MARCIA GRIFFITHS

amakye-dede-daddy-lumba.jpg“I shall sing, as long as I live. As long as Iive, I shall sing!”

WHY PROPHET KOBI HAS EVERY RIGHT TO CHOOSE THOSE TWO AS HIS FAVORITE MUSICIANS

The title of this article says it all: Prophet Emmanuel Badu Kobi, founding overseer of the Sakumono-based Glorious Wave Chapel International, has publicly declared his love for the musicianship of both Daddy Lumba, formerly known as Charles Kwadwo Fosu, and Amakye Dede, both successful highlife musical acts.

But, there is an attempt by some members of the public to label Prophet Kobi as a hypocrite merely for expressing his love for those two secular musicians and the kind of secular music they are widely known for, highlife.

This criticism itself exposes the covert hypocrisy of his largely anonymous critics and their abject ignorance of the complicated landscape of the diversity of music genres generally, and of gospel music in particular. This fact is further complicated by the mere notion that among other useful observations, Daddy Lumba’s musical dexterity and rich repertoire extends to the music genre of gospel.

And the central question as to whether Christians can or should listen to secular music is a standing query whose expanding domain of answers includes, expectedly, the ordinary and the bizarre. This central question is in effect a Pandora’s box and the Trojan horse—combined!

Thus, forcing the hat of Achilles’ Heel on the head of Prophet Kobi does not and will not do justice to the resolution of this Sisyphean burden of a standing query, perhaps a query as famous as the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.

Perhaps also it has not dawned on Prophet Kobi’s self-righteous corps of critics that secular music and gospel music share interesting overlaps, including all forms of music probably originating from the same centers of human consciousness.

In one particular sense, human consciousness is a sophisticated common pool of immanent resources from which the totality of humanity—in spite of remarkable individual differences—draws upon and from, if we can demystify it or simply put it at that.

For the most part therefore, the auditory cortex (as well as the motor cortex and the cerebellum) are involved in manufacturing and processing music. Which therefore means that the secular and the religious, or sacred, as far as music goes, have common activating centers and compartments of musical origination. Even the architectonics of dance moves accompanying secular music and gospel has its own brain parts and sensory pathways controlling it. This scenario arises correspondingly: The Christian critics of Prophet Kobi should tell us why God did not compartmentalize these brain stations and sensory pathways in contradistinction to secular music and gospel.

This is why our underlying caveat and disclaimer emphasized the point that these questions and their answers are not as straightforward and simplistic as these critics make them out to be.

The other complicating fact is that secular and gospel musicians influence as well as borrow from each other.

And then the fact that, musical instruments which secular and gospel musicians patronize may not necessarily be designed and manufactured by persons and companies whose owners may not even be Christians or religious after all, for that matter.

There are also secular musicians, singers, instrumentalists, producers and arrangers who are Christians. And there are certainly gospel musicians, singers, instrumentalists, producers and arrangers who are not Christians. Raw music talent and skill crisscross and transcend music genres.

The late Prince is a perfect example of this complexity as far as vocal dexterity and range, terpsichorean kinesthetics, and possession of extraordinary talent in multi-instrumental compositions are concerned.

Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon are the other two. Of course, there are a number of talented multi-instrumentalists from around the world. We however mention these popular three for instructional purposes.

André Edward Crouch, late, also famously known as the “father of modern gospel music,” worked with Elton John, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Diana Ross and a host of other secular musical acts.

Again, none of these musical acts can be described as a gospel musician. And of course, there are secular professionals who have directed and produced gospel music videos. And vice versa.

Famous brother-sister gospel acts Cece Winans and BeBe Winans incorporated “Auto-Tune pitch correction” techniques into their hit single, “Close to You,” techniques popularized by secular act T-Pain, a singer and rapper.

There are also secular songs that have been turned into gospel, and vice versa, with Bob Marley’s “One Love” enjoying one such memorable transition, or rendering. Kirk Franklin’s “Smile,” a gospel track, and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” a secular tune, both carry the same fundamental message. The point is that it is the lyrical content of a song that probably matters in its determination as a gospel music genre, though to some of us the rhythm or beats of a song equally matters in that determination.

