The 13th edition of The Experience Gospel Concert might have come and gone, but its impact lingers, Sunday Okobi writes
On December 7, 2018, The House on the Rock and its leader, Pastor Paul Adefarasin, hosted their annual gospel concert, tagged: The Experience. The event which was reported to have attracted an estimated crowd of over 700,000 Nigerians to the historic Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) in Lagos, with overflow sitting areas around the venue, has been described by Adefarasin as unarguably the most anticipated gospel music event on Africa continent among Christians and non-Christians alike.
It was learnt that The Experience, said to have started as a thought inspired by God in the mind of Adefarasin, averages a yearly attendance of over 500,000 people at the venue, with millions more watching online from all over the globe. The event has grown to become the largest gospel concert anywhere in the world.
Much of the allure of The Experience is its interdenominational stance and penchant to unify people of all nationalities, faiths, gender, status or political biases. With all these in mind, of what importance is the concert to Nigeria and Nigerians? Can the event be recognised as a significant contributor to both Lagos, the host state, and Nigerian economies through tourism and other associated businesses? What contributions has The Experience made in the entertainment sector of the economy over the last 12 years since it started? These are some of the questions in the mind of far and near watchers
At the press conference to herald the musical event held at the Eko Hotels in Lagos with all local and foreign performing artistes and organisers, Adefarasin revealed that the organisation has seen entrepreneurs developed and various enterprises substantially contributing to the economy in areas of human capital development, hospitality, commerce and industry. Speaking further, Adefarasin gave examples of how the concert has helped the indigenous gospel artistes featured on The Experience platform.
He noted that they have become highly sought-after internationally, with significant changes in their personal economies. The cleric also added that some of them have gone on to collaborate with several international gospel artistes due to the networking opportunities provided for artistes through the concert.
Explaining that homegrown gospel music now enjoys significant airplays in both the mainstream and alternative media, Adefarasin said: “As a result of the vast improvement in quality, several gospel songs now compete favorably with secular music, often times debuting at the number one spot on music charts. Before now, American gospel songs were the norm in our services. Today, our indigenous songs are favorites in many American Churches.”
He however added that “while we do not take all the credit for the growth of the gospel industry, we are proud to say that The Experience has played a very prominent role in this regard. The socio-economic impact of this mammoth occasion is evident and lends credence to scriptures in the Psalms which attest that God blesses and causes the earth to yield its increase to His people whenever He inhabits their praises”.
With the themed; ‘Jesus our Peace’, Adefarasin stated that The Experience 2018 is significant in the area of national unity as it precedes a crucial election year. According to him, the inspiration behind the 2018 theme is to highlight who Jesus is, especially in the world we live in today – the Prince of Peace.
Speaking further on the theme, Adefarasin emphasised that regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming elections; peace is the ultimate candidate that we should all support, and must be the candidate that wins. “Peace (as I know it) is not the absence of tension but the presence of Justice,” he said, adding that the 2018 concert, according to him, will be a continuous reminder “that the God of Peace is with us”.
Noting that tough times are facing many in the country, he went on to encourage Nigerians that “despite many challenges Nigerians may face, we cannot afford to lose faith in God’s ability to turn things around for our good, choosing to see a bright future, the Nigeria of our dreams, one that we can proudly bequeath to the ‘next-generations’.”
Drawing inspiration from Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s Independence Day Speech on October 1, 1960, the clergyman took the opportunity to state politically that “our elected representatives can no longer afford the selfish luxury of focusing on their own interests; rather they must be fully capable of managing our affairs. The populace can no longer sit back and complain of a lack of clear direction. It is time to become change agents, nation transformers and the solution that Nigeria has long awaited”.
According to the organisers, The Experience 2018 was an evening of edifying enjoyment, fulfillment, unity, love and peace. As has been the norm since the first edition, they said: “The Experience had a phenomenal line up of performing artistes on the bill”.
Renowned indigenous and international gospel artistes who grace the concert and wowed the crowd included Don Moen, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Timi Dakolo, Travis Greene, Nathaniel Bassey, Vicki Yohe, Chioma Jesus, Tope Alabi, Eben, Tim Godfrey, Mike Aremu, Glowreeyah, ONOS, Eno Michael, the Lagos Metropolitan Gospel Choir, Chee, JJ Hairston, first timers in the concert, Planetshakers and Ada whose explosive performance kept attendants on their toes dancing from dusk to dawn.
Nigeria’s own Timi Dakolo left attendants and viewers at home with strong feelings of hope and a deep sense of patriotism with a powerful rendition of his hit song, Great Nation alongside a creative drama interpretation from the Society for the Performing Arts in Nigeria (SPAN).
Tope Alabi and Chioma Jesus ensured that fans of indigenous worship weren’t disappointed, when they got everyone singing in their native dialects of Yoruba and Igbo respectively during their individual sets. Award winning American artiste and choir director, Kirk Franklin, closed out the concert with an energetic performance that got every sleepy eye and tired body ready to go on another 24-hour praise ride; singing till about 6am on Saturday morning.
Viewers at home weren’t left out as The Experience was streamed live on the House on The Rock YouTube channel to viewers from all over the world. The concert was also broadcast on a special event channel on DSTV to millions of subscribers in 50 countries across Africa. Social media was also not left out ablazing with comments on the concert, which made The Experience the most talked about event on social media with #TE13 #JesusOurPeace, #TheExperience13 and several topics and names associated with the event occupying the trends list from top to bottom.
Although the highly anticipated 2018 edition of The Experience has come and gone, the phenomenal impact it made on various lives still lingers on. Just as the name implies, The Experience is an event that would not be forgotten in a hurry.