His reputation as “one of the greatest worshippers of our time” was officially confirmed when an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Music was conferred on him by the Ecclesiastical Bishops And Leaders Conference of Africa (affiliated to the Kayiwa International University, Uganda) in 2016. A recipient of numerous awards and accolades, he was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the maiden edition of the Ghana Music Awards – South Africa in 2018. This is no other than the veteran Gospel Musician Elder Dr. Emmanuel Kwasi Mireku (EM). As he celebrates four decades in music ministry, Pentecost Fire (PF) seized the opportunity to engage the renowned worship leader to discuss his life, his story and his music journey so far.
PF: Elder Dr. Kwasi Mireku, congratulations on your 40th anniversary in the music ministry.
EM: Thank you. All glory to God.
PF: Please, for the benefit of some of our readers who only know you as a prolific gospel artiste, briefly tell us who Kwasi Mireku is?
EM: I was born some 60 years ago in the month of January to Elder Emmanuel Kofi Mireku (Snr.) and Mrs. Comfort Asiedua Mirekua. We come from both Kwahu Obomeng and Kwahu Atibie in the Eastern Region, but I have lived all my life in Koforidua. I was born into The Church of Pentecost by virtue of the fact that my parents were members of the church. I am the first of 5 siblings. I had my basic education at the Presbyterian Elementary Schools and continued at the Koforidua Technical Institute. I am married to Philomina Mireku, with whom I have two children, Evelyn and James.
PF: Undoubtedly, you have had an amazing journey for the past 40 years. Please can you take us back to how it all started?
EM: It all began with a strange dream I had when I was 12 years old. In the dream, I saw an angel standing before me. In his hand was a guitar, which he placed on my laps and then asked me to play it. I obeyed and started playing the instrument. After a while, I realized that we were no longer in the room but at the famous Koforidua Jackson Park. When I woke up, I could not find the guitar nor the angel. I got scared and began to cry. I rushed to my father’s room to tell him about what had happened. My dad, who was then a Manager at the State Transport Corporation, said a prayer for me and told me not to worry for whatever the Lord has purposed for me would definitely come to pass. He then comforted me and left for work.
Four days later, I decided to create the instrument I saw in the dream. So I got some plywood for the body, and then used some wires we used for hunting grasscutter in those days, for the strings. With these items I constructed a 6-string guitar; although it did not sound too well, I enjoyed playing it. I began to practice the melody that the angel taught me in the dream. This melody has been with me to date. It is the interlude I play before every song ministration. After a while, I got better at playing the guitar. So I can say on record that no individual taught me how to play the guitar. I learnt it by divine inspiration.
Just when I began to excel in playing the instrument, I suffered a huge setback. A monkey, owned by a neighbour, broke out of its cage, climbed over the wall into our house and bit me [Shows the scar of the monkey’s bite]. Amazingly, after it bit me, the animal climbed over the wall and went straight into its cage as though it had done nothing. As a result, I became incapacitated and could not walk due to the severe pains I felt anytime I tried to stand on my feet. I was taken to the hospital on several occasions but all efforts by the medical officers yielded no results. So, for three months, I dragged myself on my buttocks from the bedroom to the sitting room, throughout the day. I could not do anything. In fact, after some time, I even began to feel more comfortable in my new state and gave up on ever walking again.
Our house was close to the Ohemaa Park at Betom (a suburb of Koforidua). Most churches usually organised rallies on the park. On one occasion, whilst I was in the room, I heard a church holding a rally. I heard the sound of the guitar, but I felt that the person playing the guitar was not doing it well, it did not sound like what the angel had taught me in the dream. So, I said to myself that if I could walk, I would go to the rally to play my guitar.
That night, the angel came to me physically. He was a giant. He held my hand, smiled and called me by my name: Emmanuel! He then helped me to stand on my feet. Suddenly I could stand on my own and walk again! So, I quickly took my guitar and rushed to the rally groungs to play my guitar.
