Kenyan gospel music industry is at crossroads. Never mind, it has aptly christened itself as an ‘industry’ instead of a ministry. The once pious industry, to use their term, is now singing to ‘not so gospel’ lyrics.
Worse still is the presence of gospel music cartels, who call the shots and dictate what will be played on radio and television stations by disc and video jockeys.
There are thus two factions: artistes who have decided to go it alone, and those who subscribe to various DJ camps and their attendant TV shows.
Among the camps are four outfits: System Unit run by DJ Mo; Genius Republic under DJ Sadic; K-Crew, led by DJ Moz; and ‘The Switch’ by DJ Soxxy.
The four camps run their own cliques of artistes and once an artiste subscribes to a specific stable, their music is in turn placed on high rotation within their television and radio shows.
So powerful are these camps, they are said to decide which artistes get invites to perform at national shows and awards. They also determine stage fees and who performs for free. These cartels, comprising music producers, disc and video jockeys use their networks within print and electronic media circles to push their agenda.
Then there are the sexual escapades among gospel artistes, which can make secular musicians, cringe: Bedding fans and broken marriages are no longer news in gospel circles, where producers are also part of the sex merry-go-round.
Indeed, the glamorous Instagram posts of how life is good in the Lord don’t tell even half the story most portray on social media.
“The men in this industry stink to high heavens and back, they are the devil walking on earth,” said a gospel artiste whose two songs have become household tunes.
In the last two years, the musician who requested anonymity, has been to almost every television show, but at a cost and the very few musicians who played her songs regularly also preyed on her.
“Whatever you watch on television has nothing to do with the words on their lips. To them, this is just a job, like any other and woe unto you if you are not willing to play along,” she added.
But veteran gospel DJ Mo dismissed her allegations as “malicious rumour” and “propaganda” which entrenched the belief that whenever there is a woman who wants anything, there must be sex.
“I love pushing ladies’ music, from my wife to many other artistes out there. There are about seven female artistes with whom I am working very closely. However, how does one start asking for sex from a married woman?” posed DJ Mo, who is married to gospel artiste Size 8.
But when pressed about his previous liaison with gospel artiste Chuchu, he shrugged off the allegations as long forgotten old tales.
“How old is that story about me being involved with Chuchu? The truth of the matter is that when she started singing, I used to help her and many a time, when you are seen to be helping a woman, watu wanaanza maneno mingi. Mara hawa wanafanya nini...but we did not even bother because siwezi onekana na Willy Paul ama Bahati na iwe issue because it would be an all-men affair.
So, how comes that when a man is seen at lunch with a female artiste, stories start flying around?” posed DJ Mo.
He laments that, “In this industry, watu hawapendani and that is why many stories keep flying. But again, even if we used to date, how many years ago was that?
This happened before I even got married. Saa hizi nikitoka na nionekane na Kambua, wataanza kusema we are dating. We live at a time when haufai kuonekana Java mara mbili. We also have very complicated fans who do not appreciate effort and the fact that this is showbiz.”
Whereas Mo has struggled to shed off the Chuchu affair, singer Ringtone argues that only prayers will help players in gospel, even though the Bible says that “a righteous man will fall seven times.”
“I accept that I am no saint and have had my fair share of controversies, but when was the last time you had about Daddy Owen looking for Huddah to twerk in his video?” posed Ringtone, adding that, “Today, (singer Kevin) Bahati is associated with the wrong notion of prayer partners.
Can you imagine that the young, talented Bahati has made the term ‘prayer-partner’ to be a synonym of sex partner? We cannot even use that phrase in church anymore, because people will start looking at you funnily.”
Bahati laughed off Ringtone’s sentiments, saying that he cannot be blamed for genuinely stating the truth. Bahati argues that unlike his colleagues in the music industry who keep showing off their women, he has never posted a photo of any woman on his official social media pages.
“The day I posted a photo of Diana Marua, it went viral,” said Bahati.
The two-time Male Artiste of the Year winner does not regret ever referring to Diana as his prayer partner because everyone needs to have a partner with whom they can grow together in spirit to worship the Lord. Bahati further explains that he still stands by every word that he wrote on social media.
“It is sad that Kenyans have since misused the phrase prayer partner to mean other things. See, in life, you can never control other people’s emotions or way of thinking. But the truth is that I meant well and Diana is a girl that I respect and love.
I met her while working on one of my projects, but during the video shoot, everything became so real that it all got me thinking.
From that day, I have taken my time and talked to God about my future.
We have spent lots of time together through prayer and fasting and today, I can tell you that yes, Diana is my girlfriend and I have big plans for her,” explained Bahati.