Factionalism in Gospel music

Five things to do in Hong Kong
2017-07-28
Metrorail or Metrofail?
2017-07-31

Factionalism in Gospel music

Factionalism in Gospel music

By Fusi Nkoala

Factionalism is a term usually associated with politics. So it’s difficult to imagine such a phenomenon would exist in the world of gospel music. But as with politics when you have two groups or more seeking to have a monopoly on the essential ideas that characterise that movement, you will have factions. In gospel music where there is various views on God, worship and theology this plays itself out in a myriad of ways.

As with any other musical genre, gospel music has its own share of challenges that to some extent this has become stumbling blocks when it comes to growth. Undoubtedly the biggest selling genre of music on the continent, gospel music has grown in leaps and bounds, and in the past has birthed many sub genres from gospel house, gospel hip-hop, and gospel rhythm and praise. But don’t think that these genres exist in harmony. There’s always a tussle of acceptance for new emerging sub genres, mainly from the traditionalists who are predominantly occupy leadership positions whether in church, media houses or record labels. In South Africa for instance, the type of gospel that is deemed acceptable gospel is that old traditional sound of the likes Sfiso Ncwane and Rebecca Malope. Young people have also started replicating this sound because that’s what they’ve been made to believe gospel music should sound like. If you’re a gospel artist and you do anything other than that traditional sound, you risk being alienated by gospel fans and the industry alike, thus you end up struggling to get booked to perform at prestigious and well-paying events. Gospel music is at a point where it is wrestling with relevance in this ever evolving age of music.

One of the biggest challenges facing gospel music today is the issue of acceptance of the contemporary sound that is coming with the new generation. The conservatives are seeing it as embracing the world or bringing the “devil’s music” to the pulpit. The new generation loves the fresh sounds of contemporary pop, RnB, Hip Hop and is now bringing through that sound in their music, while still keeping the message about GOD. But the traditionalists are not hearing that. As a result, despite its growing popularity, you will hardly hear this type of contemporary sound on your popular gospel radio show. The contemporary generation loves hot beats and catchy hooks and many contemporary gospel singers know this and are trying to stay relevant with this market by doing music exactly like that, but that is still speaks to their faith and has a mission. The two styles of music, traditional and contemporary, share the same message and I believe that they can coexist but people, who are refusing to accept new things, are just making it difficult to find common ground.

In my view the existing Factionalism in the gospel music is behind the lack of collaborations between the traditional and contemporary sound. Credit must be given to the late Sfiso Ncwane who before his passing did a song with a gospel rapper by the name of Mawatt. One of the other things that could possibly help to bridge the gap is, if broadcasters could start embracing the contemporary gospel sound that has youthful beats, and start having it on their weekly music rotation lists, and not compartmentalize it to their Sunday programming. Also record labels have a responsibility to embrace the new style of Gospel music and sign these artists on their rosters and help market them effectively.