Sometime later, The Church of Pentecost held a General Convention at Jackson Park. It was a big convention that was attended by all the ministers of the Church. During the convention, we hosted Apostle Josiah Coffie Quaye (of blessed memory) in our house. When he arrived, he heard me playing the guitar. He asked my father who was playing the guitar, because to him, it sounded divine. When my dad said it was his son, he insisted that they bring me along to the convention. The sound of the guitar was not too good, so I usually placed it on my mother’s aluminum bowl, which was used for washing clothes, in order to amplify the sound. So, I carried all my accoutrement and off we went.
At the convention, I saw Apostles Fred Stephen Safo (then Chairman of the Church), Fred Diabene Walker, A.T. Nartey, and Patrick Asiamah (then Prophet), among others (all of blessed memory now). I was called upon to minister to the glory of God. As I played the guitar, all the senior ministers surrounded me and began to pray for me. As they prayed, Prophet Patrick Asiamah began to prophesy. At that instance, I remembered that, in the dream I had, the angel sent me to Jackson Park. So I turned towards where the instrumentalists were seated and saw a guitar lying unattended. Apparently, the one who was to play it did not show up, so I took it and began to play it. Since then, I have been playing guitar in The Church of Pentecost.
Look at the tip of my fingers [shows his fingers], they are as hard as stones. I made up my mind that I would never be discouraged. I remember that, in the early days I did not receive the support that I needed. It was difficult to get the appropriate strings for my guitar, so I had to use the “hunting wires”. But I was never perturbed, because I purposed in my heart to do what God had given me to the best of my ability. Deep inside me, I always felt that, one day, my gift would be a great blessing to the Church and the nation as a whole. So, nothing discouraged me. I remember during one of the conventions, I had to play through the pains because the wires had created sores and blisters on my fingers. But I did it with joy, because I felt that God was counting on me to do it for the success of the convention. This was a very big convention with an attendance of over 20,000 people from all over West Africa. As the lead guitarist, any wrong note could affect the tempo of the service. So, I gave my full attention to it, regardless of the pains that I had to endure. By the grace of God, I have survived it all and never gave up on what the Lord had given me.
PF: How has the journey been so far?
EM: Well, it has not been easy, especially, when I first tried to reach out to the world with my music. I remember I did a song with Mama Eunice Johnson and her husband when they came to Koforidua back in the days. But before then, I also recorded my songs on the old tapes (C90). I gave the tape to someone I had great respect for, for his comments. However, instead of encouraging me, he totally wrote it off. According to him, my songs sounded like dirges (funeral songs). This was a big blow to me. But I was encouraged by the fact that it was God who has given me this gift, so I ignored his criticism and pressed on.
I also did some songs together with Prophet Appiah Adu and Apostle J. S. Gyimah (both retired ministers of the church) when our paths crossed in Koforidua. Apostle A. T. Nartey (of blessed memory), was of great help to me. He took me to Winneba to further my musical career. When I got there, I was asked to demonstrate my musical skills, but after I had done that, they refused to take me in. According to them, my gift was divine and that it would be a waste of time to admit me into the school considering how well I played. This was why Apostle Gyimah gave me the name “The Divine Instrumentalist.”
Due to my humility and how well I played the guitar, everywhere the ministers went, they took me along with them. In fact, Chairman F. S. Safo (of blessed memory) even wanted me to serve the Church at the Head Office, but Apostle A. T. Nartey (of blessed memory), who was then my Regional Head, declined and told my dad to tell the Chairman that “Kwasi is for the Nation and not just The Church of Pentecost” [Laughs] Fortunately, the Chairman understood what he said. [Laughs again]
Indeed, I have a long list of people who have supported my ministry. Some of those people who come to mind at the moment are Prophet Appiah Adu (Rtd.), Apostle J. S. Gyimah (Rtd.) and Prophet Jonathan Edmund Ameyaw (Rtd.). The former Chairman of the Church, Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah (Rtd.) has also been a great pillar of support to my ministry. He bought me the equipment for my music production. In fact, a lot of people, particularly ministers, have supported my music ministry over the years, but these ones I have mentioned were very instrumental.
