Home Music & Drama GOSPEL MUSIC IN NIGERIA: Which Way -Dr. Broda Martyns

GOSPEL MUSIC IN NIGERIA: Which Way -Dr. Broda Martyns

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GOSPEL MUSIC IN NIGERIA: Which way? 

 By Dr. Broda Martyns

Without mincing words, gospel music has come a long way in Nigeria. Looking back over thirty five years ago, the older generation of Christians often recalls with nostalgia what it was. But really, things cannot remain the same. Change is one of the most constant things in life. Gospel music has seen many dynamic and dramatic changes in the past three and half decades.

I am not surprised at these changes. GOD actually raised people up to spearhead these changes. Dr. Panam, Rev. Bassey Ekpeyong, Tom Abba and Thomas Moses, (both of blessed memory), Dupe Olulana, Gbemi Olaleye, Chris Ogugua, Carol Bridi, Ori Okoro, The Jesus Messengers, Gladd Tidings and several other Gospel Music Ministers were amongst some of the people I can readily recall who were raised by GOD to pioneer the various moves that eventually led to where we are now in the Nigeria Gospel Music scene. 

Professor Ladi Osasona of Obafemi Awolowo University may not be counted as a Gospel Musician. But, GOD used him mightily to create the mega platform called “Living springs”. This is a Gospel Musical event that showcased Gospel Music annually in Ile-Ife. People came from all over West Africa and beyond to participate in it. The impact of this was phenomenal. Before the annual mega musical worship “Experience” hosted by House On The Rock, Livingsprings was the biggest single Gospel Music event in the world. 

However, my departure from conventional styles drew a lot of controversies and condemnation from the Body of CHRIST. I remember when I started singing Gospel Afro, Root Reggae, Rap, Makossa or Calypso, Fuji, Afro-Reggae fusions, (my first hit song “Mushin Olosa”), etc, many people authoritatively concluded that I was not born again! But as they listened to the lyrics of these unconventional songs and my testimonies, they realised that GOD actually anointed me for this. To the glory of GOD, many people refer to me as one of the “fathers” of modern Gospel Music in Nigeria because almost every radical style of Gospel Music you find today has been used by me in my many album productions decades ago. Some of these Gospel Musicians say they were inspired by me. 

However, one of the commonest complaints today is that “Gospel Music has become mere entertainment”! Well, while I do not quarrel with the entertainment ting in it, I am however concerned with the fact most Gospel Musicians are not making any effort to strike a balance between spirituality and entertainment. 

First of all, entertainment is a powerful weapon of marketing. If we must market the Gospel effectively to our generations, we must strategically employ the weapon of entertainment. GOD created the gift of entertainment and endowed people with the talent because of its therapeutic effects. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart is medicinal.” Merriment is a byproduct of joy or happiness. Entertainment is a major source of both. So, we cannot condemn entertainment outrightly. 

Look at the secular world for instance. Entertainment is one of their strategies for driving their industrial activities. Have you seen any effective advert from any big company or industry without entertainment carefully embedded in it? No! Why? They know the power of entertainment. But also notice that the entertainment in their adverts does not obliterate the main message they push to the public. At the end of the day, sales of their products soar high and they smile to the banks with huge profits.

Music Ministers must strive to achieve this balance. It may interest you to know that I am one of the first people to introduce “standup comedy” in Nigeria! (I was the best comedian in University of Ife). Each time I stood up to sing, I would throw in a joke that would accentuate the message of my songs. And of course, all my jokes and songs hinged on the WORD of GOD. I am not advocating that every singer should throw in jokes before singing. I am only emphasising the need for balance. (To be continued).