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Dr Panam Percy Paul talks about his childhood, family and ministry in this interview in “TheNigerian Tribune”

Bakulipanam Percy Paul Mokungah is one of the celebrated gospel singers today. In this interview with SEYI SOKOYA, he speaks on his greatest challenge in life and his take on the Nigerian gospel music industry. Excerpts:

You are one of the most celebrated Nigerian gospel singers in the world. What exactly is the secret of your youthful look?
I am 50 years old and I don?t really look it. In the first place, I will say I love myself and I also love what God has given to me. The best I can do to myself is to take good care of myself. More so, I am very physical; I am an engineer so I really work out every day. Besides, I think I eat well and the grace of God has topped everything.

Why did you leave secular music for gospel music?
Why? It was not a choice but a new life style. I gave my life to the Lord Jesus and so there was nothing else to do than to testify of the goodness that I have experienced. To me, it was newness of life; my life became different. I was transformed, so there was nothing else to do than to propagate the good news.

While you were in secular music, your father embraced you and was also proud of you, but the moment you switched to gospel music, he disowned you.? What exactly happened?
The reason was that in secular music, I was paid every weekend from the clubs. He was very concerned about my economy and about the life I was going to live. He kept asking me if anybody was going to pay me for what I was doing and later suggested that I should start working as an engineer. He recommended that I could still sing as well as practice as an engineer. But I was just overwhelmed by the passion of what God has deposited in my heart so I could not just put my profession and the ministry together. I did practice for a while, but it was engineering at the background and music at the top. At the end of the day, I had to make just one choice and that was music. Obviously I still practice engineering when I am called upon. I practice as a consultant.

Knowing how much you travel, how have you been able to handle the home front and that of your ministry?
God has been faithful to me. I am blessed with a good family. My wife, Tina, has always been supportive. We have been married for over 33 years and at this point, we have about 18 grand children. We have four children, inherited four and adopted six. It has always been a full house, but right now it is only my wife and I that are at home because every one of them is married. All members of my family are into music.

Many people take you as a non-Nigerian.
I have always lived as a foreigner. While in Nigeria, I was raised by the North American Baptist Mission so I was a foreigner even before I left the shores of the country. I am the son of the soil; I am from Adamawa State but I was born and grew up in Kaduna. I currently live in Jos and I have been living in Jos for about 34 years.

Your style of music is different from the lot. How have you been able to do this?
I think it is the culture with which I was raised. As I said earlier, I was raised up with an American mentality; so I was trained to do everything with precision. I was also influenced by the music of Cliff Richard, the Heavenly Brothers, Sam Cook and James Brown. Obviously, I couldn?t express myself in any other way.

What is you assessment of the Nigerian gospel music industry?
Right now, I will say that there is a deficiency because the content is very shallow and poor; our expressions are not convincing enough. We are not telling stories and able to express ourselves well. It is only when we sing in our dialect that we become creative and have adequate information to pass across. When we sing in English, we become deficient.

How do you get inspired?
I am gifted and I know it is a gift so I just create as well as build on it. I don?t need to start telling stories. I get inspired from the happenings around me. I talk to encourage people. I comment on governance. I have long discovered that music is the energy that keeps a very lasting impression on the soul of people. For me, it is the best tool of communication.

How many albums do you have to your credit?
My first album was released in 1976 and was titled Dynamic Good News. It was followed by Beautiful People then O? gate Lift Up your Hands. Then in 1982, I released Don?t You Cry, later I came out with the Bring Down the Glory series and Glory 1 was record in 1986 and released in March, 1987. Glory 2 followed in 1991, then Glory 3 was released in the US in 1993. It was released in Nigeria in 1995. The Master of the Universe was out in 1997; Don?t Give Up in year 2000; Glory 4 in 2004. In total, I have 13 albums to my credit.

Among all, which is your favourite?
I can never have a favourite. Each one of them is a landmark in my life and they all tell stories. For me, it is like choosing out of your children which is the best. What I would say is that all my songs have their qualities.

But which one stands for your defining moment?
It was Bring Down the Glory 1. That was when the whole nation was singing one song. Everybody in Nigeria was singing ?I am serving a living God?, ?Jesus your name is a miracle? and ?Hold somebody, tell him that you love him?. For me, that was the turning point and it made me to realise that you can actually influence a nation Tthat was a defining moment for me and once I got it right at that moment I couldn?t change anymore and I continued with Glory 2, 3, 4 and I always go back to check and study my previous works on Glory 1 that made it successful. I try to replicate it in my subsequent songs. My last album is ?Destiny? it has a singular message; it was released in 2010, but currently we are working on two albums. One is Bring Down the Glory 5 and we are yet to fix a title for the other album.

Do you have a record label?
Yes. I produce myself. I am my own producer and I run my own studio at the College of Music Ministry; I teach people and train engineers, musicians and run my own label called Panam Music which is based in Jos.

You live in a part of the country where is crisis has become a daily routine. How much of your music are you using to address this?
It will interest you to know that I started touring the country three months ago and we went from state to state. We started with Benue State; we preached unity first in the church. We shall be in Kogi from 3rd to 9th of June and whenever we travel, we spend a week in one city, visiting seven to eight churches in that week. Then on the last day all the churches will come in one arena and we share unity and build the body together. In a nutshell, this is what I am doing to be able to unite the people.

What are the challenges like in your ministry?
Nobody lives without challenges; they are just part of life. My greatest challenge was the rejection I had from my parents, especially my father who deleted my name from his will and I don?t think there is anything as painful as that. But thank God we reconciled in 1997 and we eventually moved on with life.

Has your name been restored back in the will?
(Laugh?) Right now I am the will of the whole family and my parents are really proud of me. They are always joyous to describe me as Dr Panam Percy Paul.

You are obviously handsome. How have you been able to cope with female advances?
Temptation is a basic part of life; Jesus said in the scriptures that in this world, we will have temptations and tribulations, but we should be of good cheer for he has overcome the world. There are times that you have to physically run and that I do always.

Where next are you heading for in terms of your career?
I think this is it for me. I am just building the next generation and my dream is to raise people that will be better than me.