Through God’s grace, about 38 years ago, I crossed paths with my producer, and we have been working together till date.
PF: Any memorable highlights in your music ministry?
EM: One experience that will never leave me is the first time I saw, with my naked eyes, how music could bring healing. This proved to me that, when God gives you a gift, He also gives you grace. I was at home when I my doorbell rang. I opened the door and saw a blind woman with a little boy. I asked who she was, and she said that she had been blind for so many years and begs on the street for food. According to her, she heard my song on the radio and was touched. She, therefore, came all the way to Koforidua to “see” me. I asked which of the songs she heard, and she sang “Sε Wo Fa N’asεm.” According to her, she had accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour and had always lived according to His will yet nothing has changed in her life.
So I asked her to follow me to my recording studio. My studio is a very special place for me, because it is there I “create” sacred music for the Lord. So I do not allow just anyone into that place because it is a sacred place. When we entered the studio, I sat her and her son down and I sat behind the piano and began to play the rhythm of the song. I then asked her to sing the song with me. All of a sudden, she fell off the seat and began rolling on the ground. After a while, she got up and began to shout that she had been healed and she could see! It was such an amazing experience. In fact, mostly, I hear people say that they had been healed from various ailments after listening to my songs, but it was the first time I observed it with my own eyes.
Unfortunately, for most people, after something like had happened, they would become proud and begin to revel in the praises of men instead of acknowledging the One who gave them the gift.
My music ministry has also led me to the Seat of Government. Imagine my surprise when the President of Ghana at the time, H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, called me on phone to inform me that the country wanted to honour me for the significant impact that I made on him personally and the nation through my music.
It was indeed an amazing moment at the International Conference Centre in Accra when he presented the award to me; hugged me and whispered that “Elder Mireku, I love you. Your music has been a great inspiration to me.” What he said made me very happy, but I could imagine hugging Jesus Christ the same way, with Him commending me for making good use of the gifts He gave to me. Glory! What singing there will be up there!
There have been a lot of memories, so many awards, accolades and recognition and we give all the glory to God.
PF: How many songs do you have to your credit?
EM: I have 56 albums with an average of 10 songs on each album. So approximately, I have more than 500 songs.
PF: Do you write your own songs?
EM: I do write the songs. My songs are usually my personal prayer especially during times of trials and hardships. For example: “Ka W’akoma To Wo Yεm Yεwͻ Onyame Otease )nsakra da”, “Yε Komm Ma No, Yε Dinn Ma No;” “M’asεm Yi, Hena Bεka Ama Me” and “Nyame Sumsum Hwie gu Y3n So, Hwie εnε nso o.”
I also received the songs “His Name Is Wonderful” and “Agyenkwa Wo Na Wo Yε Ohene Ampa” from my father, Elder Mireku Snr. There are other people like Prophet Appiah Adu, Mama Eunice Johnson, Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah, Elder Asamoah, Elder Omane, Osofomaame Mercy Akwante and Apostle Dr. Alfred Koduah, among others, who have also given me songs.
PF: Who has been the biggest influence in your ministry?
EM: I would say that, in those days, in the music circles, Mary Ghansah was someone who stood out for me, because, she had a special music gift. Another person I admire is Benny Hinn. These two people had a huge influence on my ministry, but aside them, there are so many ministers of The Church of Pentecost who have directly and indirectly influenced my music ministry.
PF: What is your definition of gospel music?
