The Rise of the Fourth Force

Was it not some time around the start of the last decade when we starting hearing pronounced and hard-to-forget rock-style guitar-riffs in popular gospel songs? For my Nigerian folk, think of one popular song from Sinach and Nathaniel Bassey and see if that property is not present in them…

…You see what I’m talking about, don’t you 🙂

Now, as recently as 10-15 years ago, there was no such thing. Instead, gospel songs were more classical in style. You know, music before then tended to make use of more instruments from among every instrument classes (i.e. Percussion, brass, woodwind, and strings), the sort we would hear from the likes of Ron Kenoly and even Hillsong back in the days . Now, not only is there this diffusion of sounds, but it seems almost all popular gospel music may have converged to a handful of genres!

What drove this shift in the music?

An effort to widen their audience? The ‘contagious’ influences of western music styles? Globalization? Maybe. But I think a major reason that’s hiding in plain sight is the guitar! How so? Alright, take Don Moen (also a pianist and violinist) and listen to his albums produced somewhere in the 90s and then compare it to a few He made in the last 15 years. You may find out that his ‘sound-evolution’ has resulted in his music sounding closer to those heard in today’s secular rock musicians like Cold Play or Maroon 5. It would also seem that Nigerian gospel artists towed the same path and incorporated previously ‘alien’ genres of music (such as afro-pop, soft-rock and smooth-jazz) into their own music. With such incorporations, these artists also adopted those ‘alien’ instruments that drive them as their fourth element (i.e. after you’ve counted the three basic instruments needed for good gospel music namely the drum set, a piano and a bass guitar). Maybe a close second ‘fourth-element’ would be the saxophone, which I believe broke into the gospel scene thanks to the rise of the smooth-jazz genre of music in the ’90s.

Is there another phase on the horizon and how can I get ready for it?

            Yes, change is constant and it will come again in this gospel music business. However, because the guitar is the leading sound in many well-known musical genres, such as Reggae, Makossa, Jazz, Highlife and of course, Rock and Roll, it’s very likely that wherever the next shift in gospel music would end up in, the guitar would likely be the chief influencer there too! So, with this being said, my advice to you the gospel musician looking to create influential and refreshing tunes both today and in the near future:


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