Nathaniel Bassey is a gospel artiste, born in Lagos in 1978. He is popularly known for his song, “Imela”, “Onise Iyanu” and “Olowogbogboro”.
He is the brain behind the #HallelujahChallenge, where he worships God for an hour, from 12:00 mid-night to 1:00 am. He streams this event on his Instagram page and invites others to join him. In less than a month, the event had over 600,000 viewers. The HallelujahChallenge for 2020 was held from 4 to 24 February.
Bassey started his musical career in the church where he joined the Rhodes Orchestra and played the Trumpet for two years. Bassey was just a trumpeter until he composed a song during the visit to Stella Obasanjo, the late wife of a former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2018, Bassey was one of the leading artistes at Nigeria’s biggest Christian gathering, The Experience.
Few days back, he spoke with popular Lagos Pastor, Tony Rapu, on Instagram live chat and he revealed much about his life and career.
Everyone calls you Nathaniel Blow, how did you get that?
I served in the City of David for a long time (for over 10 years). I served as a trumpet player to my late mentor, Pastor Esko, and he asked us to put together a blast called Trumpet Blast. We would normally close out service with a trumpet blast. He would read the benediction and when he was done, he would say to me Nathaniel Blow and I would just sound the trumpet and that happened for years. People would call me Nathaniel Blow and I thought it was a very prophetic name to hold and there was no need to re-invent the wheel. So, my e-mail is Nathaniel Blow. My Instagram rage is Nathaniel Blow. My Twitter handle is Nathaniel Blow, so I think there is something prophetic about the name, so every time they call me I just have to blow.
Were you in the old Freedom Hall, at all?
No, I joined just immediately City of David started at Lagoon.
Tell us about Halleluyah Challenge: How did you come into it and what happened to make you phenomenon in the world?
Years ago, before Pastor Eskor died, he began a series on Halleluya. He did an extended study on Halleluya, that Halleluya was actually a lifestyle. It was a very interesting study. We would even dress like it literally. Halleluyah means to be foolish before God, and that was years ago. Years came and gone, I went to Isreal in 2017. I normally go to Isreal with some friends every year. We usually worship there morning and night for about 7 to 8 days and then we go on-site visit (tour).
One of those nights, a friend of mine began to prophesy that God was going to move mightily in our lives. Pastor Banjo said God was going to do a new thing, and that the spirit of God was about to change the face of the earth, and then we came back. I remembered that you have to work with every prophetic word; you don’t just let it pass by. So I came back around April and I decided I would breakthrough men. So I organised what I call a Tongue Challenge and I said who was interested to join me and we did that for a couple of hours and that ran for like a month. So, we sometimes had 400-700 people who would join and the very last night, I said why didn’t we gather somewhere in Lekki and pray and worship in spirit, and people came, it was massive. Just as I was celebrating, that we had finished, I just heard the Lord saying. “The whole of June 2017, based on Acts-16, 25 to 26, at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to Lord, and there was an earthquake and this came as a very strong word and then I announced Halleluya night from Tongue Challenge.
The first night, I was alone in my house, I was dressed casually in white singlet and the light was off and I began to praise and worship God and people started joining me. I had like 2,000 people joining me and the next day would be 7,000 and then 13,000, 15,000.
Then I had a few friends who asked me if they could come over to join me and bring some instruments like keyboards and so on, and that was how it exploded. The rest is history.
I listened to a message you released at a point about the difficulties you went through like you wanted to travel and you couldn’t get a visa, but here you are today. What message could you give to those who are waiting for God to give them big break?
I always use the analogy of a Cedar tree. A cedar tree is a very interesting tree. If you plant a mango tree beside a cedar, free, in a few weeks or months, you will see the signs of growth and in about a year you should be able to harvest. But it would take a cedar tree time to go down and find its roots.
That is my simple analogy. And when people see mango tree, it would be good for example because it would quickly bring fruits, while the cedar tree takes longer time to even let its roots go down and people would be asking the cedar tree “what is going on”?
But the reality is, the lifespan of a mango tree is just very short, but that’s not the case of cedar tree. Some researchers have discovered that some of the cedar trees that existed during the time of Jesus Christ time still exist.
When a cedar tree begins to grow, it grows non-stop, and it uses are numerous. But I thank God because I was able to accept those process. There were times I thought I was ready and my pastor would say, “yes you are gifted, you are anointed but there is no character yet. I came in a season where I enjoyed the process.
There was a time the church said it’s time to travel and I didn’t want to travel again because I was already enjoying the presence of God. I would just stay at home worshipping and weeping. My sister didn’t understand what happened. All these time, I didn’t know what was happening, except a particular day, I was at home playing the piano and I was just weeping before the Lord and I felt something like a blanket, resting on my head at No 12, Obiwunmi Street, Off Fola Agoro, Somolu, Lagos. It rested on my head and I know it was holy. I jumped out of the room and ran away. Later that evening, I was driving to the church and between CMS and Bonny Camp (I was driving in my KIA car) and my 3310 Nokia phone rang and then I picked it up, a man of God from the other side, who had never called before said to me Nathaniel: The Hand of God is upon you from today, conduct yourself accordingly. From then on I began to chase the Lord.
I just kept serving in the church. I would work with the children and I would put together a team. I began to do things outside my job description just to be busy. I would call my friend to pray night after night. So, we just had this fire burning.
And then Pastor Eskos left and I had to move to another parish where I was a music director and then the Pastor-in-Charge called me that I want you to lead the youth church, and just like that the song was born out of prayers like “Onise Iyanu”. When I prayed in the spirit I would hear Onise Iyanu and I would ask what does that means and I turned to an usher to tell me the meaning of Onise Iyanu because I don’t speak Yoruba. Olowogbogboro was during the Halleluya Challenge. Immediately, I look into a guy, I heard something like Olowogbogboro in the spirit. I could not pronounce it and I said it like that and people started typing Olowogbogboro and that was how the phrase just went viral.