EM: For me, there are two groups of people in the gospel music industry. There are those who are singing God’s song because it is a call and there are others who claim to be singing God’s songs, but they sing just for money and fame. Gospel music is not just the lyrics of the song, but the character, beliefs,
or personality, etc, of the singer determines its influence and impact. The one who the Lord has called does not sing virtue and practice vice – that is not gospel music. That is just entertainment. So, gospel music is not determined by the number of times that “God” or “Jesus” is mentioned in the song, because the character of the singer plays a crucial role in it. Unlike secular music, a gospel musician is not separate from the song he or she sings, rather he or she is an embodiment of the song. Today, we hear that some people take their “gospel songs” to fetish priests before they release them to the public. Such a song can never be called a gospel music; it is a curse!
PF: What is your view of contemporary gospel music?
EM: Sometimes I hear some gospel songs and I ask myself “is this really a gospel song?” The major problem with the gospel industry now is that, some of us, gospel musicians, do not wait on the Lord. Some of us have either lost or do not have any connection with the One we claim to be singing about. Again, there is unnecessary competition among some of us. So, in a nutshell, some “gospel musicians” are just in the industry for entertainment and money. As song ministers of the gospel, we ought to spend time to receive from the Lord. We must realise that, Gospel music is not just about putting words together so that they will sound well in people’s ears.
PF: How many instruments do you play? Is knowing how to play a musical instrument crucial to becoming a good musician?
EM: I play the guitar, piano and the accordion. In fact, my father also plays the accordion very well. However, you do not necessarily need to know how to play any musical instrument before you become a good musician, because music is a gift. If the Lord has given that gift to you then it does not matter whether or not you play an instrument. Rather, you need to work on whatever the Lord has given to you and do it to the best of your ability.
PF: What are some of the things that make one a great worshipper of God or a great gospel musician?
EM: I will reiterate that first of all you must be called by God to do that. To sustain the divine gift and grow it, you must commit to reading and studying the Word, and live a holy life. Also, to ensure longevity in the industry, eschew any form of pride, arrogance and also choose your associates (friends) carefully.
PF: How do you prepare for events?
EM: I usually have my quiet time. I spend a lot of time in prayer. I read the Bible and reflect on what I have read. I try not to repeat something I did in previous events, rather I always want to have something fresh to offer in every ministration.
PF: You have organized concerts in Koforidua, Kumasi and Accra to mark your 40th Anniversary. Why the concerts and what were you hoping to achieve?
EM: I was in the house one morning, when a gentleman known as Elder Peter Terkper of Redco District in the Madina Area of The Church of Pentecost, came to tell me that the Lord had laid it on his heart to celebrate me and to hold three thanksgiving concerts to mark my 40th anniversary in music ministry. In fact, I was very surprised. I was stunned, so I took him to Apostle Eric Nyamekye, who was then the Koforidua Area Head. We prayed over the vision and asked that the will of God be done.
So Elder Terkper provided the logistics for the concerts. He, however, teamed up with Elder Joseph Mmroko of PIWC-Kokomlemle to organise the one in Accra. We also had support from some benevolent individuals and other corporate bodies who expressed willingness to be part of the project. As you observed, all concerts were very successful, particularly the that took place in Accra, which is now on record to be the highest gathering recorded at the Independence Square. To God be the Glory! I would also take this opportunity to thank Elders Terpker and Mmroko, they have both been a great blessing to me and my family.
PF: Can you tell us something about your better half? How instrumental has she been to your ministry so far?
EM: My wife, Philomina, has been a great helper to me in my music ministry. She has always stood by me, especially at the initial stages when things were very difficult for me financially. In fact, we even did some of the songs like “Me hwε Nea W’ayε a, Wosε Ayeyi” and “Mo Yesu Mo” together. In others, she was part of my backing vocalists.
PF: With your busy schedule, how do you make time for your family?
EM: Thankfully, I have never really had a challenge in balancing work with family life. God made things in such a way that we never had any challenges. My wife did well in taking care of our two children when I was not around. Right after tertiary education, my daughter, Evelyn, gained a full scholarship to pursue a doctorate degree in Germany. Right after that, she got married. James, on the other hand, is already a man and is currently at the All Nations University at Koforidua. So, for now, it is much flexible, but we always do well to get in touch wherever we may be. James, for instance, usually goes with me to programmes when he is available. He is very good at the piano. In fact, he plays it better than I do. [Laughs]
PF: How do you combine your music ministry with your responsibilities as an Elder of The Church of Pentecost?
