I woke up on Sunday, the 21st of June 2009- Fathers’ Day- with great expectation and knowing that in expecting too much from others or a situation, one is setting himself up for deep disappointments when they are not realized. I knew the risks but still left my home expectant. There was this deep longing to make it to this worship meeting from the first day my eyes caught a glimpse of the poster announcing the ”Intense Worship with Cobhams Asuquo” @ Transcorp Hilton Abuja to be hosted by the Throne Room Parish of RCCG.
Hundreds of us were crammed into Lagos Hall this Sunday morning and extra chairs were brought in to take up more spaces, and the foyer outside the hall took care of the overflow of human heads and hearts. Just before the service kicked off, I had reason to receive an important call outside the hall. Behold there was Cobhams exchanging banters with his band and team members. His acoustik guitarist friend and fellow musician, Gbolahan was kind enough to introduce me to Cobhams and we pumped each other’s hands in a warm handshake. ‘Thank you brother Felix’, he offered as I made my way back to the hall.
No sooner, he was ushered into the hall with his worship team and after humbly acknowledging the kind compliments and introduction by ‘Auntie Dayo’ of DOXA Digital (Abuja’s and one of Nigeria’s foremost Sound Engineering and Events Company) he set out for the business of worship. His band comprised of two female backup singers/vocalists, two acoustic guitarists, a bass guitarist, his violinist and drummer; and he sat behind the piano with the microphone adjusted to face his mouth. And two laptops for cueing in the songs in sequence completed his team!
He began with a charge; that he wouldn’t have us do anything mechanically in God’s presence like it’s often the case in some Christian gathering. He wanted us to be deliberate because he ”wanted heaven here” and at the end of the intense worship experience we had corporately, any sincere person would attest that we truly experienced the beautiful atmosphere of heaven in that crammed hall.
His 1st song and call to worship was ‘Holy Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty’, followed by ‘Make Our Hearts Your Dwelling Home’. The 3rd song titled ‘My Soul Thirsts for You” was written by him in 2005. He said it was a period when he thirsted desperately for God and a time when his spirit literally was patched like when one who has been marooned in a desert, hedged all around by sand dunes with no oasis in sight. Where there’s no water, the throat becomes famished and parched, and that was the feeling he had that period; He was in need of a touch from God!
At that time, a lot of things had gone awry in his life, and his car had this funny stench that made him upset. But as he prodded further, he realized that the sense of discontentment he was experiencing was because his soul was thirsty and longed for God desperately. So he wrote this song which should be the heart cry of every true worshipper. How else would you gauge the heart of the writer of a song whose lyrics are loaded with some heart-stirring words like?
“Like the grasses need the rain
Like the desert needs the rain
Like the suckling child needs the milk
Like a barren woman needs a child
Hear my prayer.
You’re my shelter, my helper
You hold my anchor
Let me hide in you forever
My soul thirsts for you…”
Hands were lifted. Souls were stirred. Hearts of many cried as his soulful voice resonated in worship to God with reckless abandon. As we transited to the 4th song, he told us how he loved the feeling of sound so much and that he used to put his head in between the two speakers of his deck while in secondary school to enjoy and feel the stereo/surround effect of the sounds from the speakers.
He had wanted to play his acoustic guitar as the 5th song was cued in, which was popularized by Anthony Evans and Women of Faith whose chorus celebrates Jesus as the Wonderful Rescuer of the souls of men. It was written at a time when he just couldn’t get by in life and had to learn to lay down his burdens at the foot of the cross. It’s about trading our ashes for God’s beauty. He likened God to the One who has a bucket of water at the sidelines of the football pitch of life whom we should run to when tired to have a cup of water to soothe our thirst.
But once we gulp the cup however, we just run off and forget that He still has a bucket-full of water waiting for us to come back now and again to refresh our souls. He urged us to recognize that we can’t achieve anything or labor to build a house without the help of God. And did he not tell us to not wrestle with God to save us from the dislocated hip experience and resultant limping gait that Jacob suffered for wrestling with God?
