Sunday, December 13, 2015

Music Review -Glory to Your Name- Solomon Lange

The Grateful album

I had known that Solomon Lange, the big fat gospel music singer from southern Kaduna, had released a new music album. I had listened to a single song from the album when Anita Mallum played it on Music on Radio II on Peace FM Jos.

Yesterday, 12th December, I was in a taxi, on my way home from the city when the driver played that album from his stereo. Then, suddenly, there was this track that encored the line “glory, glory to your name papa o.” 

Right from the beginning of the song, I could feel the emotional spin of the song and its outstanding audio identity. Music with an emotional spin often transports me far away in thought. That was exactly my experience as we drove towards College of Mary Immaculate. My thought spun around the cliché of the message that was nevertheless striking. It was about praise and adoration. Of course messages of songs, especially gospel would always be the same: praises and adorations. But what should make it striking is the uniqueness of the melody and its capacity to swirl one’s mind. It is from there that the fortification and inspiration come - the power of a song comes largely from the melody and the emotion it evokes. I paid attention to the conscious effort to give the song a Nigerian and African identity: a phrase like “papa o”, the inflexion and an element of central African Makossa. 

I disembarked from the taxi at Vom Junction with one intention at the back of my mind: to go ask for the album at a music retailing studio at the junction. The music vendor told me copies of the album have been sold out but he had a copy on his computer. He could burn the songs to a CD for me if I wanted. I told him about this particular song Glory to Your Name and he said it was part of the collection. Not wanting to take chances I requested him to play it. While the song played, a lady who was traveling from Lagos to Yola had to disembark from the commercial bus that conveyed them to ask for the song, having heard it blaring from the huge speakers in front of the studio. The lady was moved the way I had been moved on hearing the song. Such influence comes from the strong power in a song. So, I asked the music vendor: “can you see what playing this song has just done? If you want to continue selling this album all you need to do is just to continue playing this very song. People will come in to ask for it.”  

Solomon Lange knows that getting people to love your music does not come from going to the homes of music presenters, knocking and handing out a brown envelope. It comes from writing a good song, awakening your creative wits and using these qualities to make the song striking and acceptable. The song Glory to Your Name is one example.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Letter to My Pastor Friend

Dear Sir,

I am writing to thank you for the opening you gave me to meet with the youth group, particularly the band, of your church. I did meet with the group and learned something that gave me a jump in my endless desire for understanding.

As we all know, the Evangelical Church brought Christianity to our own part of the world. The men and women left the comfort of their homes, traveling into harsh condition –man-made and otherwise- to win those souls.

Today, the Evangelical Church stand the risk of losing those souls it won through those sacrifices of Kent, Bingham and so many others, to churches that were never part of the early phases of The Great Commission, the most direst. What matters is not the fact that they are being lost, but the fact that they are getting lost to false prophets, prophets who present concessionary brands of Christianity, prophet who present the wide and beautiful easy-to-walk-on "road" to eternal life, just to win the minds of the most vulnerable of your congregation and satisfy their selfish, worldly desires.

While I sat waiting for the leader of the singing group to arrive and introduce me to members already present, I felt offended that the leader failed to report early enough as we agreed in our phone conversation. I wasn’t aware that it was designed by God to give me time to watch the singers and see what He intended me to see. It was during that period that I notice, with pain, the paucity of the singing population –five men and women, in a town with a population of 200, 000 folks. I also noticed the inertia in the song-learning approach. This is the most critical.

I realized that your church is passing through the challenge of what to do to hold back the army of young men and women from the church. Of course, as the Bible says in Proverbs 20:29: the glory of young men –and women- is their strength … No church would want to lose this strength of the youth.

Pastor, I want you to forget whatever use to which the world has put singing into. It is just an abuse, brought about by the devil, for singing was designed by God, to be used in his praise and ministration. In Proverbs 149: 1, the Bible says: Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song. It follows from this that while it is good to sing songs of praise, it better to do so with new songs. 

News songs come from creativity. Creativity involves understanding circumstances that are in reality new songs beckoning to be discovered and have life blown into them. It involves writing the songs, giving the songs moving melodies and touches of originality. 

If you have a singing group where new songs are made, the youths would not run away. To make new moving songs knowledge is required. Needless to point the fact that the Bible also say: So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them –Genesis 1:27. In this likeness of God, lies the capacity to write and compose new songs. So, the youth must seek knowledge (my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: Hosea 4: 6) on how to make new songs.
There is power of ministration in songs. With a musically creative church, keeping your youthful congregants will come with the ease of inhalation and exhalation. Pastor, you know these are reflexive acts. 

