For some time now, gospel music has been on the radar in Ghana. It has always been the case, if I will admit. And so will it be for a long time. And the reason is that anything that is placed along moral principles, people also uphold it with such tenets.
It is a fact that Christianity professes that the only way to getting saved is to believe in Jesus Christ as your saviour; that salvation lies in no other. Thus, Christians have the great commission to win the world to Christ.
And this, some have chosen to do through writing; others through personal encounters with people, and for others through music. Music ministration, undoubtedly, has become a very popular tool to spreading the Gospel. There is therefore a group of musicians who have tagged themselves Gospel Musicians. Gospel music then becomes a bigger genre for them because they all have one aim- to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I hold any musician who has, without compulsion, decided to dedicate his or talent to spreading the gospel in high esteem because they fall in the league of pastors and evangelists. And I accord the same reverence to them, as I do to men of God, because they are also. Society also do accord gospel artistes with that “reverence” not just because they are in the public or they are celebrities, but because they are imitators of Christ, and they have to influence society positively to turn to Christ.
That is why society gets disappointed when gospel artistes tend to “conform to the world” instead of rather influencing the world. The gospel artiste is constantly under public scrutiny because of their own utterances and deeds. They will be quick to judge secular artistes, and pontificate how different they are, and how they pray the secular artistes will see the light.
If not for this, when a musician impregnates a woman he is not married to, it is no big deal. When the musician sleeps around, it is considered part of the job. When they divorce, it is their choice. When they plan a stunt, it is part of show business. But this is a NO NO for the gospel artiste!
Examples abound here. But it is also global. Recently, famous Christian worship leader Israel Houghton announced his divorce on Facebook after more than 20 years of marriage. The Grammy award winning gospel artiste apologized for what he described as a “personal failure” after he revealed he had “failed and sinned” in his marriage. It was even rumoured he lost his Worship leader position in Joel Osteen’s Church as a result of the scandal.
Consumers of Israel’s music may have second thoughts about his message. If Israel were a secular artiste, I doubt people will look back at his songs and judge him. This goes to confirm the high moral standards gospel musicians are upheld, a standard they have set for themselves by choice. But how does the gospel artiste change the world by not being part of it? That is a quagmire the musicians themselves and consumers also face.
There is something called showbusiness. For some reasons, certain gospel artistes believe gospel music is far away from showbusiness. If they merge, the essence of the gospel is lost. Others believe the gospel artiste should draw a perfect line between the two and not mix things up. Based on this, the kind of songs they compose and perform; the kind of dance they do, the way they even sing are scrutinized whether scriptural or not.
The way a gospel artiste even does his or her promotion is put on the burner. Need I talk of what is termed branding? It is a fact, rightly stated that by their fruits, you will know them.
But how does one get to know the nature of the fruits? There is a school of thought, one that Nathaniel Bassey champions, that believes that gospel artistes should not promote their brand and image by putting and pushing their faces everywhere. “Rather become a Voice. When you are a voice, people will look for your face. And will spread it themselves.”
The argument is that even John the Baptist was a voice in the wilderness, yet people found their way to the desert just to hear him speak. The duty of the gospel artiste therefore is to make sure heaven knows their voice and sound. It is thus important that they seek God and not the promotion of self image.
That is an ambivalence many gospel artistes are grappling with. Some have been compelled to put breaks on their public appearances; some have stopped “making noise” about award schemes they have been nominated in. Others have even shifted from their “calling” to do other genres of gospel. And for others, they have stopped all together.
Whatever it is, whether the gospel artiste becomes a voice or decides to have a face or shows and not tell, the core essence of the Christian faith need not be sidelined. That is more important.