There is no doubt that the Kenyan gospel music scene is growing at an amazing rate. The two gospel music events on 31ST Dec – Groove Party and TSO – were full to capacity and aired on two mainstream TV channels. That is no small achievement. Talking of TV, on Sunday, between 6am and 1pm ALL TV channels have gospel content and gospel music shows getting airplay.
This should be a cause for celebration. However there are questions arising as to whether Kenyan gospel music has gone too far and actually turned secular. Several occurrences in the recent past have made me to pen this post.
Firstly, I stumbled on a discussion on Hope FM mid-morning that chilled me. In studio was a couple from USA, who were in Kenya for a very special mission. Apparently, the wife had had a dream whose gist was that God was going to bring untold suffering to Kenya due to the Kenyan gospel music going rogue. The couple were therefore in Kenya to warn us and to ask the gospel musicians to change track.
The second occurrence happened online as guys watched the numerous gospel music shows. Lots of folk were expressing displeasure at what they were seeing. That was surprising as these are not “holier-than-thou” types and for them to be concerned than really there was a cause for concern.
Having listened to those who had an issue with the gospel music I took it upon myself to move the debate forward and ask a gospel artiste who is my acquaintance their reaction to the issue and this is how the conversation went:
Moderate: Hi. Watched the gospel music show yesterday and if I muted and just watched the visuals there is no difference from The Beat. What’s happening to Gospel? Is it about God and the gospel or have money, fame and glam taken over?
Artiste: Hi, well, I’m v.sad that you think so- I believe gospel artistes are working hard to remain relevant, and we are all learning as we move along. Where we come short, God’s grace is definitely sufficient. Thank you and have a fab year!
Moderate: I’m not sure we communicated. I understand the defensiveness since you’re a stakeholder but still think it’s a debate worth having. Watched the shows from 7am-12pm and was shocked by content. What’s the aim of making gospel secular? And how soon before daggering and bendover dance styles feature in gospel music?
Artiste: Bendover dance styles…? You may have lost me there for sure. I think we are definitely not communicating…gospel music should be ‘relevant’, and not ‘secular’. A lot of the young people will communicate their understanding of God in the best way that they know how. Your debate is one that can never be exhausted, as it’s been a bone of contention for as long as I can remember. But as I said, even with the intention of doing something right, it is only normal that we will err from time to time.
Moderate: I’m all for change and adapting. However there’s adapting and conforming. If I watch all the many gospel shows and think this is like The Beat then a point is been missed. You are in a unique place-you host a show and are a gospel celeb. This gives you influence to shape the scene. Church should be what we can turn to in the midst of the worldly stuff. If its the same as regular music then what’s the point? PS: Bendover/daggering are explicit dance styles popular in Jamaican riddim music. Since I yesterday saw a riddim song with a guy all over a girl in a “gospel” jam its not impossible to imagine one year from now bendover on a gospel show.
Artiste: In as much as there may be a video(s) that make you feel that gospel music has been compromised, it is also true to say that there are artistes who have remained true to their call. The best I can do is to play my part, since we all form the body of Christ- it’s impossible for an individual to change the whole body. Compromise in the Church/gospel is not a new phenomenon. It may be more pronounced now, but it’s always been there. And yes, there is a chance that it will get worse, but that just tells you the times we are living in. One or two individual mistakes don’t warrant a ‘blanket’ conclusion over ever other artiste. You should also realize that artistes get into gospel music for various reasons. For some it is a call, for others it is a quick way to make money. All this reflects in the music and lifestyle. Which makes it important for one to be able to discern and choose what to listen to/watch.
Moderate: Thanks for your time.
So there you have it. You have heard both sides of the debate on Kenyan gospel music.
Has it gone rogue? Is it just adjusting in accordance to the times we live in? Watch any Kenyan TV channel this Sunday 6am – 1pm and decide for yourself.
GOD BLESS KENYA!