Following the growing transition from gospel to secular music, Ikenna Ekwerike examines the reasons behind the trend
Many have wondered why a lot of musicians who started out singing the praises of God around the altar soon divert to proclaiming the beauty of women or men, money and fame; to songs that brazenly idolise certain female body parts and most frequently, romantic songs which are oddly referred to as ‘love’ songs.
There seems to be general consensus that money and fame are the biblical Jacob’s porridge that swindles once gospel artistes into secular music. But a deeper probe into the matter reveals there is more to it than meets the eyes.
This was the quest that took the reporter to the 2017 edition of the annual Foretaste Worship Concert that was held November in Lagos tagged: ‘An experience with Dupsy and friends’ that brought together an array of fine gospel music artistes from within and outside Nigeria.
The concert which is better described as worship unleashed became a foretaste of celestial bliss for participants. It was a rare kind of God’s kingdom investment, tastefully packaged and freely served to all and sundry, free of charge at the prestigious Muson Centre.
Interestingly, this was the generous initiative of just one woman, Dupsy Oyeneyin, who some participants at the concert described as God’s instrument of blessings to souls. Dupsy Oyeneyin is a wife and mother and a career woman. Above all, she’s been a professional gospel singer for over 17 years and more specifically, a worship minister.
She counted it a privilege to be a gospel singer and of having the opportunity to bless the world and lead people to worship God. Thus, the Foretaste Concert was her way of showing appreciation to God.
“Foretaste itself wasn’t my idea, it wasn’t something that I just thought up; it was something the Holy Spirit gave me the idea to start doing. I remember when I first had the inspiration to do it and I was like, maybe it’s somebody else God is referring to because am not a good planner naturally. But with the Holy Spirit, with God bringing people my way, I mean, we’re doing it for the fourth time and it’s getting better and better,” she said.
Coming from a family background of Church music lovers, Dupsy feels that the core motivation for adventure into gospel music should not be material gains. She noted that some venture into gospel music because God has called them and some other people are doing it because they strictly want to make money out of it.
She is convinced that a handful of people are already investing massively in gospel music in Nigeria like she is doing but regrets that “people want to put their money where it will bring something immediately.”
One may then wonder why Dupsy was carrying on with this mandate despite being a not-for-profit enterprise. Well, beside this successful woman, is a man called Otunba Gbemi Oyeneyin, to whom she has been married for 20 years after they met in the University of Lagos’ school fellowship choir.
Aside being a music lover, Oyeneyin represents a true helper of destiny to his wife and a challenge to every husband to help their wives realise their dreams. He said: “I understand what it takes; I understand what it means to go for rehearsals every weekend; rehearsals for this concert actually started in January. So we actually spent almost 11 months to plan. I know my own responsibility is to support her, push her, encourage her in this one thing that she loves to do for God.”
In addition to these, Oyeneyin is the brand promoter of his wife. “I handle the social media and promote the project both online and otherwise,” he revealed.
However, contrary to what seems to have become the norm for most gospel artistes, Dupsy maintained that she had been called strictly to do gospel music. She said Nigerian gospel music was gaining wide acceptance both in Nigeria and in the diaspora.
But beyond the wide acceptance, what other prospects are there for those who might be considering a full time career in gospel music unlike Dupsy and her husband who hold other careers?
Ifeoluwa Akinpelu, alias Ife-Worships, a music director, producer and praise-worship leader and a regular artiste at the previous editions of the concert said there were no restrictions on the path of any convinced gospel singer towards getting rich. “After all, the giver of everything is our Father, so we should be the first beneficiaries of all those things,” he argued.
Similarly, Allwell Brown, producer of Foretaste Concert added that doing gospel music was the easiest way to be blessed. “So for all those producers that are not involved in gospel music please key into it; gospel music pays. There’s money in music everywhere. The question is: are you doing good music that people will accept?” he queried.
Unfortunately, while music artistes assert that gospel music pays, the same may not be said of gospel poetry. Damola Adesina, a biblical poet who chants eulogies of God in poems and has done so for the past 20 years said that although she was doing it as a form of evangelisation, the art had not been lucrative.
But regardless of the huge prospects that gospel music holds, it is very rampant for many to veer off into secular music or combine both. Ife-Worships calls this identity crisis but blames it on event hosts and fans alike who often make requests for songs that are not gospel.
One artiste at the event who had swam in the waters of both gospel and secular music was Asata Allwell Brown, a gospel singer from Liberia. She revealed that she began as a gospel artiste but at some point had to bow to the pressure from friends and fans to do secular music.
“It’s clear that gospel is gospel and secular is secular. I’d swerved from God’s plan before, I tried it and I knew that this wasn’t where I belonged so I had to come back. I now face gospel,” she stated.
On the whole, gospel music in Nigeria is “getting better, the quality is improving; that is sound quality, better voice, better production and good videos. Maybe in terms of spiritual content in terms of the impartation for people to be healed or be delivered or be blessed or be saved, just by listening to a song, that’s a different thing,” Oyeneyin observed.