Yet using the concept of lyrical content to determine the gospel character of a particular music genre is simplistically deceptive and technically insufficient, to say the least. More important than these facts, perhaps, is the idea that certain secular musical compositions have richer, better arranged, better beats, and more uplifting lyrical content than some gospel songs. All this is to say that the comparative phraseology and adjectives indicate varying positions and philosophical tastes based on a system of conceptual relativity. In other words, we are not making absolute claims.

American blues, R&B, neo-soul, country, bluegrass, jazz, hip-pop, roots reggae or reggae in general, funk, soul, rock…have all influenced gospel in a way we can never possibly have imagined, just as hip-lie and highlife, both in the secular music genre, are the bedrock of Ghanaian gospel particularly highlife.

The late Prince was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who played mostly secular music.

This begs the question: Which category of music genre do we place Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” Whitney Houston’s “I Look to You,” R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” Bob Marley’s “One Love,” Slim Young’s “Ye Obi Dee Yie,” Culture’s “Peace, Love & Harmony,” Nana Ampadu’s “Obra,” R. Kelly’s and Celine Dione’s “I’m Your Angel,” K.K. Kabobo’s “Onyame Ehu Wo”…?

Some will say “inspirational” rather than “gospel.” Either or both could suffice or be right. And more!

What is gospel then? Is it merely a form of music that “only” discusses the ultimate questions of life from the standpoint of the Trinity, spirituality, Christianity and the Bible? Let us not forget that the roots reggae of Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, Peter Tosh, Joseph Hill, Burning Spear, David Hinds, Israel Vibration…(and other secular music genres such as rap, rock, hip-life, country…) discusses these ultimate questions of life also without necessarily mentioning Jesus, the Bible, God or the Holy Spirit. Is not every form of music “spiritual” in and of itself, after all is said and done?

A number of traditional and contemporary repertoires of highlife compositions raise these ultimate questions of life as well.

And more importantly, perhaps, there are also non-lyrical jazz improvisation repertoires that are classified as gospel. Jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum has released a few of these wonderful non-lyrical “gospel” jazz tracks. Classical music is also largely non-lyrical and secular. And some gospel tracks have borrowed from this music genre. Yet the music sheet for a particular jazz or classical composition, for instance, may contain subtle backgrounds of dampened, nonexistent vocals and referents borrowing from or bordering on specific matters relating to topical Christocentric philosophy.

Readers should note that by “jazz” we are not talking about “instrumental.” We are rather talking about a far more complicated improvisational arrangement or composition of music sheet, with or without the appearance of intonational dexterity, for a particular ensemble of musical instruments.

Jazz and classical compositions require the gift of quantum genius in many a situation. What is more, there appears to be a wider range of creativity in the world of secular music than can ever possibly be dreamt of in the world of gospel music. We are taking about rhythmic, instrumental, vocal, and topical diversity.

This is not to totally deny the world of gospel music these creative, innovative characterizations. The fact is that the comparison is far more complicated than we can admit here. As a matter of fact, it is the secular world of music that feeds, nurtures, and sustains the genius of gospel music. Further, the so-called Negro Spirituals, which together with other music traditions paved the way for the birth of modern gospel, arose from a secular environment with a Christian/Biblical graft.

Oh Mother Africa…Peter Tosh’s “Mama Africa”…Thus, pre-colonial African music traditions were in the midst of this lasting transformation of the musical landscape of colonial America. For better or for worse.

HIGHLIGHTS OF PROPHET EMMANUEL BADU KOBI’S STATEMENT ON AMAKYE DEDE AND DADDY LUMBA

“I am very excited about the music scene in Ghana now. I love Lumba gospel songs. I think he is fantastic, but sometimes I don’t hear his words. Prophet Badu Kobi also revealed he loves other genre of Ghanaian music from the camp of highlife legend Amakye Dede especially ‘Dabi Dabi Ebeyeyie’ track. I have this CD; I love to play them because it has matured lyrical contents. ‘Amakye Dede once told me at my church that he composes his songs to praise God Almighty.’”

