The Ghana Gospel Music Industry has over the years seen tremendous growth since the days of Prof. Kofi Abraham and co. Today this fast growing industry is a far cry from what it used to be. The days when the gospel of Christ were propagated in the lyrics of the music churned out are long gone and Gospel music today can be said to be a blend of inspirational and biblical anecdotes or at best a non violence, non pornographic song.
Also fast changing is the collaboration styles adapted by gospel musicians. We know the frustrations musicians face in Ghana with piracy and lack of album sales and these challenges are mostly faced by gospel musicians.
In the past, they made their daily bread by hoping from church to church ministering their songs and selling their albums to the congregation. Now, that trend has all but changed. There are huge concerts and spectacular shows with most collaboration now effectively ‘serving two masters’. The adaption of gospel, circular collaborations is fast becoming the driving force for a new kind of music. Some call it ‘Gospel Hiplife” others call it ‘Inspirational music’.
There is no doubt that gospel musicians have resorted to featuring Hiplife artistes on their music albums.The likes of Herty Bongreat, featuring Sarkodie(‘Kano seyaa’) and Trigmatic, Lady Prempeh featuring Asem and Tinny (Odo yi wohe) and currently Obaapa Christy featuring Sarkodie are but a few already released with a long list of collaborations in the pipeline.
According to some, Gospel music is music intended to inspire people with a message of Christ and bringing people to the saving knowledge of Christ. Why then do we have this new blend? And of what relevance is it to the industry? Several questions have been asked as to why the sudden roll out of these collaborations; and there are definitely more questions than answers. Is it that the gospel artistes having seen the rise in popularity of these Hiplife singers, are now prepared to ride on the backs of these stars, compromise their faith and capitalize on a saturated market that is truly already stagnated with hiplifers and would be rappers? Or is it a call from God to woo these hiplifers into the kingdom by collaborating with them as part of God’s plan for the Hiplife industry? Just as the ‘Azonto’ dance found its way into churches and conventions, we may soon see a throng of hiplifers soon invading the altars and church choirs.
There are several takes on this trend. Some have even called it a betrayal of the ethics of the gospel.” Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This may however be too harsh but some believe that gospel artistes who do so do so for fame, money and recognition not to propagate the gospel. The question however is will a Hiplife artiste feature a gospel singer on his album? Will the tables ever turn? If it won’t then why should gospel artistes open their door to Hiplife artistes?
Let us not belittle the point. There is nothing cynical about the collaboration and for innovation and creativity to reign; there is nothing wrong with this fusion of genres. What is confusing is the reason behind these collaborations and the extent to which gospel musicians will go to get their daily bread. There are many who have stayed true to their genre and are adamant that they will never mix their breed with others. That is their stock, their belief, their choice. We have neither the power nor the guts to condemn what is purely a dispensation of creativity and innovation; a survival method so as to stay afloat.
As the list of collaborators increase so will the backlash of these gospel artistes in our churches and in our homes, on our streets and in our offices. A rather unimagined shun of this new breed by their people, their fellow redeemed.
On the other hand, if this backlash materializes, is it an opportunity for some to break free from the restrictions of singing the praises of one man, a God so divine, so holy, and so intimate with his followers that he will not share his own and his space with others? Indeed, he says he is a jealous God.