Gone are the good old days when gospel and secular music used to be as different as day is from night or, as black is from white. Listening to both types of music nowadays, one gets the feeling that, finally white and black have converged and we have a new arrival in town called grey. This grey area is where most of the contemporary gospel songs seem to so much thrive, and there is always a ready excuse that times have changed and hence we have no option but to change with them to survive. But wait a minute; we all understand that gospel music had to finally catch up with secular music, if more souls are to be led to salvation, but at the expense of what?
I must begin by Juxtaposing Eunice Njeri’s recent release “Unatosha,” which loosely translates to “You are worthy”, with Wily Paul’s latest song “Tam Tam”, meaning “sweet sweet,” and there you have two totally contrasting gospel songs. I have had opportunity to watch the videos of the two songs over and over and they form a perfect illustration of how Gospel music has lost its war to secular music. It is no secret that gospel musicians are making more money, from endorsements and gigs, than secular musicians in Kenya.
This is because gospel artists took the war to the doorsteps of secular musicians and beat them at their own game of “swag”. But what happened in the process? Gospel music lost its morality and divinity! The holy Bible implores us in Matthew 16:26; “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
If we can go back to the basics, what is the intention of singing a gospel song? Is it not supposed to make God the focus by preaching his gospel? Is the singer not supposed to be the conduit between the listeners or viewers and the most high God, who should be the main subject of the song? If mentioning God in a song is what makes it gospel, then the many secular songs that mention God should be called gospel.
We have many secular musicians who ask God to give them a good wife just like Wily does in “Tam tam”. I find it very difficult to feel any holiness in the song. However, the song has such a dance-able beat and it is the kind of song that could prompt me to hit the dance floor and dance vigorously (when I used to frequent night clubs before I got saved), and probably call for another round of drinks afterwards. On the contrary, Eunice’s song “Unatosha”, is the kind of song that when played in a night club, you would see people who have taken one too many begin to sober up because it strikes a code with their inner selves. You could even see a few shedding tears because of the conviction the song brings upon their souls. After listening to such songs in the club, I usually came to a realization that there was actually no happiness in there and left.
Back to my juxtaposition, Wily’s song takes all the focus from God and shines it on the flamboyance of those taking part in the video. Somebody who doesn’t know that Wily is a gospel musician watching the video for the first time can be excused if he thinks that it is one of the bongo “flava” love songs! The song elicits a club or party mood such that if you throw in an exotic bottle of whisky or wine, and some smokes in its video, you will have a perfect Hollywood style secular music video.
On the other hand, even though Eunice looks stunning in her “Unatosha” video, she manages to deflect all the attention from herself to God through the worship mode the song takes right from the beginning. Her demeanor and that of her back up team, is that of people in the presence of a superior power. Their faces show real worship as the notes of the song hit a crescendo towards the end. I am in no position to wag a finger in anybody’s face or cast the first stone, but I am totally convinced that contemporary gospel and secular music have come to a terrible convergence whereby the biggest casualty is the gospel music. The two are literally in bed together!
There is an argument that the secular dress code and the romance that is becoming popular in contemporary gospel music is supposed to attract youngsters to God when they realize that even gospel has got swag. But the big question is: Who copied the other first? If gospel copied secular swag first, then gospel lost big time. This consequently lets the almighty God down in a big way because God is not known to follow. He must always be followed! And so should His children. I don’t think God is interested in the indecent swag of wearing trousers below the buttocks or dressing in overly revealing clothes. Aren’t the secular musicians supposed to have been the ones to ape the gospel musicians; why the other way round? May the good Lord God have mercy on poor us.