We had the good fortune of connecting with Desmond Ikegwuonu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Desmond, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
For me it is the willingness and readiness to learn, unlearn, and relearn all that is needed for me to truly be. I have continued to discover that the things that often impede growth and hamper my true artistic expression have been ideologies framed to devalue and diminish rather than to highlight and elevate. There is so much I have to unlearn as I continue on this journey called “becoming.” [Didn’t mean to steal Michelle Obama’s book title but it certainly encapsulates what I am trying to say]
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I really consider myself an eclectic artist that shares through sound, stories and writings, the beauty that continues to captivate and engage my imagination. Let me explain a little bit about why I say my art is eclectic. I remember conducting the Fort Worth Symphony in the premiere of my orchestral composition titled “Chukwudube — God’s Leading” and afterwards, returning to church where I was serving in Dallas, Texas to lead the church in African praise and worship. I was also performing Jazz with another ensemble around the same time. For me there is no division between what I do before an orchestra or being immersed in the rich layers of my African music or even the producing contemporary worship music, writing classical music, or jazz or pop. All of these “genres” for me, are interconnected and they have all been a part of my journey from Nigeria. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. “Omo Naija nimi — I am a Nigerian.” Particularly of the Igbo tribe. Back to what I was saying. It is easy for me to navigate these contrasting musical worlds because I am happily existing. In fact, I really do not like being boxed into categories or preconceived ideas of what others think I should be. My sound and art are thoroughly a reflections of who I am first from my roots as an African and then it is informed by the my continued exposure to the world around. In music, it feels like sometimes I am taking a walk with the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, at another time, it’s with German composer, Johanne Sebastian Bach, at another time with the afrobeat king Fela Kuti. Sometimes it could be with Gospel greats like Fred Hammond or Israel Houghton, or journeying with the writings of Cheikh Anta Diop, Augustine, Tertullian, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The journey so far has required a lot of deconstruction and reconstruction. By deconstruction, I mean decolonization and the many ways in which the African story has been tainted with bias which limits the imagination and one’s ability to fully be within their own cultural voice. Deconstruction is transcending the hegemonic limitations imposed by Eurocentrism or other forms of ethnocentric undoing towards people of color. For me, deconstruction involves unlearning all of the flawed narratives and trappings aimed at delegitimizing my mother tongue and cultural voice. When history for too long has been predominated by the stories of those who want to discredit and devalue another culture, one has a lot of work to do rewriting flawed stories that have been normalized but also to invite their own people to see the beauty and value in who they are. This is where reconstruction comes in and this is happening through my art, through my writings, lectures and all the avenues that are at my disposal. Truly, it’s challenging but it is also rewarding. The great Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe said, “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Therein lies the reason why we must tell our stories. My art and sound are a way to invite people to enjoy the riches of my unique story and to also chronicle the many ways I am captivated by divine goodness. I desire to share in as many wonderful ways as possible the richness I continue to experience of God’s goodness as it flows from through all the streams that gives expression to my artistic voice while graciously inviting people to journey into transcendence. I hope that my gift and art continues to invite people to journey into divine goodness that will transform the world. Currently, I serve as a professor of music at Cornerstone University. In addition, I and my team, PFC Worship have been continually releasing worship music for the local and global community. PFC Worship is the musical arm of Praise Fellowship Church in Houston Texas.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I will certainly take them to River Oaks. YES! The restaurants, movies, outdoorsy events and so many other wonderful places to check out along that area.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Truly, my journey has been a product of so many catalysts and they exist in categories, who have inspired and continue to support and encourage me. As the saying goes, charity begins at home, so I am very thankful first for my beautiful wife, and family. Also, for many of the colleagues, artists, mentors, and professors I have studied with over the years who have ignited in me the desire to find my own voice uniquely. I am also deeply grateful for the many pastors and ministers who have been a blessing to me along this journey. Particularly in this season, my pastor at PFC. My journey continues to evolve beautifully because of the richness of voices that inspire me to authentically share my craft with the local and global community. So, my category of inspiration could look somewhat like this: family, friends, pastors, ministers, professors, mentors, and artists.
Website: www. desmondikegwuonu.com