EM: Well, I fellowship at Koforidua Central Tabernacle, but they hardly see me because I am always on the move [Laughs]. Due to the nature of my ministry, I am unable to attend Church services always. The good thing is that they understand that I am not a gift for them alone, or The Church of Pentecost, but the country at large, so they even support me with their prayers. That said, wherever I go, I conduct myself well as an ordained Elder of the Church.
PF: What do you do during your free time? Any hobbies?
EM: I enjoy football. I am a fan of Asante Kotoko but lately I hardly watch football. But most times I like to watch world news.
PF: How did it feel when an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Music was conferred on you?
EM: Interestingly, it took the officials of the Ecclesiastical Bishops And Leaders Conference of Africa three months to get in touch with me. I had no knowledge that they were looking for me. Apparently, they heard that there was someone in Ghana whose music could cause healing. So they came from Uganda all the way to Ghana looking for me. After doing some research on my music to confirm what they had heard, they located my home and sent me an official letter about what they had planned to do. This is all the doing of the Lord, because I knew the stress my daughter Evelyn went through to have a “Dr.” attached to her name, and I received it on a silver platter [Laughs].
PF: Would you say your songs have significantly impacted the worship life of The Church of Pentecost and the entire Christian community as a whole?
EM: Yes, I believe so. This is because some of the songs the Lord gave me are very prominent in the worship of The Church of Pentecost. Also, as I said earlier, some people in the Church who received songs by divine inspiration and do not have the voice to sing them gave some to me to sing for the benefit of the Church and the Kingdom of God. I also believe that it has significantly impacted the nation in general and that was why I was presented a National Award in 2008 by President John Agyekum Kufuor. All these affirm that indeed my songs have contributed to drawing the members of The Church of Pentecost and Ghanaians in general, closer to God.
PF: What is your advice to the youth, especially those who want to pursue music?
EM: The Lord can cause rocks to worship Him, so when He gives you a music gift, learn to play a musical instrument, or do both. You must count yourself privileged for Him to have considered you worthy to serve Him with this gift. So, whatever your music gift is, do it well, do not boast or behave as though you are indispensable.
I will advise them to be humble, teachable and never be motivated by money. When you follow money, it would lead you to places that you ought not to go. The truth is there are some “platforms” that you ought not to stand on and minister, because, although you might earn a lot of money, you will lose the gift that the Lord has given to you.
The music ministry is does not yield immediate results. I have never pursued money. I have never ministered with money in mind. Back in the days, we used to play for the Church, yet we were not paid for our services. Even to this day, I am not motivated by money. In fact, I do not even have a written contract with my producer, but we have worked successfully for the past 38 years, and God has blessed us through various avenues. It is amazing how good the Lord has been to us. Even the good health I am enjoying at this age, shows that I am blessed. People say Elder Mireku is always looking young, it is all part of the goodness of the Lord. These are the physical blessings. What happened at “Adom Praiz 2018” and the unprecedented turnout that was recorded at the Elder Mireku @ 40 Concert at the Independence Square, and those who have been healed of various ailments and other priceless testimonies, are all indications of how good the Lord has been to me. So, it is never about money, it is a divine call; a ministry, once you get that, you will never rely on earthly things, but you will always rely on the Lord who is the source of your gift.
PF: Please, what are your final words?
EM: Our lives are governed by time. With each passing day, we are getting nearer to our end. As human beings, we must never lose sight of the fact that we are not going to be here forever. So we must take very good care of whatever the Lord has given to us. We must do it to the best of our abilities, and the Lord will surely reward us.
PF: Elder Dr. Kwasi Mireku, we are very grateful for your time.
EM: You are most welcome. and they are priceless and they are priceless