Staying consistent; an interview with the legendary Umar Jawfu

interview with Umar Jawfu

Today, I’ll be featuring my interview with Umar Jawfu. I am extremely excited about this and I’ll tell why in a moment. Umar is someone I admire and respect a lot and I consider this a privilege to interview him. Coincidentally, his birthday was just last week.

For those of you who don’t know him, Umar Jawfu is the pioneer member/ lead guitarist of Nigeria’s first indigenous Rock band, Threadstone. He is absolutely amazing with the guitar and has played with quite some big names, such as  Djinee, Age Beeka, MI Abaga, Ruby Gyang, Brymo, Cobhams Asuqo, Jesse Jagz, Chayuta, Ella Duncan-Williams, Lindsey Abudei, Christine, Jeremiah Gyang, Pastor Fred Williams and many more. His unique gift and skill has also taken him to countries like the UK and the US to play guitar. Asides playing guitar, Umar is also very passionate about songwriting, learning how to write songs and music production, watching live concerts, reading, Kingdom of God, drawing, comic books, God and His agenda. He is currently Music director of Relevance ministries, Ghana led by Michelle McKinney Hammond and Guitarist for Worship Room ministries Ghana.  He also partners with Jukebox studios Ghana led by Freeman Ameh in developing artists in production, songwriting and live performances.

So, here’s my interview with Umar Jawfu.


Spirit: Please can you tell us a little about your childhood days and how you developed an interest in music generally?

Umar: I was born in Jos, Nigeria like 20 plus years ago lol. BINGHAM UNIVERSITY TEACHING HOSPITAL, formerly known as JAN KWANO. In English it means red roof. I think that was because of the colour of the roof or it was rusty, Ii can’t remember. I think it was because of the red paint. Haha. I grew up in a strict christian home. haha. My dad worked in a company from before I was born till I think I was like 3 or 4 years old. My mom was a retired police officer. Grew up in Dogon Karfe then moved to Tudun Wada where I spent the rest of my childhood into teenage years.

I never had any interest whatsoever in music. I wanted to be a comic book artist when I was little because I watched Superman when it first came out. My parents took me to the family doctor’s home for a visit and I saw this red, blue and yellow dude flying and holding an airplane while flying. That was when Superman I came out. I was fascinated. I developed interest in drawing superman and batman. When I was in nursery school I used to have this competition with my friend, Mohammed, who would draw Batman and I would draw Superman. It was fun lol.

When I was in secondary school I heard this song my friends were singing…before that time I was listening to Michael jackson, Rex Jim Lawson and Fela…and some top 40 artists…I can’t remember their names but I remember their songs. Haha. Anyways, they were singing this song called Solid Rock…I didn’t know who sang that song but the way they sang it got me interested. When I asked who sang it, they told me it was Ron Kenoly… I went home, looked for it and I have been hooked to church music ever since. And yes, my birthday was a couple of days ago, just saying.


Spirit: Wow! That’s interesting. So, how long have you been playing the guitar?

Umar: Someone told me it was 20 years because she was there when I started learning the guitar. Haha. I lost count after 10 years and that was the answer I told people.


Spirit: (smiles) Who or what inspired you into music?

Umar: A good friend of mine is Dooter Malu. He wrote this beautiful song on guitar and performed it in church. I thought to myself, this is exactly what I want to do; Write music on guitar and share it with the world.


Spirit: Now, we all know it takes a lot of practice for anyone to become as good as you are at playing guitar. And we also know that practice could be boring and difficult sometimes. What would you say was your drive or motivation? Or let me put it another way, how do you maintain the discipline of consistent practice?

Umar: Yeah, the dry spell comes, it seems you’re not going anywhere, you’re not moving forward or backward. In fact, it feels like you’re not even doing it well. You’re on a plateau and you’re just…there…

At first I didn’t understand how and why my brain was functioning…it was later in my journey I learnt that my brain and fingers were processing what I was learning and why some chords and melodies work the way they work to achieve some sounds, emotion or ambience.

