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Upclose: “The Hardest Decision Of My Life” – How Kaduna Born Gospel Singer Cyril Strings Sacrificed Ambition For God’s Call

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Babu Iyaka Singer Cyril Strings On Southern Kaduna And Music Ministry

“Babu Iyaka” Gospel singer Cyril Strings speaks on his hardest decision in life, leading to his music ministry and Southern Kaduna genocide

Amid the chaotic political terrain and genocide that seems to have become the order of the day in Northern Nigeria, God is raising an army committed to the commission.

The seriousness of the surrounding circumstance has stirred up an urgency in then such that these ones are sold out to their assignment without a variation nor shadow of turning.

They are rising in the word, healing, deliverance and many more ministries with a passion for revival. The music ministry is not left out and amongst these young and vibrant ministers from the north is Yohanna Cyril Yayock, otherwise known as Cyril Strings.

The multi-talented instrumentalist and singer who is a graduate of Physics from Amadu Bello University, Zaria, recently released his wavemaking single titled “Babu Iyaka.” That single won him the award for the SelahAfrik Next Rated Gospel Artiste July Edition.

In this exclusive chat with Alex Amos, Cyril Strings reveals the joy of doing what he loves, his call into music ministry and proffer solutions to the violence in the northern part of Nigeria.

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SelahAfrik: Can we get to meet Cyril Strings?

Cyril Strings: My name is Yohanna Cyril Yayock and I go by the stage nomenclature Cyril Strings. I was born and brought up in Kachia, Kaduna state of Nigeria.  I grew up in a family of seven (I am the 5th) under the guidance of my parents; Mr & Mrs Yohanna G. Danfulani

I attended St.Johns Schools (Primary and Secondary) Kachia, a Catholic School which was and is still the best among schools in the local government surrounding Kachia. The school is managed by a white Irish Priest, Very Rev. Fr. John Haverty (now late since August 2019). Fr. Havery’s aim isn’t to make profit out of the School system, but to help educate the common Nigerian. By God’s grace I have a BSc. Ed degree in Physics and currently awaiting the NYSC service year.

SelahAfrik: What was growing up in Kachia, Kaduna like for you?

Cyril Strings: Growing up, I was guided in such a way that going out of our home without permission attracts a punishment. As such, my life was a circle – from home to school, church or farm and back home… period. The parental guidance I got from home has granted me a lot of privileges as I was perceived disciplined and trustworthy. That opened up doors for leadership responsibilities. I was elected class monitor in my SS 2, was made Associate Editor of the School’s press club in SS 1, and the Editor in Chief at the same time. Senior Prefect of the prestigious St.John’s Secondary School in my final session. While still in St. John’s, I specifically represented the school in an Essay Competition on the topic “Challenges faced by Christian Youth” and by the Grace of God, I emerged in the fourth position. Nationally, I received lots of gifts amongst which was a cash prize I used to pay for my WAEC fees. I was glad to take that bbburden off my parents.

SelahAfrik: How did music started for you? 

Cyril Strings: The beginning of my music life is still a mystery, especially how I started. I only remember being at the Choir stand where the drums are, to play the Congas alongside a senior who could play better. The fact that my elder sister was in the St.John’s Catholic Church Choir was a very good model for me to imbibe too. I can also remember that when I was in primary 5, I occasionally collect the keys to the Church’s instrument store so that I could go to rehearse what I hear good drummers play. So, I was first a drummer, though not so professional at it now.

SelahAfrik: Tell us about your love for the guitar

Cyril Strings: Because of the synchrony between the drums and the Bass guitar, I got interested in playing the guitar too. I first tried to figure out how to play before learning from different guitarists around. I was persistent, listening and trying to play sounds I’ve heard guitarists play while I drummed. My desire and passion to be an excellent guitarist continued and still burns today.

An opportune moment came when the church keyboardist got a job outside Kaduna and had to leave. Unfortunately, he was the only one we had. I committed a lot of time on the keyboard, related and applied the basic concepts of music I learnt on the guitar to the keyboard and behold, I could help the choir and the band out… I am only but an auxiliary keyboardist still.

