By Brian Mutembedza
Meeting some elderly people who have been in Christianity for a long time, I was touched to hear them bemoaning the absence of that 'sting' and flavour of what they term ‘gospel’ in some of our gospel songs today which is expected to be felt inside the heart as one listens to it.
"Some of our youngsters have become more of social commentators than gospel singers, it is now rare, unlike in the past, to hear some gospel singers mentioning the name of Jesus in their songs which eventually disqualifies their works," said a disgruntled Mbuya Chapo of Mbare.
Quite a number of Christians echo the same sentiments as they attribute the trend to nothing but sheer market gimmick aimed at luring many people to gospel shows which were in the past likened to church services where people would be expected to shed tears as a singer churned a song.
That could have prompted some of the gospel musicians to compose and record danceable tunes with a composition of some 'worldly' chanting borrowed from other secular musicians who have made it in the entertainment circles.
Others instead seem not to concur with the idea of having music that can make one want to pray but they think there must be diversity in gospel music in order to accommodate everyone since people are created differently.
Jane Motsi, student from a local university said, "There is a time I need to put on my dancing shoes and get to the dance floor for Jesus so that I may do away with some of my challenges as I dance my pain away just like what King David did, it is not mentioned as to what type of music he danced to."
In as much as we have our own ideas and explanations, there should be a guideline or yardstick to what exactly gospel music should be as guided by the authoritatively laid down principles of scripture.
In Christian circles the word 'gospel' is better understood in its emphasis on the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and anything that derives influence from it should not deviate from its meaning and content.
There was a joke which used to do the rounds a few years ago citing a certain secular musician who said he intended to sing gospel music but could not find Biblical lyrics since Pastor Charles Charamba and Mai Charamba had exhausted the whole Bible in song.
I took that as semi-truth in humor, though the Bible will never be exhausted. This couple, among many others, has set a good example for those who are determined to leave a mark in the world of 'real' gospel music.
The issue of commercialisation and competition cannot be easily ignored in today's world since all music genres are placed in one pool by most radio and television channels for them to battle for supremacy as listeners vote for cream de la cream regardless of genre.
That has also prompted other gospel musicians into trying and making sure that they produce something relevant to all types of listeners though they will to some extent have the essence of gospel music compromised.
That factor has, in essence, separated the 'now' and the 'then' gospel musicians. In one of his recent newspaper interviews, Baba Mechanic Manyeruke said that when he started singing gospel music it was not for the love of money but it was out of passion as he sang to praise God and to entertain.
There is nothing wrong with singing for money since everything involved in the production of music needs money but there is everything wrong in clinging to the word 'gospel' when there is nothing to do with gospel in the music.
Some of the so-called gospel music recorded today has some worldly and heretic connotations some owing to the fact that others are just venturing into gospel music without any Biblical knowledge or personal experience with God which gives weight to the song.
There has always been a thin line between social commentators and gospel musicians as they all try to educate and conscientise the society with messages packaged differently, but one has to identify their rightful side of life rather than encroaching into others.