Gospel: A hard road to travel
BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
SISTA Sasha traded in her secular career for one on the straight and narrow path. However, six years later, the journey is proving quite a challenging one as she is encountering obstacles that were never an issue in the world she left behind.
"In my mind, I assumed that my fellow gospel ministers would embrace me and show me the way. In other words, let me tag along and introduce me to the gospel side of things. In secular world, the dancehall artistes pave the way for upcoming acts, people like Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, Shabba Ranks, etc, and so many more. I realise that a lot of gospel artistes want to be superstars and have a fear that another gospel artiste might take their crown, so they shut you out," said Sista Sasha, adding that it should be about the ministry, not stardom.
As Sasha, she scored it big with Want A Natty and We Got The Love featuring Turbulence.
"I was a star in secular. I just want to minister the word now and do my part towards the kingdom of God," she told the Jamaica Observer.
According to Sista Sasha, gospel booking companies are part of the problem, as they are reluctant to opening their doors to "outsiders".
In spite of her challenges, she assured there is no looking back to the secular world.
Tarshea Williams, 2008 gospel finalist, said she too is finding it "extremely difficult" to make headway in the industry.
"No matter what you do... I drop my songs off to all the radio stations. I would at least expect gospel stations to play them ... but no air play," said the Satan You Lose Again singer.
For Williams, the 'gospel cliques' are negatively affecting new acts to emerge.
"If you are not in a particular clique of friends, you don't get played or even put on a gospel show. It's all about who knows who," she said.
She said not even the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), who owns rights to her song, has ever hired her in any gospel events.
"Check the history over the years, only the first, second and third-place finishers are used for events. Sometimes, one is so tired of seeing the same faces over and over and over. They need to regulate the thing and make an effort for the smaller artiste...and stop using the recognised artistes so much...give the young a chance to grow," she said.
Gospel artiste manager Delroy Lingo said unprofessionalism, cliques, and cheapness on the part of gospel artistes are destroying the gospel industry.
"Gospel has gone from ministry to hustling," he said.
According to Lingo, who manages singer Adrian Cunningham, gospel artistes will not get the right people to work with because they are cutting corners.
"In the secular world, an artiste has a manager, publicist and gets what's needed to get their career to the next level. Many gospel artistes prefer to live hand-to-mouth...too cheap," said Lingo.
"It's all about hyping the crowd and getting off stage to sell CDs. It's like a market with higglers," he continued.
According to the manager, secular promoters doing gospel events are also destroying the industry.
"They are hustling and not looking for ministers. Artistes must be careful what they support," he added.
Secular producer-gone-gospel Danny Browne, who ran a successful Main Street label with a roster including General Degree, Red Rat and Lady G, has a different take on the industry.
He said the world has gotten smaller and the competition now is not just in Jamaica, but with the Donnie McClurkins, Yolanda Adams and other international gospel acts. He said a lot of artistes complain about lack of success; however, they may not be up to par.
"Many times, artistes present a standard that is not as good as others. I find a lot of traditional songs people are raving over... very often you hear the guitar out of tune, or their voices off key ... as a musician that distracts me," he said.