I can’t but mention Mr. Andrew Bulus Shabanyan whom I so much respect and honour. He was the Church’s choir master as at then, he also was St. John’s Secondary School Accountant and a Mathematics teacher, now a Chattered Accountant with a Masters Degree in Economics. As God had it happened, he bought an acoustic guitar and never had the time to learn or use it. I regularly, went to him on the specific days we vacate to show him my report sheet and then borrow his guitar which would be returned the week school resumes. That was an added advantage aside the access I had to the Church’s bass guitar. I couldn’t be thankful enough when after my JSCE, he told me to keep the guitar. My musical life story isn’t complete without mentioning his name and appreciating God for his life.

SelahAfrik: Seems you have been an instrumentalist, longer than you have been a singer, how did singing start?

Cyril Strings: I was an instrumentalist until I was elected the music director of my church’s choir band in 2012. I thought I was too young for it as I had a lot of elderly people in the band but, by the grace of God, I was able to rise up to the responsibility of leading that particular unit. That left me with no option than to start scoring songs as such, became a singer.

Coming into ABU Samaru Zaria (main Campus), I joined the Nigerian Federation of Catholic Students Mass Choir where I learned musical discipline and a lot I can’t exhaust mentioning. First under the Direction of Abah Marvellous who was the first music director. In my Final year, I served as the music director of the same choir and of the Faculty of Education FCS Choir. I look back now, thanking God for grace and competence considering how tasking it was trying to balance those offices with final year demands.

SelahhAfrik: Going further to take music as both a career and a ministry, how did it happen for you?

Cyril Strings: I was able to hear the voice of God calling me into the Gospel music ministry in 2018. This was during a lot of contemplation whether to leave the University for the Saminary in the Order of the Society of African Missions (SMA) or not. Growing up, all I ever wanted to become was a Missionary Catholic Priest (Inspired by the lifestyle of Fr. Haverty SMA). That triggered me to apply for admission into the seminary in 2015. I was to go for the last stage of the interview in Abuja when I had to make the hardest decision in my life which was to turn the other way. The reason for my decision is only known to God and I.

SelahAfrik: Tell us about your song “Babu Iyaka”:

Cyril Strings: The song “Babu Iyaka” is my testimony. Kaunar Allah Babu Iyaka, as I usually tag it mean God’s love is unconditional, unimaginable, unending and unfathomable. The song is my attempt to answer the question “What kind of love is this?” That God gave His only begotten son, Jesus Christ whom despite being God, humbly came into the world, lived a life like you and I, went through suffering and the shame of crucifixion and death on the cross only for the sake of our salvation despite our unworthiness.

“Babu Iyaka” was not written, but birthed out of a convincingly tangible experience of God’s love in my life. I receive the second verse in a deep meditation on the finished work of Christ on the Cross in the month of August 2018, in my 300L days (in tears). In October same year, I received the first Verse which is John 3:16 and the Chorus. Its really amazing how all these happened. God be glorified for ever.

SelahAfrik: How has the reception of the song been since it’s release?   

Cyril Strings: I was privileged to Minister “Babu Iyaka” in several concerts, meetings and the testimonies that followed were really humbling. The song was already on people’s lips before the instruction to record it. I never really had the funds to sponsor the recording of the song, but amidst final year financial demands, God made way where there seemed no way. I really appreciate God for my parents and a senior friend, who gave me the financial support when my strength lacked. God bless my Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Gabriel Agbo for his attention, fatherly advice and concern towards me. I recorded the song in July 2019 (Produced by Jakes Hinjari), and released it on the 31st of August 2019.

SelahAfrik: What has been the highlight of the release for you?

Cyril Strings: I was flabbergasted and overjoyed, coming back from school and seeing little children in my community singing “Babu Iyaka”. They do that till date. This is what I yearn for in ministry… that People encounter Christ and love of God through my songs and lifestyle. That is what fulfills me.

SelahAfrik: Tell us about your other music projects:

Cyril Strings: “Babu Iyaka” is the first song I recorded and released. There are songs I’ve received from deep meditation or the place of prayer, while there are others I have written too. The first song I wrote is “Zuciyar Godiya (Heart of Gratitude)” in 2017. I recorded the song in February and released it on the 30th June 2020.

SelahAfrik: Should we be expecting an album or a video for “Babu Iyaka”?

Cyril Strings: The entirety of songs I’ve released are subsets of an album project I am working on. It is titled “My Songs, My Testimonies (MSMT Project)”. I am currently working on a few others still in the album project. Though there will be release of singles that are not part of the album project at intervals. The major challenge I’ve had so far is of financing. That’s because I am an indie artist and currently do not have a constant source of income, but I believe God will make ways just as He’s been doing. I have by God’s grace released “Babu Iyaka” lyrics video and soon will be working on an official video.

