Gospel ace, Uwale Essence Okoro speaks withÃ‚Â Adeoye OlorunseunÃ‚Â on her musical career, why the devil is fighting musicians and sundry issues. Excerpts:
What are the effects of gospel songs on Christians and churches?
Music is a veritable tool for information dissemination; it just brings to light the words that are in the bible because most gospel songs are excerpts from the scriptures. It also brings to more understanding the humane part of it because the scripture can seems so far and the language misunderstood.
When you break it down in a song, you also put your own life experiences and people can learn and really see what God has done in your life. Basically you are telling your testimony and there is nothing as powerful as testifying.
That this is what happened. I waited and God gave it to me. So you too donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t lose hope. Keep hope alive and keep believing in God and there is nothing as powerful as that. So basically gospel songs are testimony experiences people can relate with and that is why they are very effective in churches.
If music can influence behavior, can gospel songs have conviction power of their own without preaching?
Somebody once said preach the gospel by all means necessary. If necessary use words, which means your life should preach more than what you say. It is not Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdo as I say and not as I doÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ but should be Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdo as I do as a ChristianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
How you comport yourself and react to situations can help people to decide for Christ. Sometimes it is only just singing about it and you are just telling and living your own testimony. Basically, we are not perfect we do our best as human beings first and foremost because the only perfect person was Jesus.
Sometimes some songs you can sing, just speak in tongues and people can key into that and get their healings and whatever it is they are seeking from God.
Is singing gospel songs a ministry on its own?
Well for me I believe there is a disparity. Unfairness in gospel because we have pastors who have their regular jobs doing secular jobs and they are also pastors. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the way you go about your duty in the secular world that would show if you are truly a Christian or not. So it is a ministry on its own.
Music is one of the most impressive means of impressing the heart. How often does a hard- pressed or disdained soul get lifted when ministered to in songs?
It is not just music, it is the spirit behind the music; it is the Holy Spirit. Some people can sing songs and it wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t move anybody from here to there while some people can just groan in the Spirit or speak in tongues and then you will see people being slain.
It is the Holy Spirit that is behind the music. That is why music minister have to really pray and really be in tune. They really need to be ministered to before they can minister to people. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give what you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have.
It is the Holy Spirit and it is not the music. Just like some people sing about Hennessey. That is the spirit of Bacchus and when they sing about it they are invoking the spirit of Bacchus and that is why when they sing about it the spirit of Bacchus takes over the people listening and they get intoxicated without even putting a drop of alcohol in their mouth.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the same with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is behind songs and it is the Holy Spirit that will impress upon the heart and that is when ministration comes in. The Holy Spirit works through songs and in your life. He has His ways of doing things and we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how or when but He chooses whatever medium to work through.
As part of religious service singing is as much as act of worship as prayer. Do you think it can win battles sufficiently without backing it up with prayers?
Worshipping is prayer in songs. When you pray, you say Ã¢â‚¬Ëœfather Lord we worship you, we give you praise.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ You begin to exalt His Holy name and when you sing it is the same thing. You are saying the same. So, worship is prayer on its own.
God loves music, worshipping comes to Him like a sweet- smelling savour. It is not as if prayer doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do that but worship is the key to God. He has given us the door. Worship is the key. This is how to get to Him.
Do gospel songs have power to make the devil flee?
On its own music canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything if there is no backing of the Lord. It will just be music. Even when the tower of Babel came down, the Israelites marched round how many times without saying a word and the last day they were ordered to shout with the horns and all of that and the tower came down. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s profound.
You sing gospel and secular songs. Can the two works together?
I know pastors who are bankers, even MDs of banks. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think there is a double standard there if you ask me. Anybody who listens to my song knows that my songs are always edifying. My songs are always educating. As long as we have Christian schools, there is no Christian mathematics, Christian English and there is no Christian physics.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about the lyrics. It is the message you are passing across as a Christian that counts. I am telling you how to do things and I am putting the God factor in it. If I am singing about life, the bible says we are in the world but we are not of this world, we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exist outside the world but it is the way you exist that differentiate.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not about it working together; it is my conviction. I am answerable only to God, not to man and if I want to sing a love song, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see anybody when getting married or you are in courtship courting who doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sing it.
Christianity has gone pass all these things we call taboos. We need to talk about it because it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work. We are Christians. We make babies. Where do babies come from? Definitely they are not dropped on the footsteps of your door in the middle of the night.
You know biology comes to play. If you sing about biology, if you sing about life, that is why some Christians just love each other with the love of the Lord and they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t truly love themselves. We need to talk and sing about love but it is pure love and I sing about the love of God.
Jesus was always with the secular people. If you ask me that was why the Pharisees and the Sadducees were always against Him. Ã‚Â He was always with the taxpayers, with the prostitutes. So if they talked about Jesus like that, I will just do what Jesus did because we are called to the world, we are not called to ourselves.
Would you say your songs have blessed souls?
My songs have blessed souls. I have a song calledÃ‚Â I will get by, which is kind of a song of heart break. Everybody goes through a heart break if a relationship doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work and you feel really bad about it and some people are being prompt to commit suicide.
Somebody called me and said Ã¢â‚¬ËœI listened to your song I will get by and it really blessed me. I was really suicidal and I got the conviction that I will overcome this and I did.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
And I also have a song thatÃ‚Â says sexy I loveÃ‚Â to have a play on the word sexy. Being sexy is an attitude, not a state of undress and some Christian association of mothers called the radio station up Ray Power F.M and asked to see me.
I went there and they were praying for me and blessing me that this is what they are fighting against girls dressing half nude and all of that. So they really thank me for the song and pray that people will listen to it. That, for me, is a testimony on its own.
What realm does one have to be before one can open up to a gospel song music that can lead to salvation?
It is not of our doing; it is the Holy Spirit. You can sing the heaven down and nothing happens. The bible says if I have a voice like an angel and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have love then I am nothing. It is not about you or your singing prowess. It is about the Holy Spirit that will convince people through your song unto salvation.
If you are singing a song that is true, free from deception and lies, can someone who has been abused, deceived, trampled upon be convinced that there is still a semblance of goodness in the world?
Yes definitely because if you sing of your conviction and of something you have experienced, then people will key into that because when you have experienced something, you have been abused, deceived, lied to and you overcame it and you are singing about that, then everybody who is going through that will really key into that.
When you sing, your emotions are invoked and it is the emotion that people key into and it is now the Holy Spirit that will now convince them that this is what this person is going through. You can do this and of course there is always hope. We can never give up hope. If we have lost hope then we are lost.
What kind of impact does music really make on the society?
Music is very impactful. That is why the devil is fighting tooth and nail because he had a very strong ministry which he gave up. That is why he is fighting music. That is why he thought his own semblance of what godly music should be about, what clean music should be about.
That is why the so- called secular songs resonate more with the youths and that is why the devil is using more to catch people but if we as Christians can also key into that, singing inspirational songs, singing not just motivational songs, singing about love the way it should be, then maybe we would take back what the devil is trying to clone, we give them the real thing and the devil gives them nothing.
The devil is here to deceive, to steal and to kill, so music is very extremely powerful and we thank God that right now the gospel music in Nigeria is really growing. A lot of songs we sing in church are really by Nigeria gospel artistes and we bless God for that.