industry, Nollywood, had not started then. So you were told clearly to cut out what you want to do for yourself and by yourself. So because of that, we all began to look at and think of what we were going to do. I was looking at myself then and felt that I would go into writing, because I write. But as God would have it, I found myself in Asia, in Taiwan to be precise.
When was this?
This was in April 1993, after my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). So what I then did was, I said okay, since I am here, and coming from the arts, let me go study Chinese language and culture. So I went to the university – Fujian Catholic University in Taipei, where I studied Chinese Culture and Languages. While I was doing that I was doing Southeast Asian languages as well. I studied Tagalog, the language spoken in the Philippines.
So, you speak all these three languages, Chinese, Japanese and Tagalog, fluently?
Yes, I do. And along the line, I decided to do some studies on International Relations and Politics.
So, eventually you found your feet in music?
Yes, and investment promotion as well.
What really inspired your debut album Rapture?
Rapture was a clarion call to people that Christ is coming, there must be rapture. All the promises He made will come to pass. And the strange thing about rapture is that it will be so spontaneous. We’ll be talking somebody will come, one person will fly, and the other person will remain. So, I was actually warning the world and reminding them about the immediacy and the urgency of rapture.
Can we then talk about With Jesus, Adim Ok?
It means, with Jesus, I am alright. You see the political situation and the economic challenges in the country today, it was actually what Isaiah was crying about. If you go to Isaiah chapter 65, where he was crying that the land is desolate, the place is just like what is happening today. So where do we get comfort from? I get my comfort from Jesus. Depending on God, I will be ok; we will be ok . It is a song of hope… Yes, telling them that it is not over yet until it is over, especially in this period. There must be hope. We must try to encourage people. God is still there. The beautiful thing about gospel music is when you take time to listen to gospel music, it energises your spirit. It calms you; the blood pressure reduces. There is much to be derived from listening to music. When you listen to it and you understand it, it does some work inside of us. So that’s what we’re trying to recreate. People should pay more attention to Christian music that has messages. When you take time to review, examine the contents, you will see some curative powers in music.
So I don’t play music for playing sake. I play music because they’re given to me by God. I play music to really cause healings in the mind of people.
How about your most recent single titled, Umuaka, in which you celebrated children?
Recently, they were talking about the position of Nigeria in the world classes of universities and we were placed 124. So bad! And what is the challenge? We are destroying our future by destroying the future of our children. The future of every society resides with the children. So what prompted me to do the song, Umuaka is because I have this understanding that if you want to create a great future for any society, you must appreciate the children of the society, bring them up, and encourage them. Give them the best. Because no matter what you do, if you don’t get the foundation right, you are missing it. So this work, Umuaka is spiritually inspired for me to really let people appreciate children and cause improvement in how we treat our children.
When will Umuaka be officially released?
It will be released on May 27, which is Children’s Day. It is the most appropriate to bring it out on that day. It is going to be entirely a celebration of children.
What is your opinion about gospel music generally?
Gospel music is facing a lot of challenges. Those who are doing secular music comes out easily because the society is so destroyed that what they want to hear is about the size of a woman’s body, about how to commit one evil or the other. But when you try to preach righteousness to society it becomes difficult. But for some of us who are into gospel works, if we were to be into secular works, by now we will be talking about Grammys and other stuffs. But it is not going stop us from doing gospel music.