In the end it was passion that kept me going, even on days I wanted to quit. I kept going. I don’t have any reason other than I have this gift I need to share with the world and I don’t want to stand on judgment day trying to explain why I gave up. God said He isn’t happy with anyone who turns back. That has been my drive. It’s not easy but passion, taking breaks, calibration and focus are needed to stay. It isn’t a race, it’s a marathon.


Spirit: Wow! There’s a lot to take in there. I’m sure some of my readers would be curious to know, how often do you practice per week and how long?

Umar: When I started it was 8 or more hours everyday. I won’t eat or sleep. Now it’s 5 minutes. Haha. Because I just need a tip or idea to help me be creative or try new ideas. I still learn from people who are better than me. I get their courses and keep myself abreast of what is new and hip in today’s musical landscape.


Spirit: Now, let’s talk about Threadstone a bit. I know you are one of the pioneers of Threadstone. What was the experience like forming a rock band in Nigeria at a time rock music was not fully accepted?

Umar: Honestly, all I wanted to do was just start a band to show people that it can be done in Nigeria! That’s all! It was what I loved to do and I enjoyed doing it. Rock music is my passion. I couldn’t have it any other way!!!

It wasn’t easy. Haha. It stuck out like a sore thumb in gigs and concerts. We were like the misfits and the odd ones out. You’d hear Afropop, Soukous, Afrobeat, Highlife and Rock…? How? Why? Do you guys want to stay hungry? Hungry never catch una?

We’ve been to concerts where children and sometimes adults would put their hands on their ears and walk away. Haha. People loved our sound but they wanted to mold us into what they thought the people needed. We tried men…we tried but we were like rubber bands and just snapped back to what we loved to do. Haha.

I have lots of stories to tell but because of time…maybe another time.


Spirit: I can only imagine…. Now, Threadstone was phenomenal. What would you say helped you guys achieve the level of success you did?

Umar: We had a lot of people who believed in us. Seen and unseen. Our families were our No1 fans and supporters.

Their prayers, support, messages and home made food really helped us. Haha.


Spirit: Let’s talk about your faith for a moment. You are a Christian. Has your faith in Christ limited your music in any way?

Umar: I thought it did, but it didn’t. It just gave me a different perspective of life. I saw through heaven’s glasses instead of mine. I write about my relationship with God, point others to God and I try to write about life with words and sometimes with music and melodies.


Spirit: What would you say is your biggest challenge as a Christian in the music industry?

Umar: Comparison. There’ll always be people better than me and people who are learning from me. If I put people down to make myself feel better, I’m just a cover of a pot making noise.


Spirit: That’s true. So, how about the benefits? Are there any benefits you’ve enjoyed as a result of your faith?

Umar: I’ve met people I’ve always wanted to learn from; people who will support me and love me each step of the way; Emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, financially. Haha.


Spirit: If you were to change something you did in your early days in music, what would it be? In other words, what’s your biggest regret so far in your music career?

Umar: Why didn’t I start music early? Hahaha. Well God has His own reasons as to why He chose me at the time I started. My days are written in His book. So, no regrets I guess. I’m happy with how I started and where I am now.


Spirit: Do you have other plans for your music in the future that you would like to share?

Umar: Just keep watching…I like to surprise people. (evil grin) hehe.


Spirit: (smiles) Finally, on this interview, what advice would the legendary Umar Jawfu give to upcoming Musicians?

Umar: Listen to those who are ahead of you. They know more than you. Haha.

Be yourself. If God gave you a type of music to play. Do it. Your audience may never be in Nigeria. They may be in Japan and that’s where your breakthrough will come. Or you may bless people in other parts of the world. Don’t limit yourself to where you are. Trust God to handle what He’ll handle, just do your part.


Spirit: Wow! Thank you so much for your time, honesty and humility. I have learnt a lot myself from this interview and I know a lot of people reading this would learn a lot too.

This is where we would end today’s interview with Umar Jawfu. For those of you reading my blog for the first time, I’m carrying out a short survey on ‘Depression Among Musicians’ and your inputs are needed. I hope the publish the results of the survey to help musicians who are going through depression. HERE IS A LINK TO ANSWER THE SURVEY QUESTIONS.  Thanks in advance.

