Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jeremiah Gyang: Gospel or Secular

On the Sunday of October 14th  the unmistakable Nigerian music artiste from Jos, Jeremiah Gyang, launched his latest music album at Crest Hotel in Jos. The album titled “The Love Album”, represents his third album.
With the renaissance of the Nigerian Music Industry, Jeremiah was the first artiste from Jos to make a representation for the city at the national phase. Some will say that he made a representation not only for Jos but for the whole of Northern Nigeria, more so that his style embraced northern languages in addition to English. P-Square and the bunch of rappers to have come from Jos to make an impression at the national level, as well, merely followed the path he paved. His song “Na Ba Ka” which means “I give it to you” went to the top of MTN Top 10 Music Chart that was anchored by famous DJ Olisah in Lagos and broadcast across the nation. The song featured a cameo role by the tall rapper, Six Foot Plus. “Na Ba Ka” did not only top the charts but is the single most important song that made him popular. Jeremiah’s successes included a jingle for Nigeria Television Authority sub-station, Abuja and the use of one of his songs by the BBC Hausa Service to call attention to upcoming events.
 “Na Ba Na” when translated in English means “I give it to you” as said before. “You” here refers to God. Hence the song is talking about a surrender of one’s heart and life to God. Since the song is his most popular song, it created an impression of Jeremiah as a gospel artiste. A proof of this impression of Jeremiah as a gospel singer is the fact that he became a friend of the church in Nigeria especially in the north. He is always a guest singer in any major church event or a gospel crusade.
One day I was compelled to ask a question as to whether Jeremiah Gyang was actually a gospel singer or not.  This was because I noticed that each time he performed at a church or a gospel crusade, he performs just that song such that the song has become so boring. After the “Love Album” was released, I decided to listen to it to confirm my suspicion. A mere 25% of the sixteen tracks in the album were on the Gospel side while the remaining 75% were on the secular side.
Traditionally, a gospel song is one of worship and adoration to God with a strong solemn flair. Today however, many so-called gospel artistes simply add spiritual messages to any of pop music such as Rap, Reggae or R&B and call it gospel. Others invent their own genre of pop music and add the spiritual messages. That is the category that Jeremiah’s music belongs to. The artiste fulfilled the demand of bringing something new into your music in order to succeed by inventing his style that involves combining the sounds of local music instruments with a few Western instruments, mainly the guitar and the piano and singing in English, Hausa and Berom, his native language.
The announcement of the lunch of ”The Love Album” to me, was unexpected. This is because Jeremiah had relocated to Jos from Abuja where he used to be based. My impression was that the relocation was an indication that his music career was grinding to a halt. The release of t he “love Album” however seemed to have proven me wrong. Now that I have listened to the album, I must say that the album has fallen below my expectation. It takes an invention for an artiste to have a style that distinguishes his music from all others. He worked hard and found it. Now it appears he is throwing it to the garbage bin and drifting back to the background. 
Most artistes often do this. It is like” I have found what I want. The whole world can go to hell.”   Most people who go into music are motivated by money, stardom and success. These successes once they come can make an artiste lazy. The artiste prefers to relax and enjoy his wealth. Talking about wealth, one cannot say how much wealth Jeremiah has been able to make from his music career. Gospel artistes are motivated by need to spread the word and glorify God. This should be a life-long commitment or should last for as long as the artiste remains strong enough to carry on. Jeremiah is still young. If the artiste sees himself as a secular artiste however, the career can end at anytime he chooses. Jeremiah’s music suggests he may not be a gospel artiste. If he chooses to end his career then it is only normal. The point however is that he has not said he is retiring. Discarding his music distinction however means that he will not be able to stand competition and will inevitably be forced into retirement whether he likes it or not.

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