Thesis For The History Of Nigerian Gospel Music (1930 – 2014) | WrittenBy Alex Amos


A lot of misconceptions have risen about the
Gospel music in Nigeria but Gospel music remains
the most dynamic genre of music in Nigeria. This
is due to the role the church plays consciously or
unconsciously in the distribution circle of the
Gospel music. Unlike its counterparts who create their music and then struggle to create a fan
base, Gospel artistes only have to create their
music to suit the preference of the ready fan base
put together by the church denominations.
Hence, a gospel artiste may attain prominence
within a church and remain unknown to the mainstream market yet maintain a vibrant and
thriving ministry.

The church, from inception has played a key role
in the history and development of Gospel music
in Nigeria as the church was responsible for the
creation of the genre called Gospel music. Gospel
music started from the conventional Christian
music rendered during services and later metamorphosed into special rendition by choir
as the church grew.

There is a need to clarify here that Gospel music is
different from Christian music contextually. While
Christian music is any song that falls under the
category of the precepts observed by the afore
mentioned religion, Gospel music may not
necessarily mean a song that can be presented or rendered in church. As a matter of fact, these
days, we have seen Gospel artistes who classified
their subgenre of Gospel music as “Alternative
Gospel music,” “Outside Church music” and the
most common being “Inspirational music.”
Haven said this, if we are to look at the denotative meaning of the words, they both
mean the same thing.

Gospel music enthusiast Dan Mark says; “the term
can be used interchangeably but Gospel is used
more often for urban & southern styles while
Christian music is used for all other styles, but
especially for contemporary music genres”

Gospel music in Nigeria grew from just being
church music into functions and events. This
development became evident in the 1930s-50s,
according to Omobiyi Obidike (1994). It began to cater to both the church and social interest,
hence, Gospel music left the confines of the
church. Choirs and groups were invited to radio
stations where they were featured on
programmes and made recitals. This can be
likened to what is obtainable today where radio stations have special Sunday programmes, only
this time, the Gospel music featured are on wax.
One of the most prominent choirs of this period
was the choir of Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA).

While scholars have argued for or against the fact
that Nigerian Gospel music started before the
1960s, one certain fact is that major
developments began in 1960s with the pioneers
as S.A. Adeosun of Christ Apostolic Church Yaba who released the first popularly known
indigenous Christian music in 1965 titled “Kristi Mo Fara Mi Fun O” (To You Oh Christ I Give Myself) and S.O. Akinpelu of Christ Apostolic Church Oke Ayo, Opopo Iyemoja Ibadan who released “Teje Re Ni Koro” (Consider Your Blood) in the same year. Also Rev. T.M. Illesanmi who led the choir of St. Peter’s and Paul’s Catholic Church to release the album “Mo Ti Kole Mi Sori Apata” (I Have Built My House on the Rock) in 1967.

By the 1970s, the Gospel music has been
professionalized and extended its tentacles into
the East with Brother Lazarus & Emmanuel spearheading the Eastern movement.
Practitioners started to separate their music from
the church and maintained a booking office.
The 70s also witnessed – according to Rev. Femi Adedeji – the introduction of ‘spiritual’ style pioneered by Shola Rotimi and the ‘assorted’ style led by Bola Are and J.A. Adelakun, the introduction of oratorio form into Nigerian
gospel music by S.O. Akinpelu and Bisi Adeoye- King, and the establishment of Christian singing groups in Nigerian gospel institutions of higher
learning which also waxed gospel albums.

In the 80s, Gospel music spread into the
Northern region, also, the genre was ‘funkified.’
Prior to the 80s, what was obtainable was similar
to the status quo that trailed the genre since its
inception. Carol Brindi was arguably the first to funkify the Gospel music with the introduction of ‘Gos-Pop’ style in 1984 (Ajirire and Alabi, 1992). The genre became fully commercialized
and assumed an entertainment function as well. Panam Percy Paul, Bola Are, Christ Apostolic Church Good Women choir led by Mrs. D.A. Fasoyin were amongst those who spearheaded this era. Christian music producers and
promotion outfits began to spring up and these
developments enhanced the growth of the
musical genre. Also, the Gospel Musicians’ Association of Nigeria (GOMAN) and National Association of Gospel Artistes (NAGA) were established during this period. The likes of Funmi Aragbaiye, Ayo Ni Church Movement Choir, and more that sprung up during this period introduced more instruments to their
music, thereby making the genre stand beside
any other form of music there is. It can be said
that Gospel music came of age in the late 80s/
early90s. The music used to originate from the
church in the early stages of the genre and then taking into the market but this period saw the
music taken from the groups and artistes, and
into the church. This was how some of the
popular praise and worship songs in the church
came to be. Radical forms and sub-genres such
as Gospel-Fuji, Gospel-Waka , were also created. Funmi Aragbaiye – Bawa Tun Aiye Wa Se

