Hello everyone, I am sorry I have not published in a while, I had to take some time off to focus on some important matters, one of which was my wedding. Yes! I got married to the most beautiful woman in the world on February 15, 2014, and it was a wonderful event, you will see the pictures soon. We thank Jesus for His goodness.
Someone asked me to describe Panam Percy Paul and I said, he is to Gospel music what Sir Shina Peters is to Juju music and more. I grew up listening to Panam Percy Paul and I still listen to him today, the anointing that flows from the voice of this man of God is outstanding. There was no greater gospel hit than ‘Come lets praise the Lord’ in the 90s.
Today, Panam Percy Paul has more than seventeen awards which include: Best Producer of the year and BMI Music Award for Africa in London, 1995; has over thirteen albums to his credit.
In this interview, he talks about how he met Christ, his struggle with a demonic sickness, how he joined the Rosicrucian sect, his music, family, Boko Haram and the Goodluck Jonathan government.
This interview was conducted by Prince Charles Dickson of www.aworship.com . Excerpts;
AWT: Sir, for this generation, tell us who is Dr. Panam Percy Paul, who is Papa, the musician, music minister, pastor…?
Panam Percy: I was born in 1957 to Major Paul Harley and Paulina Paul Mokungah of then Gongola, now Adamawa State; I attended Second Baptist Church Primary school, St. Paul’s College, Zaria, Kaduna State, Government Secondary Technical School, and Technical School, also in Suba. Then Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna, Kaduna State
I initially worked as Production Supervisor /Engineer, Radio ELWA Christian Communications; I do not need to inform us, that I speak English, my native Mbula and Hausa. I spent my early life in various parts of Nigeria because my father was an officer in the Nigerian Army, and he was always on reassignment. My parents are members of the Lutheran Church.
AWT: How did music come into the picture, not with a Major as a father and you having graduated as an Engineer?’
Panam Percy: My parents did not find it funny, especially practically paying through the hard pocket for their children to have a good formal training, they got disappointed if those children venture into trades considered unenviable or silly. For a twenty year old graduate, one would think I got the full moral support for my creativity and talents but that wasn’t the case with me and our generation, you had to be trained to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer and my parents had done one, so music was out of it.
My mother was a composer though. Whenever my father was transferred to a new place, we would go to church there. My mother would join the women’s choir or women’s fellowship of that church and would write Christian songs for them to sing.
My father liked music too, especially the American “country western” music, and he had a big collection of gramophone records made by singers such as Jim Reeves. I used to listen to these records and imagine that I was the singer.
Yet, I became an outcast and was estranged from home for over 15years. Not minding my health condition of a Sickle Cell like Anaemia and the spiritual case of being tormented by a demon from a very tender age, I was determined to seek help at all cost which made me join the Rosicrucian Movement. Many people did not or do not know this.
AWT: (cuts in) Rosicrucian?, many would want to know more sir’
Paman Percy: Let me continue, on this fateful day, I was hit by the sickness, while on my hospital bed, I received my healing through a TV broadcast after the preacher had led me to Christ. That was the beginning of my journey with Christ in 1976. It was during the turbulent times that I got inspired to write the song lyrics:
“Don’t give up, it’s not over. When you give up, then it’s over. Hold unto the Lord, trouble not your heart. Even when you fail, it’s not over.”
I became born again on that June 13, 1976. I was what you might consider sickle but not as having sickle cell anemia. Every 3 months in a year found me bedridden because I had high fever there was some kind of congestion or whatever in my chest. Each time it came, it was so bad that I thought I would die.
“I suffered like this persistently for years. This went on for six years until 1976 when suddenly, I started to see images and noticed the roof of the house spinning. I saw some spiritual images and sometimes I saw some things that didn’t look natural. But when I talked about them, nobody in the room seemed to understand.
“Certainly, they were not angels. These were spirit beings, wicked spirit beings, because they did some nasty things to me. They were oppressing and suppressing me. I had gone to so many places for assistance. Then I tactically joined the Rosicrucian Movement Society just to be able to get some form of help.
But all I got were certain powers to exhibit some control over the environment. I knew how to hypnotize some people. But that didn’t give me joy because my health was still bad.
“So, while in the hospital, I became fed up with the sickness and then sought God, saying wherever God is, if He does exist, He just should prove Himself to me. So, I screamed on my bed and said “Jesus if You are there, and if You have really died for us and resurrected; then make me believe it. Show me that You died and rose again for my sake, and the only way You can show me is to heal me.”
This is the second time; I have ever narrated this in an interview. It was the beginning of a journey; I can only say that it is a case of “It’s not about what people call you but what you answer to.” No one but God, the Master planer can decide your future. Make yourself available to Him and you’ll become an instrument of global positive impact. So he took away cultism, sickle cell like ailment and here we are me and aworship (laughing).
