The gospel music circuit is a rather intriguing one. For a long time, the Christian community believed that only a certain type of song was appropriate when reverencing God. Over the years and even more so now, the evolution of gospel music is apparent. Gospel music has become so enlivened that it now outperforms a lot of music from the regular music industry. It also gets a lot of appreciation from the world music landscape.
There are a few key drivers that continue to play a pivotal role in the development, exhibition, and celebration of gospel music. 2 (two) of them are the Grammy Awards (Gospel category) and the (The Experience) gospel music concert. The biggest gospel music recognition platform and the biggest gospel performance platform in the world.
The Grammy Awards now has five awards in the gospel music category. The award for Best Gospel Performance/Song, The award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song, The award for Best Gospel Album, The award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album, and The award for Best Roots Gospel Album.
The Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance/Song was first awarded in 2015. The inception of this category came about as a combination of two categories that were previously separated. They were the Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music category and the Best Gospel Song, which was intended for songwriters, and the Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance, which was intended for performers. Right now the category acknowledges both songwriters and performers, including solo acts, duos, groups, collaborations, and others. It is open for singles or tracks alone. Songwriters can only win the award if it is a new song and not a cover of a previously recorded song. Only the performers of the covers or reimagined tracks can win an award. These changes took effect in June of 2014.
The Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song as it is now was first awarded in 2015. Right now, just like that of the Best Gospel Performance/Song category, it combines 2 (two) previously separate categories in the Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music field, Best Contemporary Christian Music Song and Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance. The new category also acknowledges both songwriters and performers, including solo acts, duos, groups, collaborations, and others.
The Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album as it is now, was one of the new categories created after a reshuffling of categories for the 2012 awards. Right now the category combines recordings that were previously submitted for the Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album, Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album, and Best Traditional Gospel Album. 3 (three) previously major categories.
The Best Contemporary Christian Music Album award was also one of the new categories created after a reshuffling of categories for the 2012 awards. As it is now, it combines recordings that were previously submitted for the Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album, Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album, and Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album, 3 (three) other major categories for submissions.
The efforts of the Academy to recognize excellence in gospel music are definitely commendable. Also, its intent to make sure the awards represent the current culture and creative DNA of the Gospel and Contemporary Christian Music communities is a step in the right direction. However, the newly formulated award categories exclude some of the creative work in the industry. The Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song, for example, does not recognize writers of reimagined songs. The gospel music community has always handed songs down from generation to generation. New lyrics and melodies are added to popular songs all the time.
Hence, a lot of excellent work and excellent artists miss out on one of the biggest nights in gospel awards. There has also been some criticism that The Academy does not represent African gospel artists, despite the fact that African gospel artists are some of the biggest in the world.
The Experience, however, has consistently shown its commitment towards bringing gospel artists from different levels and backgrounds together on the same stage. In its maiden edition, the concert featured seasoned American ministers Kirk Franklin Israel Houghton, Donnie McClurkin, as well as locally respected gospel artists Mike Aremu, Dunni Olanrewaju, Buchi, Tosin Martins, and Midnight Crew.
The 2008 edition featured Jamaican artist Chevelle Franklyn, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, and Don Moen of the US, as well as locally hailed Dekunle Fuji, Nikki Laoye, and Lara Goerge. In 2010, the concert featured Panam Percy Paul, a gospel minister who was more celebrated in the ’90s, Fred Hammond, Phil Driscoll, Judy Jacob, Don Moen, Papa San, Mary Mary, Mike Aremu, and Sammy Okposo.
The 2014 concert, featured Donnie McClurkin, Israel Houghton, Chevelle Franklin, Micah Stampley, Midnight Crew, Freke Umoh, Frank Edwards, Sinach, Nathaniel Bassey, Angella Christie, Onos Ariyo, and Chioma Jesus, a gospel artist whose songs are predominantly Igbo. In 2018 the event which was themed Jesus our peace featured performances from Nathaniel Bassey, Chioma Jesus’, Kirk Franklin, and Tope Alabi, a gospel artist whose songs are predominantly Yoruba.
The 2019 edition themed #LetsWorshipJesus featured performances from Nathaniel Bassey, Evangelist Amaka Okwuoha a.k.a. ‘Chioma Jesus’, Tope Alabi, Tim Godfrey, Glowreeyah Braimah, Travis Greene, Don Moen, Donnie Mcclurkin, Sinach, Sammie Okposo, and Australian gospel band, Planetshakers.
The Experience 15 (The Global Edition), the concert’s 2020 edition, which was held virtually featured performances from Brazilian Christian worship leader, Ana Paula Valadã, South African inspirational poet and speaker, Nokwe the Poet, UK based Ghanaian gospel artist, Sonnie Badu, Eno Michael, Planet Shakers, Don Moen, Nathaniel Bassey, Sinach, Ada, Eben, Mercy Chinwo, William Mcdowell, and Tope Alabi.
The diversity on display on each of the editions of The Experience is unlike on any other platform in the world. This is unprecedented, especially for a gospel event. House on The Rock, led by Pastor Paul Adefarasin definitely deserves a lot of plaudits for its commitment towards the celebration and furtherance of gospel music.