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‘I wanted to be a popstar'

Man on a mision: Muyiwa and his group Riversongz will perform at Hammersmith Apollo this week

MUYIWA IS on track to become the first gospel singer to sell out Hammersmith Apollo in over 30 years. The hugely successful singer and his gospel troupe Riversongz are on their All Around The World concert tour and will be playing the iconic London venue on June 23.

With gospel music, Muyiwa had garnered many hits and topped the charts with his best-selling album Declaring His Love, which was number one in the HMV Blues and Soul chart for five consecutive months. But the singer admits that he initially wanted to be a pop star.

“I did a music degree at Westminster University and when I finished, I worked for Channel 4 for a while and then at Sony, looking after artists,” recalls the 42-year-old. “But I stopped so I could record my own stuff and what I wanted to do was pop music.”

This desire was to be brief, with the singer eventually succumbing to his true mission in life – spreading the word of God.“

After a long and painful journey, I responded to my cause and the reason for my being. My calling was to always remind people that there is hope. Whatever you’re going through, there’s still someone who loves you and that’s Jesus.”

Muyiwa spent his early years in Nigeria until his parents sent him to London for a better education. In the UK, he lived with a series of friends and family members and he described this time as one of the hardest periods in his life.

Though he was involved in the church when he came to the UK, he admits that he once lost his way entirely.

“There was a time when someone came to me with a scheme to defraud a bank. I was only about 19-years-old and I was broke – I mean really poor and the honest truth is that it looked like a great idea. But somehow it just didn’t work, and I’m grateful to God that it didn’t, because who knows where I would have ended up?”

But the singer soon discovered that spreading the word of God is not always an easy task. With the emergence of mega-churches that put on concerts for free, the gospel performer is finding it increasingly hard to compete.

“The dynamics to performing have changed a great deal. Typically, you have promoters who put on events and people pay to go to the events. Now, you have mega-churches that have the muscle and they bring in the big-name artists that people can go to see for free. Over the years, we’ve had to work hard at giving people a reason to go the extra mile with their money.”

Another barrier to spreading the gospel comes from closer to home for the singer, who has witnessed the religious conflicts between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Muyiwa’s Muslim father converted to Christianity but was assassinated in 1996 after receiving death threats from other Muslims who resented his conversion.

“Part of my journey has been so painful. It recently hit me that I had only spent 10 years of my life with my dad. My heart sank when I thought about it. My father grew up in a Muslim home; he came to the Christian faith through my mum, so I’m very familiar with how we can live side by side as neighbours.

The situation in Nigeria is strange and bad because people are getting killed, but it’s not the total story of Nigeria – it’s only the bit that we get to see on the news. We are actually people, who love and live side by side, and one of the things that destroys sectarianism and hatred is people living as one. We can’t allow the minority to overtake us.”

4Muyiwa & Riversongz will perform at Hammersmith Apollo on June 23. For more information visit

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