DADDY LUMBA AND PROPHET EMMANUEL BADU KOBI

Daddy Lumba at one point claimed that Prophet Kobi healed him without demanding a cent from, even as other pastors demanded GHc 2000 from him before they would agree to heal him. Here is exactly what Daddy Lumba was reported to have said after his momentous encounter with Prophet Kobi:

“For the past 22 years, I have been swallowing 48 tablets daily. I visited Glorious Wave Church International at Sakumono last week and Prophet Kobi prophesied about my ill health. He asked me to come to church with all my medications…The next Sunday morning, the man of God prayed for me and asked my Personal Assistant, Roman Father, to set the medications ablaze….Sofo Nyansa look at me. I can jump, sing and do everything that a man can do…I have met Prophet Kobi, the man of God for my life and forever will follow him.”

And oh, lest we forget prosperity theology makes arrant nonsense of this song “Gold Have I None” (see Acts of the Apostles,” Chapter 3). Here is a song that lyrically and rhythmically captures apostles performing miracles without demanding a cent in return. It was all free. Today the miracle industry is a multi-million—if not a billion—industry of unscientific lies. Here it goes:

“Silver and gold have I none…

“But such as I have, give I thee…

“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…

“Rise up and walk…

Question: Is it not surprising that Daddy Lumba has chosen to follow Prophet Kobi rather than God?

THE FUTURE OF GOSPEL MUSIC

It is our opinion that, generally, the lyrical content (message) of gospel should not be restricted to exclusively to topical questions of Judeo-Christian spirituality, a view which, unfortunately, is the case as we have seen and identified it in most gospel repertoires. We guess this is why, understandably, this particular genre is called “gospel” or “gospel music” in the first place.

On the other hand, Ghanaian gospel music can be restructured to fit the typology of “conscious music” if its composers, writers, and singers can conscientize their lyrical philosophies via personal and group intellectual consumption of matters and questions bordering on the many roles positive social and political consciousness play in human existence and political morality.

But, granted, the spiritual and the mundane are not always mutually exclusive. Sometimes, and probably arguably, the mundane and the spiritual are mutually inclusive. Yet the rational pragmatics of science does not accept this model of thinking, of course, although from our standpoint we think vast swaths of the common pool of human consciousness seem to harbor covert and overt derivatives of this controversial model of thinking. Let us stress here that we advance this argument or reasoning in non-absolute terms lest readers do not get confused.

From our angle roots reggae is ahead of the curve of most music genres in perfecting the blending of the mundane and the spiritual in a pragmatic language of militant, confrontational lyricism and critical consciousness, though this is not necessarily in every single case of roots reggae composition and production. For our readers’ information, K.K. Kabobo onetime expressed his interest in “reggae gospel”…What is reggae gospel? And why not highlife gospel? We guess “reggae gospel” in terms of compositional rhythmicity and not in terms of the radical social, moral, and political consciousness artistes promote through the rich repertoire of roots reggae.

Significantly, the “conscious music” of old-school rap group Public Enemy, to mention but one, exemplifies this conceptualization. Most rap songs these days are pure trash lacking the social, moral, and political consciousness of the rich repertoire of Public Enemy. They are mostly about the lyrical commercialization of sex, drugs, gang-related murder, nihilism, rape, misogyny, self-hatred…Unfortunately, Ghana’s hip-life is copying blindly from this material rap of the West.

But having said all that, roots reggae, like traditional highlife, appears to be dying for reasons of dwindling patronage, the dying off of old-school roots reggae musicians, the birth of new forms of musical sounds (dancehall, murder music, reggae fusion, raga, reggaeton, rap, etc) among others.

Sometimes, too, the heavy nature of the accent of lyrical language and gravelly voice used, as in the special example of Joseph Hill, late, of Culture, makes for extremely difficult grasp of some lines and even entire repertoire of songs. However consistency (and patience) in listening to said songs eventually pays off. That said, Joseph Hill in one of his memorable interviews in Ghana said this:

“Dancehall is the waste product of reggae.”

By “reggae” he was directly referring to “roots reggae.” Likewise, we see this generational conflict brewing between those behind the composition and singing of traditional or “old-school” highlife, such as Gedu Blay Ambulley who should not even be associated with traditional highlife anyway, and such influential pioneers of hip-life such as Reggie Rockstone. This is only natural, however, as the new generation of singers, that is, those who make hip-life, is taking the shine off musicians and singers like Gedu Blay Ambulley who made high-life what it is today.

