How the once vibrant gospel industry shot itself in the foot

Dj Mo, Size 8, Bahati and Willy Paul [Photo: Instagram]

The recent return to EMB records by singer Weezdom marked yet another twist in the Tower of Babel that has become our gospel music industry.

Weezdom had left EMB in a huff, citing interference by Diana Marua, Bahati’s wife, to join DJ Sadic’s Genius Records.

After his departure EMB was officially launched afresh, turning a new leaf and signing Mr Seed and David Wonder.

However, what followed was a very public break-up at EMB and both artistes later left the label in February, with Wonder joining Safri Records and Mr Seed forming his own records company, Starborn Empire, which quickly signed Ndume.

Now, Wonder’s latest release, Chachisha, has been released under Starborn Empire, begging the question: Why would he release his latest song under Starborn while he is signed to Safri?

Over at Genius records, DJ Sadic signed Weezdom and Dar Mjomba. Mjomba left the label citing mistreatment by Weezdom and joined Safri records, Weezdom also left early last month and re-joined EMB.

“I only signed the artiste because I wanted to help (the artiste). Their contract was up and the artiste didn’t want to renew. It was an amicable break-up,” Sadic insists.

Sadic [Photo: Instagram @djsadic]

Reportedly, things are not as DJ Sadic would want.

For the longest time now since the folding of Tukuza and Tendereza, he doesn’t have a TV show and that crucial visibility has gone down.

“My contract ended and neither I nor the KTN team wanted to renew the contract,” DJ Sadic explained to Pulse.

Tendereza has since come back on air under Stella Kareo and DJ Gjo.

From what was a once-thriving industry, this is just an example of the intrigues, under-cutting, public spats and backstabbing that now seem to be the order of the day in the gospel industry.

Because of the many squabbles among gospel players, the music seems to have taken a backseat with no memorable sing-along coming out in the recent past.

The gospel dominance over secular music remains a thing of the past, especially with the recent rise of Gengetone.

Gone too are the gospel DJs Sadic, Ruff, Touch, Krowbar, Mo and Gee Gee who were the main talk of town as they led their units in staging the biggest gospel radio and TV shows every Sunday in every station.

As the year began, EMB suffered a mass exodus with some of the musicians complaining of poor management - something Bahati came out to deny, saying that some gospel bigwigs were trying to sabotage his stable.

Bahati [Photo: Instagram @bahatikenya]

Even after they left, his so-called orphans have not been able to firmly settle down.

Back at the stable, Bahati seems keener on building the numbers for his TV show than he is in keeping his singing career on firm ground.

In fact, some insiders suggest that EMB has been going through a hard patch financially. The artistes under the label are Princess Leo, Weezdom and Danny Gift, the latter who surprised many when he joined the label.

Critics have argued that Gift had a good reputation and his brand was doing well on its own, so there was no need of associating himself with Bahati.

Generally, there are no major gigs for the past year in the gospel sector.

In the midst of these new creeping problems, the same old ones linger. The iron grip of some cliques on the industry remains.

If, for example, an upcoming artiste is not in good terms with a certain DJ, their songs will not be played and chances are that the turntablist will influence others DJs not to play your song.

Remember the video rants by T412’s Milome? The upcoming artiste tried to raise the issue but that instead seemed to mark the death of the group.

There was a time System Unit called the shots in this industry. Made up of DJ Mo, DJ Sadic and MC Alemba, the unit formed a clique that you needed to align yourself to or be in good terms with for you to be successful.

Dj Mo [Photo: Instagram @djmokenya]

They had a stake in most shows; they were the go-to guys for events and gave K-Krew a run for its money.

The only thing that they were unable to unseat K-Krew on was the hosting of the Totally Sold Out (TSO) gig, which was held every New Year’s Eve, to usher in the new year.

K-Krew has since gone under; they closed their DJ school and Kubamba radio station.

In its heyday, System Unit brought on board many other talented musicians who were to become household names and a new generation of gospel artistes like Willy Paul, DK Kwenye Beat, Hopekid and Bahati.

Willy Paul of the Sitolia fame has long since crossed over and become Willy Pozze, synonymous with songs like Lamba Nyonyo and the sensual collabo Hallelujah, with Nandy.

Then the unit’s system went undone; Alemba left for the USA in what he told Pulse in a past interview was to experience life outside Kenya.

Pozee [Photo: Instagram @willy.paul.msafi]

DJ Mo and DJ Sadic were left to run System Unit but didn’t stay long before breaking up. Sadic left to be on his own, he now deals with events and runs a DJ school.

DJ Mo for the longest time now has remained the go-to guy for artistes because of his popular TV show, which has won numerous awards over the years.

The recent claim by Nexxie, an upcoming artiste, that he sent DJ Mo money to play his song in the show just shows how strong his brand is and the kind of influence he commands.

Then he married Size 8, who pleasantly surprised many when she turned over a new leaf.

For the past six years now they have been the power couple of gospel. From their reality show to the social media dalliance people are always rushing to see what they are up to.

Despite numerous piling, albeit unsubstantiated, rumours, The Murayas brand seems solid with ambassadorial roles for different companies. Size 8 even landed a gospel show, Pambio Live, on Maisha Magic, which she hosted alongside DJ Ruff.

It is, therefore, not hard to see why Size 8 took it upon herself to come to the rescue of DK Kwenye Beat when he and Hopekid were caught up in a sex scandal.

She interviewed DK on the issue, giving his side of the story as it were. However, when she posted the interview on YouTube, the backlash from Kenyans online was so overwhelming that she took the post down.

DK Kwenye Beat [Photo: Instagram @dkkwenyebeat]

Soon after the interview, she parted ways with the show she was hosting, with many suggesting that the YouTube post cost her the show.

For an industry that prided itself in churning out ever-fresh new acts, these kinds of squabbles and mishaps have stunted the conveyor belt.

Some are of the view that the gospel takeover is now being led by a crop of sexualised Instagram stars who care more about their online following online, their looks and not the content of their song.

With scandal after scandal, the corporates that once found a safe landing in the non-controversial gospel music seem to be keeping away too. The biggest casualty of this is perhaps the Groove awards.

Groove Awards, which brought attention to the sector is also a shadow of its former self.

The end of the Groove Tours that many artistes got their bread from was a blow.

The past two or three galas have not seen the fanfare that it once attracted - a far cry from six years ago when the gala night was graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta.