Barnabas Birungi grew up being called Barna, this is why his stage name is the short form of his real name. His story began in Kabale and in a Christian family, however, this was not a personal relationship with God. Being first born to a preacher and godly mother, new gospel rapper Barna’s life only changed in 2006 at a youth camp where he committed his life to God fully.
Getting into studio to record for the first time, though he recall starting to rap at an early age of ten, only happened in 2013. We got to know him because of I am Christian which has a remix featuring Ruyonga among others. Out of excitement after his performance at The Glory Fire Army show at Makerere University and loving God Unmatchable, we decided to interview him. Read our interview below.
Barna, you say you grew up in church, do you think there are downsides of growing up in church? What misconceptions are there about growing up in church?
I think the downsides are thinking that you are born saved and Christian because your family or church is and also not minding about your personal relationship with God because of your Christianity is dependent on family or church.
This misconception makes you comfortable because of the Christianity environment you are growing up in yet this Christianity thing is based on a personal decision and relationship with God.
Tell us about your childhood. Were you the crazy beating other kids or were you the humble one who could easily be bullied?
I was the humble one who could easily get bullied and beaten. I just think I was born meek.
Rap music! What’s your history with Rap music? If Rap music were a friend, how would you describe what you have been through?
Honestly I first rapped at 10 years. It was some rapper’s song that I am not about to mention here. One of my cousins used to play me that song and I would rap along word for word. Each time I rapped it, felt good and I felt the passion for rap getting stirred up within me.
Are there aspects of the Hip Hop culture that you would like to warn our readers and new Gospel artistes to watch out for and avoid?
Yes. The hip hop culture has so much power and influence on your life. if you’re not careful enough, it could become your identity and yet your identity is meant to be in Christ. I do hiphop but its not my identity. I treat it as a tool and as a gift. On the other hand secular hiphop has so much power and influence as well. If you get so involved with it, you start acting like them and you will slowly get soaked up in drugs, sex and money.
Do you think the Hip Hop family is focusing on pushing the gospel of Hip-hop more than The Gospel of Christ?
I stand to be corrected if I am wrong but gospel hiphop in Uganda has two kinds of rappers. Those that are fighting to raise the hiphop banner up in gospel industry and those that are simply raising the Jesus banner higher through hiphop, its a question of, Are you raising Jesus through hiphop or you are raising the hiphop through Jesus(rapping gospel)?
Interesting question to ponder. Now! About your music, when did you do your first recording? Was is too bad or too bad (one is the opposite of the other)?
My first recording was in 2011 I featured on a brother’s song called ‘bounce out’. The song was really good but the reception wasn’t that good. My first solo song recording was in August last year (2014). I did a song called ‘I am with you’ and again I believe the song was really good but it wasn’t that user friendly. After that the story made a positive twist on ‘I am Christian’ and ‘God unmatchable.’
That is so true, we first got to know Barna because of I am Christian. God Unmatchable too is quite something else, who did the chorus?
He is called Gamit and he is my producer. He has produced, mixed and mastered all my 3 singles so far.
How did that whole fusion with Dancehall music come about?
I just like trying out new stuff…. So, one day I told Gamit I wanted to do a hyper track. We worked on a beat in about 30 minutes. I took it home with me, spent with it like a month and while praying about it, I felt an urge to talk about who my God is and I got one word to summaries it that would bring out a Jamaican touch. So, I kept saying ‘unmyachable.’ Gamit knows some patois. I later met him in studio and we composed a chorus together. He wrote his verse as well. It was a just “me, Barna the hiphop guy coming together with Gamit a dancehall guy to do something about our God and that bred the fusion.
The interesting thing is that I wrote the first verse in 2011 talking about who God is for another track that I didn’t record not knowing that God was keeping it for another song.
This song simply proclaims who God is and what his word says. I summarized all that in one word unmatchable.
We have been wondering where you have been hiding? Tell us your greatest struggles as a person and musician and how you overcame.
My biggest struggle as a person and musician has been fear. I overcome it occasionally by simply saying/praying “Holyspirit, this is the part where you take over” especially when I am about to get on stage or release a song. The confidence He always gives me is tremendous.
What are you doing to make sure that God Unmatchable does not go unnoticed by many who would have loved it?
I am working hard to get a couple of videos done soon.
Wow. We cannot wait for those videos. So, Do you have any message for our readers and your fans?
Yes. I would like to appreciate my supporters and all those that believe in what I do. You guys keep me going. Always remember that humility is key and Jesus is the way the truth and life.
With that, we say May God Bless Barna and the ministry God has called you to. Till next time, stay safe.