Earlier this month, popular gospel singer Sabastian Magacha released his latest album after a three-year sabbatical entitled Wonererwai Jeso. The album has fourteen tracks featuring some of Zimbabwe’s prominent musicians who include Jah Prayzah and Aleck Macheso.
The album did not only make news when business moguls, musicians, comedians, producers and socialites thronged the launch, or when 2000 CDs were sold. It also touched on one of the biggest on-going debates in the history of gospel music, if whether Christian artists should collaborate with mainstream artists.
Actually, gospel artists collaborating with a secular artist is nothing new in Zimbabwe, or beyond. It has become a trend, and every time it happens these hullabaloos are inevitable.
Two years ago Fungisai collaborated with Killer T on Vanondibatirana, and for the record, we all know what a smashing hit it was. However, it had a chaotic aura around it.
Taking a trip down the west, last year celebrated gospel musician Kirk Franklin irked an orthodox portion of his fans when he appeared on Kanye West’s album. It is in light of seeing these gospel artists who are doing collaborations with secular artists that yet again have raised a concern of where in music we draw the line.
Questions have been asked: Do you feel that gospel and secular artists should be featured in the same song? Does it depend on which secular artist is singing with a gospel artist? When do we draw the line ‘and be ye transformed..’, and when do we separate ourselves from the world? And forth and forth…
Truth is thousands of conversations and opinions have been shared but we still have no definitive answer.
In his journal letter to recording artists, Pastor G. Craige Lewis wrote:
‘When you join forces with secular artists, you are working against God. You see, gone are the days when you could try to minister from within the secular industry…God wants you out of the secular industry! He never ordained secular record deals for Christians. He never called music to exist by itself without being subject to the church!..If you are signed to a company and God is not in control, then it will be hard to stay true to your ministry. God never made his ministry subject to secular powers.’
However, Kirk Franklin in his MTV documentary argued:
“I got a lot of criticism from a lot of Christians for working with Kanye. A lot of people questioned my integrity. Questioned my spirituality. Questioned my Christianity. It challenged me and it was very painful. Some people responded like I was out there twerking and cussing and turning up. But I’m doing me…Who’s to say that someone is so far that God’s love can’t grab them where they are? But we don’t go get them because we don’t want to leave the rules of the church?”
In what seems like a similar vein, Fungisai in an interview said ;
‘ Music is a profession for me and that has always been my approach and that is how I want to be understood. But there is always this stigma surrounding gospel musicians. If you say music is my profession it is like you are a sinner… I chose music as a career so that I could sing anything.’
So as we all can see this thread has been going on and on, and these collaborations will go on until the end of time. So we should be used to it by now.
Whether they should collaborate or shouldn’t, this is a matter of perspective. Most people would rather see a secular artist working with a gospel artist than visa versa, because secular artists seeking Lord Jesus is a very good thing to them. The other way round is an anomaly, hence unacceptable. Double standards, right?
So here is a note to gospel artists, well, certainly if you think collaborating with a secular artist is wrong, you should not do it. But knowing that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus you don’t condemn others who are free to do as they wish. It is a faith thing. If we govern ourselves by the words of Apostle Paul, everything we do is done to the Lord. If you abstain it is to the Lord that you abstain. If you do not abstain it is done to the Lord.
And to the people who love gospel music, we need to bear in mind that not all secular artists are profane or even overly risque. Some have good lyrics that uplift even though it isn’t labeled as gospel. Yet, you’re justified in being grieved by this excessive commercialism of contemporary gospel music. Artists need to bear in mind that you’re the one who consumes the music and you understand the influence it has on you. Therefore, in such a way they should take your concerns seriously when you raise one.
Listen to the new Sabastin Magacha and Jah Prayzah below.