At a holiday party recently, someone asked me if when I’d been in Africa recently I’d heard any of Africa’s great new music, you know, gospel.
This past weekend was Africa’s continent-wide music video award show which I found particularly interesting since artists and production companies from my neck of the woods, Tanzania and Kenya, did extremely well.
Tanzania and Kenya, compared to South Africa and Nigeria, is like comparing Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Nashville, in terms of financing and production capability. But the continent has been connected for many decades by its music and music competition, and East Africa is emerging with what I think is the greatest creativity.
Earlier in the year, the African music awards which represent the top stars in the industry was held again in South Africa.
I really listened to these closely again, and darn it, I couldn’t find any gospel.
Nigeria continues to dominate the industry. The energy of modern Nigerian pop stars makes me think it would be absolutely impossible — beyond the realm of imagination — to think that Islamic terrorists could ever take over this country.
I’m not being facetious. I’m presenting an entirely better defense against terrorism than what current politicians espouse.
The list of the hundred, even thousand top performers in Africa includes … no gospel music. Boko Haram may have extinguished them, I suppose, but rather I think you might just say … times have changed.
In fact, I remember shortly after Kathleen and I started to work in Kenya in 1972 that the two top music award winners that year in Kenya were the Kenyan Police Band and a church gospel choir.
I’m no music critic, but in listening to a wide range of modern African hits today I’m impressed by their gentler tone than we have in the west.
Most of the themes are ones of individual love lost or pined for, and many of them actually do remix the old dada da-da / dada da-da rhythm of the ancient adungu instrument.
But even that isn’t .. gospel.
Gospel is indeed part of America’s musical heritage.
It really isn’t in Africa. The gospel music that was promoted in colonial times was the music thrust on the oppressed by the overlords. They probably didn’t expect anything else was possible.
They were wrong: