The Evolution of Gospel music in Kenya

Modern day gospel music has been so heavily commercialized and secularized that it has lost the feel, touch, dignity and perhaps power of the gospel of Christ, that it is supposed to represent. Urban Christian youth and deejays have been at the centre of this evolution of gospel music in Kenya in the past decade.

Gospel is no longer what it used to be back in the day. Let us go back to the 1990’s when gospel was decent, in-corrupted and heavenly. The music simply felt and sounded godly. There was a clear distinction between gospel and secular music and you could tell the difference by just listening to the audio or watching the videos.

It was not half as popular as it is today and the artistes were few. Radio stations hardly played it, save for Sunday mornings, or very early in the morning on weekdays. It was not played in night clubs and entertainment joints. Flash forward to today and all the major mainstream radio and TV stations have a gospel show and they have added gospel music in their daily playlists. Secular musicians are ‘getting saved’ to tap the gospel market. Every nightclub plays gospel music nowadays.

Back then, gospel artistes did not have dreadlocks, earrings, tattoos or silver chains hanging on their necks. Gospel music did not include rap, dancehall, hip hop or the so called ‘kapungala.’ It was the kind of music your mother could hum to as she did the laundry. You could comfortably listen to it without getting a headache or wondering what it was all about. It was the kind of music that compelled you to get on your feet and sing along word by word. It could touch your heart.

The 90’s were golden. The world was separated from the church then. Gospel artistes dressed and behaved decently and you never heard scandals about them. Their lives and everything reflected the gospel. Gospel music was dignified and glorified God. Yes, there are still many good gospel musicians out there like Eunice Njeri and Mercy Masika, to mention just two. (For those at the back asking for examples.)

Some of the gospel musicians we grew up listening to include Esther Wahome, Mary Atieno, Reuben Kigame, Emachichi, Angela Chibalonza and the Kasangas. Tanzania’s Munishi, Rose Muhando and Makoma, a Congolese group, were also popular in Kenya. They made good gospel music before Maximum Melodies, Henri Mutuku, Rufftone and Robert Kamanzi came into the scene.

The lyrics were sensible, inspiring and could be used in praise and worship, unlike some of the modern silly anthems like ‘Thitima’ and ‘Tiga wana.’ These songs are only fit for clubs and nursery school and not anywhere near the pulpit. Times have changed but I don’t think God’s word has changed with the times.

Nowadays, you can’t tell the difference between the so called gospel and secular. If you listen to or watch some of the so called gospel today, you will be shocked. The church has compromised with the world and gospel has been corrupted. The beat, the sound, dancing, dressing, the videos, the graphics and the style are all the same. They claim to be ministering to the young generation in their language and culture but it just doesn’t feel right.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not judging anyone here but simply doing comparisons. I doubt if anyone feels God speaking to them through any of these new age gospel songs, or if anyone can be transformed by them. To me, they just feel like dance music. What about you?

Your feedback