The conversion of secular artistes such as Chris Okotie, Sonny Okosuns and Ebenezer Obey- Fabiyi gave the genre a face-lift in the 90s while traditional musical elements were being
incorporated into the genre. Nigerians were also
introduced to the foreign counterparts with the
introduction of foreign records into the market.
This had a great influence on the new crop of
artistes and the fans’ preferences. Christian recording studios, Christian music schools and
some gospel music magazines were also

Just like every other form of music in Nigeria
(except Fuji and Juju), Reggae music also
silenced the development of Gospel music in the
mid-90s. This wasn’t to say that the genre didn’t
have artistes who released records in this period.
Of course the likes of Esse Agese, Onyeka Onwenu, also got converted. Chris Okotie’s sister, Lorine Okotie put out some of the best urban Gospel music of that era including “Jesus I Love You,” ‘Love Medicine” and the likes. The child-star Benita Okojie also put out great music in this era but Reggae reigned supreme above all
other genres and the Gospel music too was at the
receiving end.

The renaissance happened for Nigerian music at
the end of the 90s with the new urban music
spearheaded by The Remedies. New crop of young artistes emerged who infused traditional
musical elements with its foreign counterparts.
There was a sudden awakening for Nigerian
music and the Gospel music soon found its
footing in the new development as well. (Alex
Amos; History of Nigerian Hip Hop Music – A Tale of 3 Decades)

Sammie Okposo, Kenny Saint Brown, Mike Aremu and the Apostles were amongst the first to make it to prominence as Urban Gospel artiste
with their hit singles – “Welu Welu” by Sammie Okposo, “You are Worthy” and “Heaven Came Down” by Kenny Saint Brown featuring Essence and “Jesus Makes Things Happen” by the Apostles in the new millennium. Soon enough, we had the likes of G-Vibes (from where Bouqui emerged), Word 2 God, Rooftop MCs, Kush, Jeremiah Gyang, Samsong, Asu Ekiye, Jahdiel, Eben, Buchi following in the

Samsong came with a dynamic urban sound that tilted towards R&B and so did Word 2 God. He entered into the Star Quest Competition and afterwards released his hit single “Count Your Blessings” to critical acclamation. Eben also brought Rock, a genre which was not wildly
accepted at the time but he managed to cut
across with “Imaramma” . Buchi followed in the Reggae trend of the preceding era of Nigerian
music and broke in with “Mighty God”.

A common practice amongst Nigerian artistes
during this period further gave Gospel music a
facelift as artistes included atleast one or two
Gospel inclined tracks in their albums. This
helped in carving the new types of subgenres
present in Gospel music as it took the music from the regular church folk’s music and diversified to
more trendy and urban styles. An example is Paul play’s “Mo So Rire”, a remix of his father – IK Dairo’s original version.

Gospel music became as commercial as any other
genre of music in this period and Record labels
took on Gospel artistes who have made it into
the mainstream market while others groomed
the artistes. Next Level Entertainment produced Bouqui, Kennis Music produced Kenny Saint Brown, DKG Music produced Kush and Chocolate Music Group produced Jeremiah Gyang. Gospel artistes also featured in regular shows and music.

With dedicated platforms available to the Gospel
music these days such as TV Stations, Radio
Stations, Record labels, Shows and events, it is
gradually taken shape becoming the alternative
option of Nigerian music both for consumers and
stakeholders. Artistes such as Frank Edwards, Joe Praize, Mike Abdul amongst others own their record label and are taking on other
artistes. Rocktown Records owned by Frank Edwards has the likes of Gil, Victor Ike, amongst others, Mike Abdul’s Spaghetti Records is home to Monique. Joe Praize’s Coast2Coast is currently working on new artistes to be unveiled

Thavma Records, FreeNation INC, Dove TV, Loveworld Music Ministry, Zamar Entertainment, One Management, Tehila Records, X2D TV, Kingdom Africa, SelahAfrik, Praiseworld Radio, Gospogroove, Gospel Hotspot, Gospel Naija, Gospotainment, YadaMag, Gem Magazines, Gospelcentric, Exclusive Gospel, Liveway Radio are some of the dedicated platforms that are comprising the
core of what is becoming the Gospel music
industry today.

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