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On Gospel Music in Kenya - Thoughts and Stuff

On Gospel Music in Kenya


By Dickson Otieno

If I were an old man, I’d be termed as old-fashioned. A man who’s time is over. A guy of the ending generation. My words would be trashed in some quarters and the ‘young’ would make merry in letting me know that the new cohort does things differently. That in the new era it is the gospel ‘industry’ that thrives. And that we should let anyone thrive in doing whatever they please. As long as they insert the name Jesus in whatever composition they make, then it qualifies to be a gospel song. Try and read this to the very end.

First of all let’s get things clear here. Gospel, to any Kenyan, means “Good news”. We were all (and still are) taught that in school. Let us go back to the Bible. There are four Gospels in the Good Book. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each wrote a record of Jesus’ life on earth and His teachings. Gospel therefore means both: one, the teachings and revelations from The Christ and two, the accounts describing the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord. And this is why we have so often termed Gospel as ‘Good News’ because Christ, when he was starting His mission right after the temptations in the wilderness, stood in the synagogue and said the Words Isaiah had said of him long ago, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”.

So when we term something as Gospel, or of the Gospel, it should either outline the teachings and revelations of our God relating them to our current lives and experiences (bringing the Good News to us right now) or it should give an account of the life and times of our Saviour and the Praises and Thanksgiving we have for His mercies and graces. What we term as gospel should heal, preach, liberate and witness the compassions and prominence of God. Not the monkeyshines we are witnessing where empty party phrases coupled with the mention of the name God (or Jesus) makes something qualify to be termed as Gospel Music. Not that we can’t party in Christ. We can. And actually the greatest banquets and parties are with the believers. But partying is when something has been accomplished. There’s a great feast in heaven whenever there’s a new believer. We can (and we do) dance and make jolly in Christ, but factually. Not forcibly or imaginably.

Industry means any general business activity or commercial enterprise. So when we call it the Gospel Industry, we are shifting from the aim of the industry, losing it, to the by-products and benefits for the artistes. We are making it more of a business venture, a profit-aimed activity rather than what it should be: a venue for service to humanity and for the adulation of the Most High. I’m not saying artistes should not earn from their music. They should. But what is the purpose of their choice to be Gospel musicians? Is it for the money or is it for the spread of His word? Is it for fame or is it as a tool for bringing more to Christ and strengthening the faithful? And if it is for the bringing of new souls (and solidification of the existing), does the message we pass across do that? For that reason in the end, it all comes down to the message. What message do we spread? Is there a message in the songs we call Gospel?

Jesus, in that synagogue, started by saying that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him. Which brings the question, is the Spirit of God upon our musicians when they are composing? As an artiste, do you put together your words for the exaltation of His benevolence, or do you do it for your own self? Do your words bring hope, do they make strong our faith, and do they praise Our God? Do your words rebuke evil, do they make people turn away from sin, do they encourage, do the build, do they break the foundations of the evil one, and do they fortify the castles of God? Or are yours words with no meaning? Empty and senseless?

We have lost the meaning in Gospel as we have focused on having expensive video shoots with more than flamboyant show-offs rather than bringing out the message. We have shifted from being message oriented to being money minded. We have built an industry of money making celebrities who don’t bother, not in the least, about what their so-called creativity brings to the people. We now have people on an incessant quest of making more money, becoming more famous. We don’t have people who can preach and bring hope! We don’t even have creative people! They repeat the words of others for crying out loud. They’ve lost meaning. They’ve become cliché.

The gospel sector has been besmirched. Sexuality, money and fame is how it now is. People with money and the know-how shoot videos daily from corrupted secular songs and beats and such is forced down our throats daily through the many gospel shows on TV and radio. To get your song played it is more about who you know rather than the message of the song. The industry jumps around shifting from Nigerian to Jamaican beats and accents as if God’s message goes with twangs. We have lost it. And are further drifting.

Catch Dickson on his blog here (or on TECHISH for your dose of tech). Some of the blogs I follow religiously of late.

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