The 6th song was written by a friend of his titled ‘Jesus the Son of God, I believe in You” and he yet again regaled us with another true-life story. It was a period in his life when according him, he was ‘Poor, Broke and Homeless” and needed a breakthrough for he had no dime then and used to sleep on the bare floor of hundreds of studios across Lagos. Then he would day-dream about having a different kind of studio from the ones he worked and slept in which were very uncomfortable and mediocre. But he was poor and broke! He needed not just to sing or preach about faith but truly believe in God and live the life of faith.
He related how as a kid in the army barracks where he grew up, he was playing with a Muslim friend, Saidi , who had shouted “Jesus” when the latter fell off a tree. That incident made him reckon that we often grow up not realizing the power we have access to in the name of Jesus. It was the name of Jesus that the blind Bartimeaus called on that led to his receiving his sight and made him whole. As for him (Cobhams) he hinted that he was already whole and this was not saying it in a euphemical sense! He had achieved a lot by exercising faith in the name of Jesus.
While doing some recordings sometime ago in Paris (I guess Asa’s), he got a call from a friend in Lagos that the space for the dream studio he had always wanted to acquire was now available. Problem was that he had no dime to pay the landlord but somehow he believed God will sort him out. Upon his return to Nigeria, he learnt about a job to produce a commercial for a very big brand in Nigeria. Because the figure being offered was too big and beyond his financial experience, he felt he had already lost it even before executing it.
After receiving this fat cheque, he paid the landlord for his studio but “waited for him to say the cheque had bounced” which never happened. That was one experience that took his faith to a notch higher and since then, he had exercised faith to do much more than he had ever done before. According to him, faith is like a habit that we develop. Like when a man slaps a woman once, it becomes easier to do it a second time till it becomes a bad habit.
Faith he said is developed same way as we exercise fear till it becomes as constant as a lunar cycle. E talked about his mom who had believed that her son, Cobhams though blind, was going to get the best of education even when she didn’t know how nor had the means. And in exercising her faith, she has become one of the happiest moms on earth today for her seemingly ‘blind son’ has become a blessing to millions all over the world!
This song was delivered with so much passion as Cobhams sang, “Jesus the son of God, I believe in you. In my darkest hour, you became my light. With your healing arms, you redeemed my sight. And Jesus the son of God, I believe in you.” He became ecstatic and swayed side to side when he came to his most favorite refrain when his voice bellowed; “I believe, yes Lord, I believe, you’re the son of God”. He called Jesus his Hebrew name, ‘Yeshua”; our Re
deemer, Savior and Counselor!
The 7th song was about righteousness which he defines simply as doing right like obeying traffic laws, not being a litter box and being good and law abiding citizens. He affirmed that Nigerians are a blessed people. We’re all left in stitches when he joked that no English word can correctly translate the word blessing like the Yoruba word for blessing; ‘Ibukun’. To him you have to ‘ibu’ it till its ‘kun’. and the hall resonated with laughter as he tried to translate blessing from English to Yoruba.
He made us realise how seemingly ordinary things like a plate of beans and dodo or a cup of cold water can evoke extra-ordinary feelings of pleasure that he sometimes feels like crying. The song titled ‘The World of Ordinary People, living the way God wants it” eulogized the simple things of life that produce extraordinary things. Such ordinary things like a baby drooling on your lovely shirt. It’s about ordinary people like David, Job etc who did extraordinary things. Like an ordinary dream or decision (yes or no) we make today creating extraordinary things tomorrow. Just like every oak tree grows from a small mustard seed. He spoke about family life and that no ordinary father will come back home after 3am, after hanging out with guys.
The 8th song was accompanied by his violinist Ernest and he had written it when he lost a dear friend and had tried to console a mutual friend who seemed so inconsolable then. He had exhorted his friend to know that whatever happens, God is still good. But his friend retorted and cried, ‘But it is difficult.” to believe that God is good when things go bad. But this is a lesson Cobhams had come to learn over the years from his personal experience as one who’s been blind. He had tried to achieve a lot of things by sheer hard work and all, but he had come to a point where he said ‘I will worship God, regardless.” even when things don’t come through as expected.