It just also happens that creative collaborations between these two generations of singers, musicians, composers and performers can eliminate some of the conflictual differences we see in the Ghanaian music industry. One such lasting collaboration of this nature that readily comes to mind was the one between hip-life rapper Obour and A.B. Crentsil. Fact is, more of these creative collaborations can ease the generational tensions.

There is the benefit of transfer of knowledge and expertise from the older generation of musicians to the new generation of hip-life artistes. It is quite fascinating to know that some influential musicians and composers from the older generation are taking keen interest in Bisa Kdei’s brand of highlife, which is the toast of aficionados of the genre. Some in the new generation have also taken to sampling old tunes to enrich their repertoires. This is what it should be.

The central point we are trying so hard to put across, beyond the digressions, is that gospel musicians should learn and borrow from roots reggae in terms of the social and political consciousness the latter [roots reggae] promotes. Gospel can still address itself to matters and questions of Christocentric and belief-centric spiritually while emphasizing its lyrical content on questions of political and social consciousness.

After all, gospel has borrowed heavily from the rhythmic formula of reggae and can surely do likewise in the specific area of social and political consciousness. Lyrical and musical conscientization should be an important component of human existence and as a matter of fact, no less. Some Jamaican gospel musicians are doing exactly this. Already Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths, the two women who sang with Rita Marley as the I-Threes, the backers of Bob Marley and the Wailers, have taken to doing what Kabobo called “reggae gospel” some years back. As Jabulani Tafari says of Griffiths in the publication “Reggae Queen Marcia Griffiths”:

“She laments the fact that Gospel is one of the most commercial forms of music today. She recalls the old saying: ‘Nearer to church, further from God’ and emphasizes that she was born into true Christianity and not into Babylon’s version of that religion. That’s why she maintains that she is truly blessed: ‘When you have a God-given talent, you are definitely chosen for a work. It’s not just entertainment. It’s deeper than that! Give thanks that I am chosen.’ Sure you’re right, Marcia! Sure you’re right! You were indeed born to sing and born to be the Queen of Reggae Queens.”

CONCLUSION

This is partly why the world of Ghanaian secular music should demand for the return of Ofori Amponsah, K.K. Kabobo and other talented musicians who had vacated the rich domain of highlife for gospel. Not that gospel should be banished—far from it—we must add for corrective purposes.

Compromise and creative collaboration are the watchwords here. Incidentally the rise of the modern Ghanaian church, more specifically Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, and prosperity theology have fueled popular interest in and patronage of that creative music genre, gospel.

In other words, gospel has become an obvious choice for some musicians who want to make quick money. Prosperity theology and the church have created a ready market for gospel music.

Those secular musicians whose careers are dying for lack of continued popular patronage of their music are deserting the secular world of highlife and turning to or making a beeline for gospel instead. We can easily remember Lord Kenya, Ofori Amponsah, K.K. Kabobo…

Still, some have speculated that Smokey Robinson, the same man who co-wrote “My Girl” and “Since I lost My Baby” for The Temptations and a number of other memorable hits for other musicians, has resorted to making gospel because his fame and musical career have taken a nosedive.

People do things for different reasons. And certainly Prophet Kobi is no different. That is, his choice of Amakye Dede and Daddy Lumba as his favorite musicians may have arisen from a number of reasons, some of which he gave in the said interview. Yet his numerous critics need not worry because most of these pastors, evangelists, prophets, and preachers are fake anyway.

“He who comes into equity must come with clean hands,” so it is said. Perhaps we all need the sinner’s prayer for one reason or the other.

REFERENCES

Ghanaweb. “Amakye Dede & Lumba Are My Favorite Musicians—Prophet Kobi.” May 4, 2016

Ghanaweb. “Some Pastors Demanded GHc 2000 To Heal Me—Daddy Lumba.” November 12, 2015.

Ghanaweb. “I Took 48 Tablets Daily For 22 Years—Daddy Lumba.” November 15, 2015.

Source: Francis Kwarteng

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