Young gospel singer ministers through music

Christian rap recording artiste Onassis ‘Valon’ Roberts, who is also a songwriter and producer,  recently burst onto the local scene and has been creating waves with his hit songs “Still All Good,” “Don’t Deserve You” and “Misunderstood,” which was released back in January on 98.1.

From all reports Valon, while new to the scene, is taking music to another level as a means of guiding youths to God through his sung words.

In an interview with The Scene the artiste said he has noticed that young people tend to shy away from conventional Christian music since many of them label that kind of music as “boring”. By mixing the two genres, rap and gospel, he hopes to attract youths like himself and create an opportunity for them to worship God in a more fun and exciting way.

“I’ve been rapping since I was seven. I was also [dabbling] in freestyle and lyricism (an expression of deep emotions through music),” the young artiste shared.

According to Valon, his boldness and exposure came about due to Neil Collins, a youth leader, who saw his talent and pushed him to participate at concerts.

“He was also the one who later took me to record my first song at HJ Records. I soon realized that all my singing opportunities came because of Christian rap so I made a promise to myself that I would not use my talent and songs for anything else except to glorify God,” the former St Joseph High student boldly stated.

His first recording was “Am I Dreaming” (a remix of local artiste Rondel ‘Disi’ Holder’s song) back in 2012 through HJ Records. Although he has been recording since 2012, he seriously began pursuing music last year and on December 6 last, his birthday, the singer released his mixed tape, ‘I’m Only Human’.

To date he has performed at four concerts locally and another on the international level at a Caribbean Leadership Conference Convention in the Cayman Islands.

“Performing gives me the opportunity to vent,” Valon said, “to open up, to be relevant to someone else’s life, whether it’s to encourage them or have them relate to the story in the song whether they’re Christian or non-Christian. Some of my music in fact would draw more of the secular people than the Christian, depending on how they relate to it.”

The young man recalled his first time performing at a concert at one of the local churches where he fumbled while rapping because of being nervous but did manage to pull through without the audience noticing there was a mistake. He has since become a natural, according to him, and performs with finesse now.

Locally, Valon is inspired by Disi Holder and internationally John Givez and Lucrae. Growing up Valon took a liking to celebrated secular rappers, Tu Pac and Biggy Smalls and he believes this was due to the fact that he grew up in an environment where their songs were played again and again until he knew some of their songs by heart from which he soon developed a love for the rap genre.

But as good as his intentions are with his music, he’s had a few challenges.

He said that choosing to follow and record this kind of music proved to be a big risk initially since most church members today are still listening to the same old conventional music which he deemed as being “good” but doesn’t seem to attract a large percentage of the youths who are leaving the church. Nonetheless he continued pushing forward and found persons to be more open minded.

On one hand the artiste is challenged by persons wishing to stick to conventional gospel music and on the other he is faced with the same difficulty as many of the local recording artistes who believe Guyanese still remain too “foreign-minded”.

Some other challenges are getting the finances and finding time away from work, family and church to pursue his dream. However, Valon seems to be the ambitious kind who refuses to let any challenge hinder him.

He is also part of ‘Impact and Inspire’, a gospel group attempting to reach persons around Guyana through music and ministry. “We’re trying to shake the nation… but the main purpose is to direct them to Christ in a way that they can feel comfortable worshipping Him. We’re trying to reach out to the youths who feel that maybe church is too conventional for them.”

At 21 this young and determined artiste has no doubt that one day his ministry through his music will reach across the six continents and remains hopeful that he will someday either be signed to Humble Beast Records or have his own record label.

At present, he works at the Guyana Power & Light as an apprentice majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

His free time finds him at his church (Church of God of Prophecy at North Ruimveldt called House of Prayer and Empowerment) engaging and working with the youths. He’s also involved in a programme called ‘Men’s Cave’ for young boys ages 13-15. The programme, he said is aimed to helping to mould men in Christ so they can be better men.

Valon has also released “Beauties” (a remix of the rhythm of Chris Brown’s “Back To Sleep”). He’s currently working on part two of ‘I’m Only Human,’ set to be released by mid-year while a new album ‘Untitled’ is expected to be released on his birthday, December 6.

His music can be found on SoundCloud, on his Facebook page or the Impact and Inspire Facebook page.

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