From Bad Boy to Music Preacher, Obiora Obiwon “The Rebirth” Interview

Obiora ObiwonObiora Nwokolobia-Agu aka Obiora (OBHIO-RA) Obiwon was, for a while, considered one of Nigeria’s music industry “bad boy.” His intelligence, height (he stands 6ft 1in), successful entrepreneurial abilities (he is the owner of one of the few successful indie labels in the country- JDI Music) confidence, gentleman qualities and ability to croon sexy R&B ballards with flexible deep vocals meant as he says, “women (had and still) have a very strong reaction to me.” Obiora enjoyed and took advantage of his magnetic attracting abilities until something remarkable began happening.

About two years ago, Obiora reached a crossroad in his life. He had won awards, received many recognitions for his work yet, he was dissatisfied and very restless. He had “been there done that,” with the glitz, glamour and the overall “finicky” nature of the industry and longed for something else, something more meaningful. Naturally, the talented artist with an analytical background (finance) turned to logic, among other mediums, to answer his deeply personal questions on life that kept him restless, one of which was, “what is my life’s purpose?” Logic, however, could not provide all the answers. After many intriguing deeply personal spiritual experiences, he found answers to his pressing questions. His purpose on earth was/is to use his music to inspire and spread the message about Jesus Christ.

Discarding his bad boy garment and adorning a purer and humble one, that of a preacher, okay fine not exactly a preacher in the traditional sense, but let’s just say a “music preacher,” Obiora packaged his spiritual journey into what is today his newest and latest album, “The Rebirth.” Ladybrille Magazine caught up with Obiora for an intriguing conversation on his REBIRTH. (Obiora, first) originally, your background was in finance, not music. So (could you share with us) the epiphany you had that made you quit your day job to pursue music full time?
Obiora Obiwon:
[I]t has been music for me from day one. Moving over to Lagos (former capital of Nigeria) after school, I worked (at) a bank for three years to sustain myself before I could really start a music career. I couldn’t get a record deal and the job enabled me to (start) my own independent (label). I quit the job shortly after the release of my first album as the music started growing. It was basically a stepping stone to the real dream. However, the experience from there has been invaluable to my business and general outlook. Your (debut album “Overture” )was not as influenced by your faith as this one. Was that a conscious effort? Can you share some background on how this transition came about?
Obiora Obiwon:
After my debut album, I found myself asking many questions and soul searching about music, fame, celebrity, love, life. I found answers in my Christian faith and saw myself move from being a passive Christian to an active one i.e. I became “Born Again.” In the midst of all this, I had some deep spiritual experiences which further solidified my faith and belief in what I’ve been called to do. [A] lot of the music in this new album, I didn’t struggle to write and I basically tried my best to transcribe what I heard. The album title “The Rebirth” represents this process as well as a whole new level for me artistically. I believe my art stepped up on this one. Many people see Africa as only the needy mission field, especially when it comes to spirituality, more specifically Christianity. Can you share with us about your background growing up as a Christian in Nigeria?
Obiora Obiwon:
Times have changed. The largest gospel concert in the world holds in Lagos every December and is currently going for its fourth season. The largest prayer meeting in the world also holds here. It was different growing up but there’s been massive growth over the past two decades. Churches and evangelists that started from here are having ministries and congregations in several other countries. What is your musical background and how does the Nigerian music industry currently work in marketing your albums?
Obiora Obiwon:
I sang at home (at a very young age) and moved along with local bands and show circuits in Eastern Nigeria during my secondary school and university days. I came to Lagos in 2002, had a stint with a hip-hop group called “Thorobreds” before releasing my solo debut in 2006. How do you describe your music and what genre would you put yourself in as an artist?
Obiora Obiwon:
I describe it as contemporary gospel and R n B. Growing up on urban sounds, my cultural orientation and recently my faith all play out in my music. What challenges have you come across as you put pen to paper during the writing process?
Obiora Obiwon:
This time around it wasn’t much of a challenge writing the songs. After my debut, I discovered that writing from personal experience is much more fluid and stronger so all the songs on this one were inspired by one experience or the other. I’ve also learnt not to struggle with the creative process but to allow the songs come to me, no matter how long it takes. However the challenge is translating what I’ve heard into actual production. It’s difficult making music in my environment.

