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Monday, 15 September 2014

Gospel Music versus Secular Music

In the Nigerian context, a gospel singer is a singer who sings inspirational, soul uplifting,worship and praise songs about God, Jesus Christ and about moral values while a secular artiste is a singer who sings 'worldly' music. 

When I tell people that I am a musician, the next question that follows is,"Are you a secular or a gospel musician?" 

Initially, my answer was, "gospel", because from inception, I loved to sing soul lifting, motivational and inspirational songs that will encourage and preach the gospel;timeless songs that my children and grand children could listen to for many years to come but as I began to understand more about the music industry, I discovered many discouraging situations and my zeal for becoming a gospel singer waned. 

Now, I believe one has to be truly called by God just like a true pastor/prophet, to be a gospel artiste. 

Firstly, I discovered that gospel artistes are not paid performance fees.They are paid honorarium and that depends on how popular they are. 

An honorarium is not supposed to be disclosed before the song ministration. It is supposed to be a gift from the church to support the artiste's effort. 

The artiste gets it after the ministration and as a result, many pastors come up with excuses after the ministration such as,"You are doing it to spread the gospel. God will reward you. Oya church, pray for this sister," and the church begins to pray. If you are lucky, you get transport fare to go back home. 

I have had to pay my band members severally from my pocket for ministering with me. I guess it is one of the prizes you pay for following your passion. 

The church boards fail to realize that both secular and gospel artistes pay the same amount as studio fees to produce their songs and set up a live band, tip on-air personalities, etc to play their songs and generally have the same needs and wants as secular artistes do. 

Sometimes, gospel artistes get discriminated against when compared to their international counterparts. Also, some artistes who from the on set, set out to do gospel music are discriminated against as their songs are aired on TV or radio only on Sundays, because the name of Jesus is mentioned in the song. 

Some have decided to cover it up by substituting Jesus with God to enable more follower-ship from people of other religions or keep the name completely mute. 

I once read Lara George's interview on the pages of gem woman magazine, November/December 2009 edition. She said,

"......even though I love what I do, it hasn't been easy at all. I'd like to make a special appeal to every pastor and every leader in the society here.
If we say that we appreciate inspirational music, why is it then so difficult to support those of us in this genre of music financially?
Why do churches think that undefined honorarium should suffice for a Nigerian gospel artiste when we find it easy to pay thousands of dollars to foreign artistes?
 People need to know that it costs millions to produce music albums and the producers and video directors really don't care whether one's genre of music is gospel or not.
The fact is that it costs money to do quality work. If we do not want good gospel music to go into extinct, it will be good to see the church begin to support its own.
An A-list secular artiste earns about N5m for a 20 minute performance, but even with the financial wherewithal, the church doesn't seem to see the  need to support it's own, particularly  here in Nigeria.
 I look forward to seeing a change in this prevalent attitude someday in the near future.''
 That was in 2009. I'm afraid Lara, the situation is still the same. Her counterpart,  Sola Allyson, in the same edition of the magazine also had this to say, 

"Gospel artistes are not well represented in Nigeria. I think we are misunderstood. We all believe it is a ministry with the aim of blessing lives but people forget that for the gospel to thrive, the gospeller must eat.
Personally, I believe one's gift/talent is one's ministry and the word of God says, 'My gift shall make way for me'.
A lot of singers who  started out as gospel singers are now in the secular world. The love of money is the root of all evil but at the same time money answereth all things.
From my own point of view,it is those who are 'working' for God, the owner of all good things that should 'enjoy' those good things more."
These reasons have led many gospel artistes to specifically charge for their song ministrations and appearance fees at events upfront and if their fees can't be paid, they don't show up. It has also led many artistes who started out in the church to do 'worldly' music. 

Last week during a sermon in my church, a guest pastor mentioned Terry G as an example of a cross over musician. 

Some gospel artistes have had to collaborate in songs with secular artistes just to get heard or shoot them more to limelight. An example I can recall is the collaboration between Lara George and Lord of Ajasa. I do not have a problem with the collabo but some over religious zealots do.

Another terrible discovery is that most of those who listen to or claim to listen to gospel music do so based on hypocrisy and feel good syndrome.

Their attitude is a far cry from what they profess. A scenario in this respect occurred whilst I was a staff at a micro finance bank at Ikeja in Lagos as the Head of the Audit department. 

My colleagues then, knew I was also a musician. One day, two of them, the CEO and the Head of Operations asked me separately though, if I were a secular or gospel artiste and I replied, "gospel". They both said they preferred gospel music and were happy that I chose it over secular music. 

Back then, when it was their turn to pray at morning devotions, they prayed like the heavens would fall and the angels would appear. It was a surprise to me from my audit and investigations, to find them both guilty of errors,fraud and irregularities in the line of duty. 

The Ops manager was also caught stealing computer cables as well. Same goes for my once upon a time music director who defrauded me, despite my audit background, of my hard earned money simply because I was being sentimental with respect to him being a the choir director. I I would have involved the police if not for the general overseer of that church.

Same goes goes for a million and one people who have been misled in the name of the gospel. An instrumentalist friend of mine jokes that the worst people are found in our places of worship. Well,that is not for me to judge. God will always be the judge of us all.

I love the so called secular music as long as it doesn't contain vulgar words. Even if I don't understand  a word of what is being said, the melody must appeal to my ears. But who am I to control what anybody sings or churns out on social media? My duty is to put a check what my children and I listen to.

Some people get over religious about gospel music. Every musician cannot be a gospel artiste. I am wondering, what does a pastor listen to when he is making love to his wife - 

Church choruses, hymns or is it all silence? 
Do they listen only to the monotonous sound of the creaking bed? 

Is their moaning sounds enough music to uplift their desires? 
Love songs should be made, same goes for erotic songs that gets you and keeps you in the mood. Such is one of the beautiful ways a marriage is sustained. 

Sexual healing by Marvin Gaye should be a show starter any day for any romantically involved married couple. Unfortunately, his holier than thou father killed him.Tell me whose sin is worse? 

There are songs with different themes that touch different experiences in our lives that make us have fun, cry, exercise or be motivated to achieve.
I used to play talking drums and minister in songs in my church for free (because I refused to accept to be paid even though I am an advocate for instrumentalists being paid for their services. That is my ministry and service to promoting the gospel. 

One day, I stopped giving free services to the church because the pastor of that church wanted to suck my blood dry with his requests. My art was taken for granted.

I am sure there is no such thing as a gospel accountant, secular doctor or secular lawyer. I have needs and bills to pay just like the pastor of that church and his congregation. 

A Yoruba adage says, 'Owo ni keke iyin rere', which means that money is needed to spread the gospel.

No one has the right to box an artiste into any type of music or genre. Catch me if you can and box me into a genre but  I just love to write, compose, arrange, record and perform good music. 

I derive freedom in my style of expression. I can sing in whatever genre of music and style that I like. If you do not like my music, block your ears. I have a talent and I must share it with the world and the world must pay for it.

Do not be judgmental. If the lyrics of an artiste is annoying you, change the radio dial or TV station. That song that you hate, some people love it just like that.

Do not be a religious bigot. Live and let live!

I will love to read your comments below.☺

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