Kazi announces the release date for ‘Heart Of A Soldier’

Heart of a Soldier

Veracious pastor and Christian rapper, Kazi has announced the release date for his hot new single scheduled to drop this October. He titles this one, Heart Of A Soldier. This is coming three years after his debut single, Sealed in 2018.

Talking about the song, Kazi said, “I got the inspiration for Heart of a soldier from Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 2Timothy 2:3-4 where the minister is admonished to embrace the discipline and doggedness of a soldier”.

The song contains deep scriptural truths about the believer in Christ. And it is aimed at inspiring as well as challenging believers to their roles in advancing God’s kingdom.

As is characteristic of Kazi, he carefully wrote Heart of  a soldier with soothing rhymes and punch lines. And you can trust that, with his strong, beautiful vocals, the vocal delivery of the song is top notch. Add that to the fact that Eli produced the song. Now, imagine putting together those powerful, hard hitting 808s with the vocals, you can already tell that the song is a hit.

Kazi announced that the release date for Heart Of A Soldier is on the 29th of October, 2021.

UPDATE: You can now download or listen to Heart of a soldier here.


Song Composition Tips (Part 3)

song composition tips 3

Today, I will be sharing part 3 on our series of Song Composition Tips. So far, I have shared 3 song composition tips with you, and I will sharing two very important tips today. So, let’s dive into it.

Try new chords

We all have some chord progressions that can easily be referred to as our favourites. Mine, for instance is the 4-5-6 progression (maybe because of my temperament). And truth is, these chord progressions have a way of re-surfacing every time we want to write a new piece of music. We could almost say they have become like our default chords. I struggled with this in my early days of songwriting. Every single song I wrote back then had a 4-5-6 chord progression. I had to intentionally start trying out new chords and it improved my song composition. Even if you don’t struggle with a particular set of chords like I do. You can still try out new chords in your song composition. It could just be changing one of the chords in a regular progression from minor to major. For instance, instead of playing the 6th chord in my 4-5-6 progression as minor, I could decide to play it as a major chord. Also, play around with bigger chords; don’t just limit your song composition to triads. This is why a basic knowledge in music theory is very essential for songwriters.

Be conscious of the length

This tip is especially necessary for composing in the 21st century, since we all know that the average attention span of people has drastically reduced.  As a songwriter, you need to put that into consideration as you compose these days. Don’t let the duration of your song be too long. Somewhere between 3 to 4 mins is a safe place to end your song.

Usually, as songwriters, when we write a new melody, we enjoy it so much that we could repeat the melody as many times as possible within the song. Don’t do that. It will only add to the length of your song. As much as possible, strip away every unnecessary repetition. If your listeners enjoy any part of the song, they will replay it over and over. So, don’t repeat it for them in your songwriting, let them do the replay while listening. Just keep the length of your song reasonable.

So, there you have it; part 3 of my series on song composition tips. This is the last week I will be posting link for my short survey on Depression among musicians. So, if you haven’t answered the survey questions yet, please do so. The results of the survey would be published so as to help other musicians. HERE IS A LINK TO ANSWER THE SURVEY QUESTIONS.  Thanks in advance.



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Song Composition Tips (2)- Create Dynamics

create dynamics

Last week, I shared two tips for song composition in the 21st century, but today I’m going to focus on creating dynamics in a song. I actually wanted to share two tips today, but by the time I finished with the first one, I realized it was long enough for an article of it’s own. So, here’s my third song composition tip for you.

Be Intentional About Creating Dynamics

This is a very essential tip, especially when writing/composing for this generation, considering the fact that over the years the attention span of most people has dropped. There should be a clear difference in melody between the verses and the chorus of your song. This change in melody creates dynamics in your song and keeps the listener’s attention till the end. It also makes the chorus (which captures the entire message of the song) to pop out.

Why should you create dynamics in your song?

Because songs without dynamics are boring. Usually, when I want to sing my daughter to sleep, I sing the chorus of a song over and over, without singing the verses or singing any other thing, and it works. And that’s because hearing the same melody over and over for a long time is boring and so it makes her sleep. This is why you need to be intentional in creating dynamics in your song, so that your song would not be boring to your listeners.

So how can I create dynamics in my songs?

