For so many years now, I have been very worried, disturbed and irritated about the death of good music produced especially in Nigeria. Hard hit is the gospel and reggae music. The few artists, that have recently attempted to play this brand of music, end up making a huge mess of it. It got to a point that I was almost giving up on the prospect of having quality Nigerian musicians again, when the likes of Innocent Idibia aka 2Face, Favour, Davido and Timi just to mention a few, surfaced on the music scene . My lost hope was once again restored.
I have, however, kept asking, is it that, this group of artists (gospel and reggae musicians) have lost focus or are they no longer having the required inspiration(s), what is the role of musical companies in all this decay, my resolve to think through this problem, brought about this piece.
Inspiration, according to Free Dictionary, is “divine guidance or influence exerted directly on a human mind or soul”. It is also “a process that takes place when we see or hear, that causes us to have exciting new ideas or make us want to create, especially in the areas of art, music or literature.”
Therefore, inspirational music does all these wonderful things to our minds and souls, especially to most people, who listen to this class of music. One man I know, who writes, with music on the background is Prince Tony Momoh, Nigeria’s former Minister of Information and Culture. The making of gospel and reggae even secular music requires lot of hard work, dedication and inspiration. Once this is successfully done, it brings about the excitement of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity to the listener.
It is not a surprise, that quality gospel and reggae music, not only bring about, intellect or emotions or prompts action or invention to most people who listen to this brand of music. Great souls like Mahalia Jacksons, Yolanda Adams, Shirley Casear, CeCe Winans, Andrae Crouch, Donnie McClurkin, Whitney Houston, Don Moen, Amy Grant, BeBe Winans, Marvin Winans, Kim Burrel, Smokie Norful, Rev. James Cleveland, Karem Clark Sheard, Aretha Franklin, and J.Mos and other too numerous to mention here have done justice to this ginnery of music.
In the reggae category, great minds like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Petter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Ziggy Marley, Buju Banton, Jah Cure, Bounty Killer, Freddie McGregor, Lucky Dube, Collie Buddz, Mr. Vegas and our own Majek Fashek, Oris Wiliki, Buchi of “It Is Well In The Name of Jesus” fame, Tope Alabi and Ras Kimono have all played their part, and some of them are still working, helping to create inspirational music.
The quality that is common to these groups of musicians, is the fact that they are “people who think of themselves as part of a noble elite of truth-seekers and secular priests.” They are purveyors of the intangible commodity called ‘news’. And news, in Marr’s words, is “a kind of self-regenerating yet timid natural resource…(some) mental fruit which must be gathered and collected by highly trained people using their voices, instruments and other items to make inspirational music.
There are therefore, rules guiding the making or production of gospel and reggae music.
First, you must know to whom you are singing praises. In Psalm 47:7 it says “For God is the King of all the earth sings to him a psalm of praise”. The literary meaning of Psalm therefore, is sensible and understandable utterances. Sadly today, most gospel and reggae musicians have lost the understanding of the type of music they are expected to play.
For any of these groups of artist to succeed, or to be able to come up with the type of music and kind of lyrics expected of them, they must know how to sing praises to God, who created them and us. Singing with reverence, strength, passion, emotions and with purpose, is a panacea to being a great and successful gospel and reggae artist.
A successful gospel and reggae artist must know how to sing musically, a good example of one classical gospel music is the one entitled, “You Got the Whole World in Your Hands”. Bob Marley has so many classics, which musicians need to carefully study. In those classics, such as
The Sun Is Shining, Thank You Lord, Natural Mystic, Mr. Chatterbox, Try Me, Nice Time, Screw Faces, Long Long Winter, Hammer, Don’t Rock My Boat, How Many Times, Hypocrites Make Up, Put It On, Mr. Brown, Soul Shakedown Party, All In One, Do It Twice, No Sympathy, Keep on Moving, Soul Captives, Satisfy My Soul Jah Jah, Get Tell It On The Mountain, Adam and Eve and Soul Rebel Bob clearly shows in all these classics that a good artist verbalization is clear, if he or she must make a huge success out of his musical career. A good gospel and reggae musician is always conscious of one single fact; his or her ultimate listener is no other person, than God Almighty. His best is therefore expected and required. And as such, he or she must be in the spirit while putting finishing touches to works in the studio. And finally, gospel and reggae artist must be ready to praise God with all that they have got, be it emotion and exotic praises.
For all these efforts to be realized, the artist must be ready to invest great resources and energy in his chosen career, once these standards are met, and adhered to religiously, what follow is a “bang” then success is always assured. I saw Majek Fashek followed these rules in Tabansi Studio in Oregun, Lagos before the coming of “Send Down The Rain”. I saw Odion Oroje, Chris Ajilo, Tony Okoroji, Laolu Akins and my late uncle, Sonny Okosun, worked hard in the studios as producers. All what it takes is hard work.
Why must a gospel and reggae artist sing praises? They sing praises, because they know and realize that it is only God that deserves their praises. They are also aware that God demands and commands as a matter of fact, the songs of praise. All humans owe it, as a debt, to give God his due recognition. We must therefore, continually appreciate him. We have no other option, than to give God the recognition, to show our affection to him, and in the process challenge him to do more for us. As expected, he will show that his mercies endure forever.
Above all other considerations, we are created to Praise God and God only. Isaiah 43:21 says, “The people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Psalm 103 is also very clear about this; we should not forget all his benefits.
From the above reasoning, it is a common sense for us to praise God always. Psalm 119:164 states, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws”. We are therefore expected to praise God, in affluence, poverty, in trouble and out of troubles.
The benefits of all these are unquantifiable in that we are spiritually rewarded, mentally and physically happy. We also gain inexplicable inner-strength and materially rewarded. So, stay out of hard drugs, play the role expected of you diligently, and you will surely be rewarded as a gospel and reggae musician.
Mr. Omonhinmin is a Lagos based Media Consultant.