[T]he marketing structures are inappropriate and there’s a lot of improvisation. You have to be extremely passionate about the art to continue and breakthrough. Government support has been minimal. However the collective passion of artists and stakeholders has created and upheld a vibrant scene that is currently the toast of corporate brands, youths and the whole socio-cultural/socio-economic environment. Who are the influential artists that paved the way for Obiora Obiwon?
Obiora Obiwon:
Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men, R.Kelly, Lionel Ritchie, Alicia Keys, Donnie McClurkin. Ngerian pop/highlife greats Celestine Ukwu, Nelly Uchendu, Onyeka Onwenu, (and so forth). Which American or European artist(s) do you think your sound resembles?
Obiora Obiwon: It’s difficult to say. I think I sound most like me. I’d rather let people decide. I do get “you sound like R.Kelly”
or “you sound like John Legend,” a lot. Can you give us some insight into the ballad “Na U?”
Obiora Obiwon:
“Na U” is one of the deeper cuts on the album and illustrates my soul search in a graphic manner. The style of the song is conversational and my reflections on love and success in life are punctuated by two voices one good (the Lord Christ) and one evil. The Lord re-assures me that all I need is in him, if only I come with him and do it his way and in his principles. The ending finds me committing to this especially in love. A large part of the song is rendered in Pidgin English and the title translates “It’s You”. “Obi Mu O,” meaning my heart, what was your motivation for writing this song?
Obiora Obiwon:
I found love and we plan to get married next year. In your song “Victorious” you sing of the victory you have in Christ. Can you explain what that exactly means to you? How has this victory helped you as a growing artist?
Obiora Obiwon:
Christ’s sacrifice was total and his resurrection won completely over death and all other worldly imperfections. If you believe (both in words and action) you are saved and this victory is made available to you both in life and in death. The song reminds the believer that no matter what the trial or battle is, he’s already won through the victory of Christ. It’s only a matter of faith and time…and it goes on. I always try to remind myself and anyone who cares to listen that the first fruits of our salvation are perfect peace and joy, both in life and in death. All the money and success in the world will never give you peace and joy, the highest levels of happiness. Every other thing you need or desire in life is only a matter of time. “Victorious” is that wake up call when trials come. What is your favorite song on the album and how does the album title “Rebirth” resonate throughout the tracks on the album?
Obiora Obiwon:
It’s hard to pick favorites of my own work. However I consider “Victorious” and “The Rebirth (Kene Gi)” very deep and listen to them like I wasn’t the one that performed them. I also like and enjoy the fun grooves to “Lift Your Hands”, “Birthday” and “Obi Mu O”…I guess that’s practically the whole album.

The album starts off with me discovering the hard praise on “Lift Your Hands” as the answer to all my issues. It’s hard praise because it’s praising and believing through a difficult situation, counting on the very blessing of being alive and healthy. I go ahead to confront my fears and challenges head on in “Victorious.” Next “Na U” finds me conversing with God on love and success amidst a battle with evil thoughts/suggestions.

I find true love in “Obi Mu O” and appreciate the divine nature and beauty of a mother’s love in “Bless U Lady.” Life is celebrated in “Birthday” and I then bring along friends to celebrate the true love I found in “Obi Mu O the Remix”. I end up in church praising with “F.A.T.H.E.R” declaring no more worries once I run to the Father. Next I realize it shouldn’t be all about me and I offer some encouragement to the troubled in “Hold On”. Finally “The Rebirth (Kene Gi)” alludes to all I am and all I have achieved to God and declares the reason why I was created is to please and praise God with my life and all my works. Seeing and approaching life this way is my rebirth. Every track discovers God in a special way as the source of all the beauty we see and seek in life.

Listen to all songs on Obiora’s album at his Official Facebook page.
Purchase his album a special discount of $4.99 until November 18th, 2009 here.

~by Camille Wall & Uduak Oduok

Victorious Lyrics
I feel a certain Spirit stirring up in me
And when it comes I’m being all that I can be…yeah
I’m rising up above my fears and challenges
The Comforter is sparking up my abilities…yeah

No matter what they say
Laugh and jab and criticize
They may ridicule me
Can’t deny this feeling and yes
I know the truth will stay
I know my faith won’t fail
The day will come to show what’s already done
Then the world will know that I’m…

I won with Jesus
Trials. battles
Only for a short season

I won with Jesus
Because of you oh risen Christ
Be it in life or death I live in victory


If you’re a Soldier of Christ come follow me sing

No…Can’t hold me down
No chain strong enough to keep me locked down
My faith is the key to my elevation
Moving on to the light of my destination

The storm may come with rage
Tempest of pain and persecution
Tired. Weary like my feet will fail me
Faith stretched to its elasticity
My soul no don’t you fear
Cos I can do all things
Through Christ who strengthens me

Victorious… etc

Onward Christian soldier marching as to war

And I know one day with arms stretched out
We’ll go through walls and glasses
Roofs and cars and graves
And feel no pain… (no pain)

And the shouts of the world would be heard below
With the winds in our faces. from all races
Feeling the thrill of height and space
Transformed as we meet with you

Oh Jesus!

In the air
in the beauty of eternity
Sights sounds and feelings
More beautiful than anything we’ve ever felt

Oh Jesus!

Strengthen me in this world
I need more grace…


Strengthen me in service
Till I see you face to face…


Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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1 Comment

  1. Hey, the video is really nice one. i have downloaded it.

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