It is the kind of music which has been hit with controversies as to whether it is a genre on its own or a fusion of genres. Virtually all musicians who fall within this scope of
Over the years, the Ghanaian gospel music scene has seen a transformation from the traditional highlife and reggae rhythm to the fusion of the hip-hop element and culture. Musicians who fall under this category mostly sing or rap in English with the lyrics more focused on praising God.
Pioneers of this new genre were subjected to criticisms by a section of the public who asserted that their style was rather worldly. Despite claims that such genre of gospel music was for the night club which is against Christian norms, the gospel musicians have firmly stood by their reason.
“I did the hip-hop styled gospel song 'Praise the Lord' to solve the problems of the youth. Instead of going to the night clubs to listen and dance to hip-hop music, they will go to the church since the songs are similar but with a different message… Even Jesus Christ was criticised so I don't have any problem with criticism. People criticised my 'Jama' styled Gospel music but later they accepted and loved it. That is the same way they will accept this 'hip-hop' styled music,” Pastor Josh Laryea known for his hit song, ‘Ngboo’, said on GTV's Next Level in 1994.
His reason is not anything different from new act, Kojo Bentil who asserts that, “This type of music is not parallel to the traditional Ghana Gospel that has been around for years. This is more contemporary and appeals both to the ordinary secular man and to the people of faith. The target is not just to reach out to church folks only as it has been the usual norm. This is to go beyond to reach out to everyone out there”.
Even before this period, Esther Smith had carved a niche for herself with her R&B style of Ghanaian gospel music.
Her songs were however not criticised because she sang in the local dialect [Twi] which made the people relate to it.
Currently, artistes in this bracket seem to be excelling as they have chalked remarkable successes. In 2013, Cwesi Oteng’s Mercy Project won him Album of the Year at the Ghana Music Awards. He was also adjudged Artiste of the Year (West Africa) and the Male Artiste of the Year at the 2014 African Gospel Music Awards (AGMA).
Music group, Royal Priesthood has also won a number of International Awards. In 2013, their track, “His Joy” which features Ken Ken was adjudged Best International Hip-hop Song at the Gospel Music Awards, Italy. They also won Best International Artistes at the 2014 Sceptres Awards, Nigeria. In 2015, their album, “New Wine” was voted Best International Album at the Gospel Music Awards (Italy) and Best Inspirational Group at the Africa Music Awards.
The likes of Akesse Brempong and Preachers have also registered their brands as urban gospel musicians.
But has it been fully accepted into our jurisdiction?
“One of the challenges is that we have so many young guys doing urban gospel music with great talents, lyrics, energy and concepts but no producers and managers to pump money into their works. It is just a few that are trying to make headway. Because of that, DJs and radio presenters find it difficult to put together a playlist of quality urban gospel songs for their shows… We thank the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards for nominating some of our artistes but I think a more permanent way is to create a category for the few urban gospel artistes that are doing well,” Royal Priesthood told Pulse.com.gh.
Notwithstanding the little support given to their music videos, one can state that there has been a vast improvement on what existed in the past.
In previous years, most gospel music videos lacked storylines and were mostly shot close to fountains.
Currently, many of the Ghanaian gospel music videos are competing with the secular music videos. The improvement in costume, editing, special effects and other features accompanying gospel music videos cannot be overemphasised.
It is therefore not surprising that Cwesi Oteng’s “Mercy” music video won ‘Best Gospel Video of the Year’ category at the 2011 Vodafone 4Syte TV Music Video Awards.
The challenge of our society has always been accepting ‘new things’ wholeheartedly. However, considering the purpose for choosing urban gospel and the successes chalked, it will not be out of place to rally behind artistes who fall within this space. Welcome the new era!