Ministration and winning of souls take a multimedia dimension as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Music Review- Garose H –Comforter

Album cover of Comforter

A few weeks back, I attended a music album launch at Azi Nyako Youth Center at Dadin Kowa, Jos Plateau State. I actually gate-crashed; I was not invited, just heard the talk on radio. 

I did not stay till the end of the album launch and was able to listened to just a single song the artist performed before I left the hall. The song, comforter, performed on a reggae background, is an old Christian chorus I had known since I was a kid. It was the reason why I dismissed the whole album as one of those boring clichés one often hears. I threw the copy I’d bought in a clutter in my house, when I arrived home. 

Weeks later, something told me I should play the album, at least once, before passing my judgment. The artist needed to be heard first. You cannot believe that I was blown and made to regret my earlier judgment based on the single song I had listened to at the launch venue.

The album is a ten tracker that includes Give Me Oil, Comforter, Praise the Lord, Yesu na Nan, Wonder, Mata Ku Tashi, All About You, Mu Yabi Yesu, Born To Reign, and Maiceto Yana Kauna Ta. These songs cut across the genres of reggae, uplifting gospel ballads, central African “skuz”, Hausa/Fulani folk music and even the emerging West African Azonto.

The artist used Hausa and English, the most used languages in her neck of woods. These songs spread across praise, inspiration, and ministration. Garose appears very conscious of the impact of a distinct a melody in the promotion of a song, and along this line, I found tracks three and four most outstanding and my favorites. The artist’s most remarkable possession is the power of her high-pitched silky voice that conceals, effortlessly, any native accent. 

The producer of the album, Morgan Azi, did a good job on the album. It was no coincidence that he received the award of the Best Producer at the JOGAMA (Jos Gospel Music Award) 2015.

Garose H is remarkably talented and I hope the music scene would take notice of her and enjoy what she has to offer in that cutting voice of hers. If I were a pastor and needed music accompaniment in my outreaches I would go for Garose H. Sure, she can surely uplift spirits with the power in that voice.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

What about the Universal Feel

I have heard that, initially, Jamaican music was heavily garnished with patois that folks outside of the island couldn’t relate to the messages in the music, but since the Jamaican artists wanted to connect more with their fans around the world, the patois was mellowed down. For more than half a century, Jamaican music has been all over the place, with children miming meaningfully and getting inspired.

If the target of a music artist is a global reach, then the culture must be urbane. The Nigerian artists who helped to push Nigerian music around the world, be they 2face, PSQuare, D’banj, Banky-W… never allowed the cultures of the villages from whose dusts the rose to dominate what they played. There is the Nigerian feel, but the music remains suave. 

Today, though, music from the southwest of Nigeria is often, highly dominated by Juju, or Fuji, or both. The others from the South East have strong elements of southeastern indigenous music –everyone seems to be retreating back to his hamlet. It also seems that the artistry if forgotten, there is bad flow and the music is more of jarring noise. This has faded the power of the music to find global lure, something that makes us proud, highly.

Many of us who worry about the troubles of Nigerian music do so if the music is made in a manner that it does not evoke pride. What music evokes pride? Music that evokes pride, for us, is music that would be played outside and strangers would talk well of the music, that which strangers can buy and store it proudly on their CD racks.

It clear that music has the strongest drive to launder the image of the country outside, more than any other weapon the powers think they can mobilize.  It is impossible to talk about whatever appeal Jamaica has without remembering Reggae music.

If your music must find a universal reach, conquering all folks around the world, then you must discipline yourself to sacrifice the rhythms that call to mind what you should have left behind as you walked your way to Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Jos, Kaduna ...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Music Review: Reggae Blues by Harrysong

Reggae Blues Album of Harrysong

The song, “Reggae Blues” is, at the moment, one of the raving songs across Nigeria and perhaps beyond.

I was in a commercial vehicle when I heard the song for the first time. It was playing from a roadside speaker, placed there by a small music retailing studio. What struck me was the individuality of the melody.

The message in the lyrics makes suggestion to listener to play Blues after playing Reggae.  On a whole, the message urges the listener to find money, get booze and have fun.
There is a strong southeastern Nigerian influence in the song. You hear this from the accent of Harrysong, the artist. You also hear it from the strong percussion instrumentation. It is so strong one could say it is in the foreground, rather than the background.

From the ubiquity of the song, one could say that it has been highly received by music fans and the artist’s bank account is now bigger.

I am left constantly asking the question: what relationship has Reggae and Blues even when the song itself is neither Reggae nor Blues. It is more of southeastern folk music. I searched high and low for intellectual content. I am still searching.