In the days of yore, gospel musicians were seen as holy and represented the symbol of the Lord. In fact, they were held in high esteem to the point that their way of life and dressing were always a reference point when a good example is the topic.
Today, that is no more, as gospel musicians of this new dispensation are not ready to follow their predecessors' way. Modern day gospel singers have decided to embrace the "latest" in town. In this special write-up, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY's Senior Correspondent, Ajibade Alabi, looks at the issue critically and asks what manner of gospel artistes are we having now?
In the years past, gospel music was such an entrenched genre of the Nigerian music industry that secular artistes like King Sunny Ade and Commander Ebenezer Obey joined the fray. They sang lavishly, thanking God for His mercies and effusively praising Him for His goodness and kindness.
But they never referred to themselves as gospel artistes, as they were not, and they were never classified as such. However, Commander Obey, who has now gone fully into gospel music and is even now an evangelist, can now be fully referred to as a gospel artiste.
All along though, there have been artistes who sang strictly gospel lyrics. Many were not popular, receiving minimal airplay, the bulk of which was on Christian service days, Sundays, and in adherence with the Word of God. They performed in churches, revivals and other appropriate venues.
But with the boom the music industry has been experiencing in recent times, gospel music too has exploded massively.
Consequently, many more acts, whether they are so-called or not, have found their way into it in order to quickly carve a niche for themselves, as it is quite easier to make it faster in the gospel music sector than the secular, that is highly competitive and is like a thick jungle.
There is no gospel artiste who will admit that he or she wasn't called, as the society expects that a gospel artiste heard and obeyed the call of God, to spread the message of hope and salvation.
While spreading the message is what they claim they are doing, and they readily say so with their mouth and professes it in their songs, their behaviours, actions, dressing and manner, however, signify otherwise.
Describing them, Papa Slow, a gospel music artiste, said: "Most of my colleagues are controversial, materialistic, and unlearned in theology. They don't go out of their way to win souls for Christ, and generally don't do all they really should to convey that they are 'fishers of men'."
A list of the present-day crop of top gospel artistes would definitely include Tope Alabi, Yinka Ayefele, Sammie Okposo, Asu Eldyd, Funmi Aragbaiye, Lanre Teriba, Mike Aremu, Buchi, Ann Inyang, Gloria Doyle, Midnight Crew, Femi Opalemo and many others.
Breaking down the several shortcomings of all these supposedly God-like role models would bring about pity, for it is obvious that they know not what they are doing. Apart from their individual faults, they also have the common ones; the basic one being that they do not discriminate about where they perform.
Imagine gospel artistes performing in a night club where the patrons are smoking, drinking, loosely dressed and committing immorality. Such a gospel artiste is the one in the wrong environment where he or she should never be found. But when asked why, their ready response is that they have to reach as many souls as possible wherever they are; when in actual fact, their motive for performing in such a setting is simply to make money.
In various individualistic ways, they misrepresent the gospel and are too numerous to mention.
In the case of rapper and gospel singer, Bukola Folayan a.k.a. Bouqui, she made a costly blunder when she agreed to feature in Ashionye's Party Tonite. As it is well-known, Ashionye is an unrepentant secular singer-songwriter-dancer who got it into her head to feature Bouqui, a gospel artiste, on her Party Tonite, a track about worldly pleasures of the flesh.
It's never bad to broach an idea, but then it's left to the concerned parties to interpret correctly how it benefits them. And Bouqui failed in that regard. She dropped her rap on the track and by the time the video was to be shot, she had realised her mistake and therefore opted out of the video on the grounds that it was not right for her image. But thank God, she realised in good time.
Those who listen to the Rooftop MCs immediately conclude that they are gospel artistes. Though they fuse a lot of music genres - rock, fuji , rap, etc. The consistent factor in their songs is the lyrics which even draws from the scriptures.
However, in order to benefit from the financial largesse that goes mostly to secular artistes, the Rooftop MCs are always quick to deny that they are doing gospel music. They claim instead that their music is just inspirational; a case of Peter denying Jesus?
Gloria Doyle probably is the worst of them all so far. Only in her dress sense has she presented herself as a gospel musician.
Nowadays, she is very quiet and rarely seen. But just a few years ago, she was always seen dressed in semi-nude clothing that would have been better imagined than seen.
The Nigerian society however rose with one voice to condemn her severely. Gloria wasn't moved though by all the criticisms, defending herself that she had the right to dress as she liked.
The examples of the many sins of gospel artistes are inexhaustible: Yinka Ayefele eternally singing praises of human beings; Sammie Okposo fathering a child out of wedlock and always fingered in alleged illicit romantic relationships; Lanre Teriba fathering many children and in alleged illicit affairs. And the story goes on and on.
Giving his final opinion on the transgressions of his colleagues, Papa Slow said: "It is only hoped that they will mend their ways, because a round peg should only be slotted into a round hole. So, they should abide by the doctrines of the gospel, instead of going against them for the sake of a few more naira notes in the bank or to satisfy the demands of their flesh.
"Most of all, whichever of them can't be true to the strictness of the gospel should just go out of it, instead of continuously sinning and blaspheming against it, because it casts us that are living and performing by the true doctrines in a bad light with them".