From secular to church music

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FROM DIGI TO YESU: Ngoni’s Pato shared with Joseph Ssemutooke how he transformed from a secular musician into gospel.

Elvis Patrick Nyanzi, popularly known as ‘Pato’, is one of the two men who comprised the singing duo Ngoni. The duo enjoyed a prominent position on the local music industry for about a decade until it disappeared into oblivion two or so years ago.

The other man was Edward ‘Aydee’ Muguluma. The two gave Uganda hit songs like Digi and Nina Omwami featuring Desire Luzinda. Ngoni were among the leaders of the revolution that made sexually-overcharged video content like Digi a staple of Ugandan music in 2005.

Now, ‘Pato’ has done the half-circle and turned into a gospel artiste. He prays from Sseguku Worship Centre and released his first gospel single, Ndiwaddembe, early this year, and plans to release a full album before the end of the year. Nyanzi tells his story.

From Saul to Paul: Encountering God
It is only a believer who can sing gospel music. Since I was always an unbeliever I had to first attain faith. I started going to church early last year. It was not that I woke up one day and purposefully decided to start doing so. It all happened in what would be called accidental— in reality it was the hand of God directing events.

My fiancé, who had about a year before started attending the Pentecostal Church, only asked me to start accompanying her and our daughter on Sundays. I had never believed in the existence of God and regarded church as a social club for the superstitious. Out of curiosity I went to see what happens there. I was raised in a family where prayer and any sort of spirituality scarcely existed. My Christian mother and Muslim stepfather did not practice their faith.

A few months after I had began occasionally accompanying my family to church, it felt different and ultimately got me to accept Jesus. My workmates at Elite Media were Born-again Christians who often shared with me the Gospel, but I had never paid much attention.

However, a friend of theirs— Pastor Isaac Kaweesa, who had just completed his studies at a Bible College in the USA had returned home and started hanging out with us. It is Kaweesa, who explained in depth the necessity for, meaning of and journey to salvation, and before I knew it, I had accepted Jesus Christ.

Going gospel
My perspective of everything and lifestyle just changed. I started fellowshipping with my workmates, reading the Bible, praying and fasting. Those things began to matter to me more than the secular things that had been the centre of my life.

Suddenly, I disliked many of the carnal indulgences that had meant so much. I’d go to night clubs and feel uncomfortable. I did not find value in being considered a star by the public, instead I got repelled by the notorious circles of showbiz and their indulgences.

I think I had discovered Jesus Christ’s plans, promises, love, and forgiveness. I could not remain the same.

Singing to worship God and touch lives
Around 2010, Aydee and I, faced with too much, had decided to give Ngoni a holiday, to concentrate on production and management of other artistes. Like any other group, as members grow older, they inevitably go different directions; each one pulling more into their own interests, and aspirations.

By 2012, I had moved more into my foremost passion of video work, joining my current colleagues at Elite Media, while Aydee had moved more into TV Series and advertisement production.

But since finding Christ, I’ve found a brand new purpose and drive for music. I have since developed a passion to use my music talent to worship God, as well as to positively impact on people and draw as many to Jesus Christ. I ask myself, if I previously used my music talent to drive people into vain carnal indulgences, why not do it even more for God?

Many said I had made a mistake to go gospel because there is no money and no real stardom. My aim is no longer to make money and be a star. I don’t think there’s a lot of money in gospel music. If the money comes or my music becomes popular, good; if not, as long as it serves God and touches lives.

Gospel music is challenging. I know what I want to communicate, but as a gospel musician you have to make sure you are not misleading people –from what you say to how you say it. In the last months, I’ve turned down deals (some really juicy) that required me to go secular.

Priorities change
I discovered the need to think beyond money and self-aggrandisement. Now I focus on making my family happy (I plan a wedding soon). While it is things like family and peace of mind which should matter most, the showbiz industry somehow makes them trivial and instead makes the useless things seem more important. But Christ has shown me to make the important things priority, to see their worth.

People who we think are stars with everything are simply people who put on appearances. In reality, struggle with the lifestyle of direct self-destruction –drugs, promiscuity, violence for some, and extravagance. I can’t say I’m perfect but since I accepted Christ I’m on a better and fulfilling path.

What Others say about pato
“As people grow older, their lives change as regards values. Pato’s decision was to get closer to God, which is a good thing. For the many years we’ve been close friends, he has been good. However, getting closer to God makes one better. I’m happy and will support him always,” Edward ‘Aydee’ Muguluma, Friend and former partner at Ngoni

“I think Pato will go places both as a gospel artiste and as a Christian. He has a vision for his life and has focused on it. He has plugged wholly into church, has surrounded himself with the right company of dedicated fellow believers and looks determined to keep the faith,” Isaac Kaweesa, Pastor at Seguku Worship Centre

“A life with Jesus Christ is the best. I’m happy for Pato and I absolutely stand with him on that decision. We live in different neighbourhoods and are both always busy. We don’t meet regularly and therefore I can’t say how exactly he has changed. But from what I see when we meet he is a better man in all ways I can think of,” Benon Mugmbya Music Producer.

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