I’m sure you too have noticed that since 2012, the kind of awesome songs that have been written (especially worship songs….in Nigeria) have been mind blowing. I thought it was due to better promotions and other marketing campaigns but I settled that it is simply because Nigerian gospel artistes, who have been hidden, have actually been working and improving. Though credit must also be given to gospel music bloggers in the country for doing a whole lot, it is apparent that music ministers are developing well. However, there is a matter I want us to tackle. So please don’t do anything time you are done reading this…..and I mean anything! It is a serious something.
Now, one of the major pathways an artiste has to go through is classification. This happens when People try to find out;
What kind of music she makes
What kind of music he likes
Who is his role model?
Who are her mentors?
These enquiries, though silently and subconsciously made, help people to classify an artiste into a category and to some extent, determine acceptability. But there exists one kind of classification that takes place without enquiries. This categorisation is highly determined by media popularity. It is a function of how well an artiste is known by majority of the crowd. It places people in any of the following slots;
Recently, I have heard new slots being used in the entertainment circle…..even in gospel music circles:
Upcoming, coming up quick.
Mega Super star.
These categories are quite funny but in a subliminal way, they influence artistes’ acceptability. If, for instance, I’m to organise a concert, I will draw up my list of performing artistes based on the aforementioned slots, constrained by the concerts budget. So for a low-budget concert of 3-4 hours, I’ll have 1 new act, 2 upcoming artistes and one headliner. Now, I am speaking as an economist, objective and oblivious to spiritual or religious inclinations so please stay with me because I have seen issues in this categorisation and I intend to deal with them using this medium because it is not only limiting but damaging the quality of music available to lovers of good music.
Looking at this now as a lover of good music and a solid Christian, I know i am not an authority in the music business and I know that the authorities in the business may antagonise certain points in this article. But I still have to bring our attention to these issues. First, we need to distinguish an artiste from a celebrity. An artiste is creative and productive. As far as an artiste is concerned, whatever he creates is good and those who see it as good are called his fans. A celebrity is popular. He/she is either liked or disliked by majority of the crowd, notwithstanding, he/she is popular. Once upon a time, being a celebrity meant that you were celebrated because of the great thing(s) you did. Now, whether you are celebrated or relegated, you can make yourself popular in the idle comfort of your bedroom.
Hope you are still with me oh. Now, these two concepts are actually not mutually exclusive since one person can be a celebrated artiste though Nigerians have insisted on recognising the celebrity and ignoring the artiste. Because of this, the artiste who is now a celebrity forgets that his artistry brought him to the top and instead, focuses on maintaining his celebrity status. The pressure to maintain status proves to be very strong on celebrities and it comes from music stake holders like:
The on air personalities,
The concert organisers, etc
So when the artiste should be self developing, learning more vocal skills and building lyrical prowess, she is trying hard to meet up with red carpet standards or trying to be on every show possible or even reducing standard to gain acceptance into the current music market.
It is funny how this trend has crept into the gospel music scene. We pay “honorarium” to the superstar and give the upcoming act “transport fair” or “Pastoral handshake” or sometimes “may God increase your ministry” even when the upcoming act did greatd, live music while the superstar simply played his CD and danced to it.
Getting an award now is not about how good your work is but how many people know you and can vote for you. Unfortunately, awards in the gospel music industry are gradually being about who you know.
Let it be noted that an artiste cannot be “upcoming”!…. though a celebrity can. An artiste can mature in the art, he can get better in performance, he can be more creative but he cannot be categorised as upcoming because artistry is not a function of popular opinion. A celebrity can be upcoming, or be a super mega star since those categories are bordered on popularity.
For instance, I know this singer, Seunstics, great on the acoustic guitar, blessed with a divine voice. He has done songs that have blown my mind. He isn’t really that popular and he probably hasn’t gone on tours. But I dare not call his work “upcoming”. I heard another work done by a guy called David titled “teach me to be strong” I don’t even know him but based on the quality of that song and the heavy message therein, I cannot call this lyricist “upcoming” because an artiste is measured by his work not his fan base. Now if I should invite only these ministers to a concert on the same day Sir Sammy or Oga Tim is having his own concert, which concert will you go to? Duh…
Now you see what I mean?
One may wonder why I have an issue with this concept of classification. Well this is my issue….
The body of Christ has been starving! Yea, I said it! Until just recently, we abandoned our home-written songs; Songs written based on God’s work with us in this part of the world. I mean, which foreign artiste can come up with a punch line like “this God is too good Oh” or “Alagbara”? I can say that since you found time to read this article, you probably follow the Nigerian gospel music scene but if I randomly pick an average Christian’s phone and go through his/her playlist, I doubt that Nigerian gospels are up to 20%. And they are there because they are songs by celebrities. The rest are foreign gospels mean while there are awesome songs out there that are blessing lives.
We need to stop putting “celebrity” pressure on musicians and let them maximise their potentials and bless our lives. If oga Nath reduces his trumpet rehearsal time or devotion time so as to be on every TV show, will we have more songs like “imela”? Or if Sir KK tries to pursue every promotional stunt rather than work on his energy and vocal range will he give us more songs like “your peace”? Let’s not even go into “vow” by uncle Aremu.
Although I know that it is a great thing to be an artiste and a celebrity at the same time and I believe it is right to work towards that goal, I pray thee Oh artiste. Spend more time on your knees and in your craft. Don’t let this media stunt guys pressure you too much. Let them do their Job and let them let you do yours. They know how to make money for you and bring you to the world. They know how to ensure that your vision is not frustrated. But keep your head in the essence of your musicianship. Because the earnest expectation of the creation is not the manifestation of a well packaged but empty artiste Oh. Content is highly essential.
I bring greetings from #thePROJECTSALT . God bless you, God bless our music ministers, and God bless the body of Christ.