You can create dynamics by choosing an entirely different set of chords for the chorus, to differentiate it from the verses. Say for instance, in the verses you had a 1-4-5-1 chord progression, you could make the chorus a 6-4-1-5 progression. You can also maintain the same chords as the verses, but then switch the progression. For instance, the 1-4-5-1 chord progression we used for the verses can be switched to 4-5-1-1 for the chorus. You will find out that just switching the progression of the chords (though still the same) creates a different feel when the chorus enters.

Can Producers help?

Yes, producers can also help their artists have dynamics in their songs, even if they didn’t create such originally while writing. All you have to do, as the producer, is use a different set of instruments for the chorus of the song. For instance, if you used the grand piano for the verses, you can try guitars for the chorus. Or you change the drum pattern or something. Just introduce something different for the ears of the listeners to keep their attention. That way, even though the melody is the same, there would still be a clear difference between the verses and the chorus.

Another thing you can do to create dynamics in your song is to have some sort of pre-chorus with a slightly different chord progression. That way, even if the chorus still has the same chords as the verses, it would still not be so boring.

One last thing, I would like you to go listen to a few of those songs you really enjoy. This time I want you to pay attention to the dynamics created in the song by either the songwriter or the producer. It would help you understand what I have shared with you today.

So, that’s it for today. For those of you reading my blog for the first time, I’m carrying out a short survey on ‘Depression Among Musicians’ and your inputs are needed. I hope the publish the results of the survey to help musicians who are going through depression. HERE IS A LINK TO ANSWER THE SURVEY QUESTIONS.  Thanks in advance.


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Tips For Song Composition in the 21st Century

Song composition

Last week, I explained song composition for you guys and we saw that it is an essential part of songwriting. Today, I’m going to share song composition tips for songwriters.

In the past couple of weeks, I listened to quite a number of new music from very talented musicians (both within and outside my city) and I noticed (actually, I’ve been noticing this for quite a while) that many of them (who are also songwriters themselves) did not quite do a good job in the area of songwriting. This is what inspired me to write on this topic. In today’s article, I’m just going to share two tips and hopefully, I’ll be sharing more in the future.

Choose a Compatible Genre

In many cases, this is the problem with some of the songs that don’t just sound right. You could hear that the voice texture of the singer is great, you could also hear that the production is clean, but then something’s not quite right. I know you’ve heard such songs before. It’s probably the genre. As a musician who writes your own music, discover the genres that are compatible with your voice and style of singing and write your songs in those genres. You’ll notice that your songs will automatically sound better when you write (compose) in the genres that are compatible with you.

Let me give you an example, there’s this musician I know that started with folk music (with just acoustics) and his songs sounded great. But then for some reason, he started doing ‘Afrobeats’ and honestly, when you listen to his recent songs, you’ll find that something just doesn’t sit well. So, please don’t just go with what’s trending with regards to genre; find out which works for you, even if it’s not trending, and stick with it.

Now, how do you discover compatible genres? It’s majorly by practice (though sometimes it could just be a musical instinct). You could also record simple demos of the same song written in various genres and ask your friends which of them they feel the impact of your voice most. This is a major reason why you need to learn at least one musical instrument as a songwriter, especially a harmonic instrument (I will probably write on this in another article). But for now, just know that you need to compose in a genre that’s compatible with your voice and your style of singing.

Choose chords that portray the emotion of the song

I’m quite sure you know every song has it’s own emotion/ mood. A song’s emotion could be happy, sad, exciting, frustrated, depressed, sorrowful, angry, hopeful, hopeless, encouraging, etc. You can’t be writing a song that is supposed to be used for celebration, for instance, and use sad/ moody chords in the composition. That just doesn’t fit. Usually, as musician, your musical instinct is enough for you to know the type of chords that don’t fit the message of your song. But there are also resources on the internet to help you if you need some help. Just ensure you choose chords that fit.


I would have added another tip but I just realized this article is getting too long, so I’m going to stop here. Please remember that my short survey on ‘Depression among musicians’ is still on. Your answers to the survey questions would go a long way in helping other musicians. There are just eight questions and it won’t take more than 5 minutes of your time. HERE’S THE LINK TO TAKE THE SURVEY.

Thank you in advance. Have a musical weekend ahead and keep making amazing music.