He then took us through a medley of two popular songs of worship: ‘You’re all I Want’, and ‘This is the Air I breathe’ followed by ‘Glorious Deliverer” which had an acoustic feel and as he delivered this song, streaks of tears glistened his eyes and trekked out of the corners of his eyes. It was as though the tear sacs had become too engorged that they just had to burst and let go off the tears of worship from a heart that truly loves God passionately. His voice reverberated as he sang this song:
Almighty God, Ancient of Days.
Strong and Mighty God
Bright morning star, beautiful beyond compare
Perfect in all your ways
You’re worthy of my praise
I worship you Lord in the beauty of your holiness
In the splendor of your majesty
In the frailty of your son, your salvation for us was done
You’re God; you’re bigger than what they say you are,
You’re God, far more beautiful than they say you are,
At this point we had reached a crescendo in this intense worship experience and Cobhams began to speak passionately about God like a TV evangelist. Having grown up as a Catholic, he had learned to recite prayers like ‘Our Father’, ‘Hail Mary’ etc and it was easy thinking about other things while reciting these prayers. So when he stepped into a charged atmosphere where spirit-filled believers worshipped he felt detached and cut-off. As a skeptic He even felt embarrassed when people spoke in tongues or ‘fell’ under the anointing.
He talked about having a deep experience with God which Jesus offers anyone that invites Him into their hearts. To him, one might not be able to know all there is about God, but that doesn’t make the experience of God something that is far-fetched. His voice quaked as he announced it to our hearing that ‘God is real” and that ‘Life outside of Jesus Christ is not worth living at all”.
He became apologetic when he turned his attention to those who may doubt the veracity of his claims about God. They might see him as stupid, mentally-deranged or plain serious. He was of the view that it’s ok to be ‘cool’ and be ‘hip’ and not care about God. But he re-echoed Jesus’ warning that anyone who denies the Son of God before men, will receive same treatment by Jesus on the last day at the Judgment seat of God.
Gradually a number of people started making their way to answer the altar call, while Cobhams sang about ‘ a fountain that washes away our sins’, and another song that evokes the picture of Jesus standing by and knocking at the door of our heart, seeking to be let in, and that we should not let Him walk away. One of the host pastors joined Cobhams to urge people who want to give their lives to Christ to come to the altar, and many more did.
At this point, I felt I’ve had a truly intense worship experience and I stood up to leave for an important assignment. As I pondered over the experience, I realized that much as I love to worship God in church, Cobhams has made me realize once more that worship is more of a lifestyle. The songs he wrote were offspring of the experiences he’d had with God and I wish we have more psalmists like him in the Nigerian church that are not entertainment driven who would take us through corporate worship into God’s very presence.
The picture of Cobhams worshipping, singing and playing behind the piano reminds me of my dear friend and psalmist, Segun Gilbert (London-based) whom I’ve long told to organize worship meetings like this.and I trust he’ll someday release a worship album for the good of worship-starved believers like us. And I believe RCCG Throne Room Parish recorded this live-worship and would in due course make the CDs and DVDs available to the wider community of believers.
If anyone is in doubt that Cobhams is a God-chaser and Jesus-freak, let me share an excerpt from an interview he earlier granted Hip-Hop World Magazine where he said; “There’s hardly a thing I do. I wake up and I say, God you know what? This is the deal: I don’t know how this is going to happen but it’s your name out there more than mine. Some people say mine but the big picture is your name. So let’s save the situation again. He always does. So quite frankly, I’m not sure I have anything spectacular. I just allow myself to be used and I’m happy.” He says he’s done nothing spectacular yet he boasts of owning world-class studio – camp.com.ng- and remains one of Nigeria’s greatest producer, song writer and singer whose fame is global.