AWT: You radiate so much passion, laughter, and self-belief, what is the drive’
Panam Percy: First my passion is from Christ, and only Christ, but I will break it down to say that Christ gives me self-worth, something the devil has taken away from this generation of young people both even so-called believers in Christ. I believed that I could by God’s grace affect my local community, I believed in my heritage that I could conquer.
Jesus never went abroad, my focus was on local success, if you want to be an international success, write your story at home.
AWT: Talking about success, your high points, what was that breaking point, concert or event, which sticks?’
Panam Percy: In 1997, I performed for the first time in my home state of Adamawa, it was Master of the Universe Concert, in a sitting dome of just 3,000 and it took some 24,000 people that day, some seven chiefs from all the chiefdoms that made up my locality. You know the song refrain is in my local dialect and there is a particular dance and beat for it.
Before then, many thought because of my name I was some black American, we and the band played that some eight times, you wonder why, I will tell you, at some point my paramount chief, signaled that we stopped and he brought out 10, 000 Naira, and that was a lot of money then and even now (laughing) and asked that we play that chorus again. We did and when we were done, another chief not to be outdone, asked that we play the song again.
For these persons it was with a sense of ‘this is our son’, it was that feeling of when the Lord is proud of you. He says “this is my beloved son”.
I also like to recall, my first tour abroad, to the USA. It was 1985/86. I did not know the people, they had heard about me, and went all the way to the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa in Benin, Niger Delta region of Nigeria to inquire about me and papa told them, I was the bomb and he got across to me. It was one of those moments, need I say that God has been faithful. I was viable locally so I could be exported. I had to discover what I was worth to the society.
AWT: Almost past three decades some thirteen albums and plenty awards, how does it feel and why just thirteen albums?’
Panam Percy: It takes me three years to package an album, it is also not just about an album but a name, about making people through this songs. An album of necessity must outlive a person; your child must outlive you. It is godly. How old is amazing grace, the song, several versions, new ministration but same old blessed songs, it is not in the number of albums or songs.
These days, there is paradigm shift; it used to be Ministry-Minister-person, now it is industry conscious, instead of ministry consciousness. The world dictating the pace of the gospel, that is simply unacceptable but that is what is happening.
The songs today hardly influence the society; they are not answers to any question. Now the industry dictates the ministry, instead of the other way round in which people are touched.
There is a process in life; I began to record albums when I was twenty years old. After I finished from Kaduna Polytechnic, I got a job with Radio ELWA Christian Communications as a Production Supervisor/Engineer. I got married when I was twenty-four years old. God has blessed us with four children.
“My elder brother, Rev. Phillip Paul Mokungah, (now deceased), became a pastor of an independent Pentecostal Church called Oasis of Love in Jos, Plateau State in 1978. What I saw there encouraged me to decide on being a full-time gospel music minister. I resigned my position with Radio ELWA and set up my own recording studio with digital recording equipment in Jos. I named it Panam Music World.
AWT: Sir, briefly let us talk politics, these are tough times in your part of the nation, the North. The Boko Haram scourge, people have been talking retaliation.
Paman Percy: My take is dual, one Boko Haram is on an Islamist agenda, maybe many Muslims may not agree, but that is what it is, take the middle belt by some way, get the nation, it baffles them how they cannot get the middle belt, and if they cannot get the country. Let us destroy it. It is not a faceless group as speculated; they have known sponsors and are part of the system.
It is only sad that they have dealt body blows to the church and Christian, the value of life in the North is less than 10%, people used to run, but now we have seen it all, people are getting immune.
Secondly Jonathan is a target, the idea is to make governance difficult for him and that they are already doing to him, reasons are many stemming from political to economic. For faulting on the PDP North/South power sharing formula. Maybe we should be asking if Yar’adua was alive, we would be witnessing the level of violence.
People forget that the Boko Haram leader was even killed during Yar’adua and it was not this bad. Jonathan is faced with the difficult task of solving this dangerous slide without breaking the country.
AWT: But many may not agree with you, the thinking is that Jonathan is a weak president’
Paman Percy: (smiling) Jonathan is not charismatic, he is no Obama, and he has no oratory skills. But I believe he has vision, but he needs to speed, unfortunately my take is that he is surrounded by people who lack his vision contrary to public opinion that he has a wonderful team.
He is a child of destiny, and has the opportunity to make Nigeria what he least expected. I see him like a front runner not necessarily the real deal but a prelude to the real thing.
AWT: Your contemporaries, many have faded and the young generation we simply cannot grasp them anymore
Panam Percy: The Music Minister is a life and passion, the passion with which you sing and minister a song any day and anywhere, shows the listener that the song was a product of a serious experience and only the actor in the movie can convey the message properly. I say this always. I had my trying periods too.
In a bid to combine music with engineering, I took up an appointment with the Radio ELWA Christian Communication as the production supervisor/ engineer but later resigned to set up my own recording studio and named it “Panam Music world” in Jos. Panam Music World is an organization set up to facilitate the training of Christian Musicians for evangelism and to serve as a springboard for musicians that might be financially challenged. From there the “Panam College of Music Ministry”.
