By Ifeanyi Ndukwe
Steve Ighele is a Delta state born gospel musician and instrumentalist based in Asaba. In this interview with Orient Weekend’ Ifeanyi Ndukwe, he bares his mind on the state of the music industry in Nigeria. Below are the excerpts….
Your debut gospel album is set for launch. Can you briefly tell us about this album?
The album is the fifth demo I did. Although, my first demo was done by the reggae legend, Orits Williki. It has been a journey of twenty years plus. Doing gospel is something real and requires discipline to set things right. Unlike secular music where one has liberty to write and sing as the mind appeals. Gospel is deep and spiritual and demands full attention as well as creativity in order to inspire and encourage people.
I am grateful to God this one came through inspite of the challenges. It is produced by Joe Davies of Joe Davies Studio.
The album is titled ‘Eternity’, an 8 tracks album. The title was derived from a track I called, ‘The Nigerian Man’. It is a slow tempo track that posits rhetorical question like, Nigerian Man, where are you going to? What are you doing to add value to the society? What are you up to?
In the beginning, people may not understand that particular track but there is an underline meaning of the track. It is about self – evaluation. It is more of rhetorical question that asks, what is your profit if you gain the whole world and then lose your soul? Which refers to the word, Eternity.
What motivated you to go into gospel musical career?
The motivation comes from the personal question: when I stand before God and He asks me what I did with the many talents he gave me. What would I have to answer?
The basic motivation is the satisfaction that I used my gifts to the betterment of the society. I thought it necessary to use my talent to glorify the Almighty God. I have written a lot of songs, over 30 of them. I just felt the need to do something for Jesus. Yes, money comes with it, great. Because money is important in life.
I always align life to the biblical story of the master who was about to travel and called his servants and gave them talents. What we do with our talents is what we would have to answer to our Creator on the final day.
Secondly, I believe no dream dies except you allow it to. I relate this to the Abraham story. It took many long years to get his breakthrough. I kept motivating myself that I must get my songs recorded because they are rich lyrics and would help someone in need.
What do you consider to be the difference between gospel music of this age as against those of yesteryears?
To be frank with you I didn’t really listen to gospel music while growing up. However, gospel music of yesteryears was not merely gospel. There were deep messages that cut across religious and other diverse issues.
We had Ebenezer Obey, Onyeka Onwenu. For example, Onwenu sang secular music as well as gospel songs. The music had soul and innate messages imbedded in it.
Modern music rarely cares about lyrics. They care more of songs that appraise self-indulgence than addressing societal issues. Even the gospel musicians seem to focus more on only praises and worship. This is good but what do we do after the praises and worship? I believe gospel music should do more than praise and worship. There should be some in-depth messages you have to serve people to learn. It should deal with the society; correcting various societal issues. Messages that change lives.
What do you consider as the major challenge facing gospel music industry at the moment?
The basic challenge is acceptance from fans especially when you do something that is different compared to what people hear every day. The attitude of the society towards gospel is nostalgic. They prefer the secular compared to gospel. Unlike gospel, the secular bares no rules. Everything goes. But gospel is entirely a different ball game.
What genre of gospel do you play and why did you prefer it?
It is advisable that when one releases a first album, you use it to test the ground. We call that experimenting stage. The album, Eternity, is made up of different styles of music namely; hip hop, reggae, dancehall, worship, praises, and RnB. I am yet to narrow it down because a first album is always like that. It is after the success of it that you get feedback from fans. Then you can now focus on the particular style on which you are better.
Which gospel artists inspires you most?
I like Don Moen. I respect Deacon Buchi. He is a dynamic artiste. Their works are evergreen and inspire me a lot. They sound original and their music is prophetic in nature.
To what extent would you say the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship has done to contribute to the welfare of gospel musicians?
I don’t think I am in a good position to answer that and I wouldn’t really know. But I feel if one goes to the group for assistance they would be compelled to help if the artiste in question goes to them with a good work.
What role can Church and Christian Associations play in encouraging the youths to use music as a tool for worship rather than for social vices?
Yes, the church plays a vital role in the development of youths. For example, I applaud Christ Embassy Church in that aspect. If you observe, you would notice that many gospel artistes are groomed from that church. I feel other ministries should emulate this development strategy.
Youths should not only sing in the group choir rather they should be motivated to go ahead and do creative things with music.
I was thinking of a music talent competition that would encourage them to create and sing their own songs rather than coming to sing another person’s songs with a good voice. By that they learn to write and sing their original songs. You know the greatest gift that could propel you in the music industry is the ability to write (songs).
Most producers could cook up beats and do other post productions processes. But the musicians must learn the creative ability to create and sing his songs. This sets him apart from the crowd.
What specific message do you wish to send through the songs in your album?
I want to create the right spirit in the society especially amongst the youths. Secondly, to create a situation of consciousness of eternity; a life after death. Most people have lost the idea that our stay on earth will be accounted for? Thus, whatever we do, we must do with that idea in our hearts. One day we would account for every single of our actions.
Nigerian youths seem to patronize songs and musicians whose lyrics dwells on worldly lifestyles fueled by drugs, sex and use of foul words amongst others. What is your take on this?
It boils down to the gospel artistes to put in extra efforts. For instance, Jim Reeves was a gospel artiste but his songs seem to cut across every angles of the society, whether Christian or not. If we want to change the mindsets of the people, we must take cognizance of our lyrics.
The words in our songs should be elevating and inspiring. It could change a person to become a better citizen.