I’m also trusting God for a simple Studio kit soon. So that I will save myself the stress of recording some of my songs outside by doing them myself simply. Hoping to have my first Live concert in 2021 by God’s grace. There’s just so much in my mind that I’m trusting God for the Grace to have them accomplish.

SelahAfrik: Where do you see Cyril Strings in the next 2-5 years?

Cyril Strings: If Jesus tarries, I desire to see myself reaching out to a very large number of people across the world regardless of denominations and religion in the next few years. I want to make them realize the unquantifiable and unquenchable love of God for humanity. I have a strong desire to make a huge difference in the ministry through excellence, integrity and complete yeildedness to the word of God. I will also love to help build up young ministers.

SelahAfrik: Looking at the Nigerian Gospel mindustry, do you have models you admire? 

Cyril Stings: I’ve always admired the way Nathaniel Bassey does his songs, the manner of presentation and the spiritual message they carry. I completely appreciate Solomon Lange. I love his timbre, way of singing and everything about his music. I admire these two and hope to do greater exploits in the near future by the Grace of God.

SelahAfrik: What do you do for fun?

Cyril Strings: I really Love having quiet time to reflect, meditate, pray or study. I can’t help it sometimes but derive pleasure spending a great deal of quality time with family and few friends. Church fellowships are always fun to me and can’t be traded for anything.

SelahAfrik: What fashion item appeal to you most?

Cyril String: I like corporate shoes, though it’s not like I disdain sneakers but, I only use them once in a while. I wear open shoes more than I do sneakers.

SelahAfrik: Can you proffer solutions for the genocide in Southern Kaduna?

Cyril Strings: The on going genocide in Southern Kaduna is not a fabricated lie, it is real. The state and federal government have failed in their responsibilities of protecting the lives and properties entrusted into their care. The killings in southern Kaduna started like a joke and the state government snubbed it as well as the cries of the people of that particular part of the state. These Fulanis are strongly armed and spelt out their intention to kill Christians and destroy their properties. The most annoying part of it is that instead of the State Governor Nasir El Rufai to seek solution to the incessant killings, he adds more salt to the injury through his two mouthed statements. He says a different thing today and a different one tomorrow and these heartless Fulanis are still out there armed. Southern Kaduna people are just in the hands of God.

As it is right now, the curfew imposed upon Southern Kaduna is not helping matters because they are still being attacked anyway. What I believe is that if really, the government wants to end the incessant killings in the Northern Nigeria, Southern Kaduna inclusive, it would have ended.

I believe the armed forces should be properly and heavily armed. The weapons bandits carry are way more sophisticated compared to those of the Nigerian army in southern Kaduna. Our government officials should ask for international aid as the situation is gradually getting out of hand if really they do not have a hand in the whole thing. As citizens, we should continue to stage campaigns and peaceful protests physically and on social media, against what is happening. International Christian bodies should in their own way come to the aid of southern Kaduna people. Other parts of the North affected by the mayhem should stand together in repentance to God, holiness and self defense against the invaders. Our government officials should resign, if being sincere enough, they know they can’t protect the lives and properties entrusted into their care, especially those in southern Kaduna.

SelahAfrik: Do you think the Gospel artiste has a role to play in the solution?

Cyril Strings: That the Nigerian Gospel artiste has a lot of followers on social media has a great advantage now. I’m humbly calling on all Gospel music ministers to find out facts about what is going on and join the campaign for peace and against the genocide and incessant killings in the Northern Nigeria. That can greatly be done through songs too. Now is the time our country and people need us most.

SelahAfrik: Any Last word?

Cyril Strings:  I sincerely appreciate you SelahAfrik for the huge privilege given to me. I am wholeheartedly thankful to God for you. May all you have in stock to bring into action for the propagation of the Gospel be brought to realization in the name of Jesus.

Watch the lyrics video of “Babu Iyaka” by Cyril Strings below:

Connect with Cyril Strings:

WhatsApp | Telegram: 08098907902

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram: @cyrilstrings.

YouTube Channel: Cyril Strings

READ ALSO: Kaduna Christian Community Displeased At El Rufai’s Choice Of Muslim Running-Mate

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