I decided to make business a ministry, apart from composing, arranging and producing his audio and visual tapes of my performances, I went into publishing sheet music for church choir for them to render my songs correctly.
Like a fruitful tree provides cover and shade for several other things and people too, I decided to keep ministry by expansion.
Most of my peers allowed the tide pass them, and the new ones believe it has to be Lagos (commercial nerve of Nigeria)
Unlike many youths of this generation who dissociate themselves from Christian songs because they consider them not in vogue or uninteresting. My aim as a gospel Music Minister is to lead non- Christians to be interested in the gospel message and to draw them to the true knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ”. Sing songs that are gateways to worshiping God and establishing an intimate relationship with him.
Again, many Christian musicians and ministers could not go through some hurdles in life and today they are no more there. It was Leonard Ravenhill that said “No man is greater than his prayer life. The Pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shop window to display one’s talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off”
I don’t need to talk much about being a praise and worship legend. I hear many people say their love for praise and worship developed from listening to/watching me. Songs like “come let’s praise the Lord”, “bring down your glory” came from deep within my spirit… These days the spirit of many Christian artistes does not sing. And in this day and age it is rare to find gospel music artistes who are genuine worshippers, the anointing is missing.
AWT: Apart from that anointing what is missing, it has all gone sour in Christian music ministry especially in Nigeria and Africa; we depend on American and European Soul worship for spiritual enrichment, why’
Panam Percy: Let us look at it this way sometime in 1961, I was just barely five thereabout, I started to play my first musical instrument, the harmonica. My father taught me to play the organ. I started playing the guitar in 1975. Even the man who actually taught me how to play the guitar did not even believe that I learnt it from him.
My teacher, Mr. Saidi was teaching a fellow student how to play the guitar… and I saw how the student was arranging his fingers on the guitar and looking at the chord chart, and I became interested. So after a while he had the need to go to the bathroom and so I picked it up and within 15 minutes, I was already playing the C, F, and G notes and singing.
Today what do we have, the computers have taken over everything. There is no learning process, I recall, I would later asked my father to buy me a guitar, so he bought a cheap acoustic guitar for me. I taught myself to play and would try to mimic the song and play along on my father’s records.
Later, I would entertain my parents, brothers and sisters by playing the guitar and singing along my renditions. They would all laugh, but my mother would encourage me saying, Son, keep it up. Something good is going to come out of that.”
“One year I entered for a music competition, but my preparation was insufficient. Facing the crowd, I became so nervous that my performance was woeful. I did not know what to do so my father walked up and dragged me off the stage. I was humiliated, but I was not discouraged. I practiced diligently, entered the competition again the next year and took first position.
AWT: Has these affected standards of the ministry?
Paman Percy: Yes, it has, and I am not satisfied with the standards of gospel music in Nigeria or even Africa because of the mentality of musicians. In the first place, how many of them really know that they are ministers and not entertainers? Secondly, I think that the pastorate has contributed to the problem of the music ministers.
They’ve made it look like something you do to earn a salary. I want the upcoming music ministers to know that the ministry has an origin. The ministry started with God. God was the first musician and it was He who made Lucifer to have part of His Spirit in order to minister back to Him. So, the musician is always so gifted that he can function in all the offices.”
AWT: Your regrets, or most challenging period?
Paman Percy: My salvation was a challenging period, Yeah. I was desperate because everybody had the opportunity to write their WASC Examinations but I could write only 2 papers and that was it. I was always sick.
That same weekend, the CAPRO (Calvary Ministers) then headed by Bayo Famunure, who incidentally was my teacher in the secondary school, was organizing a film show and what they showed was a T. L. Osborne’s crusade films.
“In the film, I heard T.L Osborne say, “those of you watching, you can see how Jesus healed this boy whose leg was four inches shorter than the other, He can also heal you. So, just lay your hand where you have an ailment.”
“So, I moved my hand to my chest, loosed my two top buttons and slipped in my hand. The man prayed and I said ‘Amen.’ That was it. I felt as light as a feather and as free as air. The congestion in my system just vanished.
For the first time, I shouted, jumped and started shouting, “I am healed, I am healed!” And they started chasing me about, probably wondering if I was mentally all right. Of course, I had to stop running because I was so fast; no one could catch up with me. It is sweet narrating it now but it was tough.
How about regrets, no, I do not have any; I think I have turned out the best I could be, I still try to keep improving and learning, but no regrets.
AWT: How do you cope, family, all the responsibilities and this talk about you seeing everything as politics?
Paman Percy: (smiling) Yes everything is politics, it only depends how it is played and who it is played for, I play politics for Christ, trying to catch disciple for the Lord.
On the family level, I try to create balance; you cannot be everything or one thing for twenty four hours. There are times when I am a father, a husband, a music minister, business man, and grandfather amongst my many responsibilities. I believe every individual is a factory. By wisdom a man apportions time to himself.