Gospel Singeli: A fashion breaking barriers

19Jul 2021
Michael Eneza
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Gospel Singeli: A fashion breaking barriers

WHILE no rules exist on how social music interacts with prayerful or mourning sessions, a psychological challenge is being opened up on airwaves of late, with scores of musicians moving into prayerful music with ease and comfort, unaware that some rules ought to be existing in such transition.

Prominent 'Singeli' music artist, Abdallah, alias 'Dulla Makabila'.

It is the wish to adapt popular music tunes to a different need, which is tied to the original on the basis of the factor of celebration, thus it appears to serve the purpose.

While one talks of prayerful music it is actually different.

One musician can be cited as having been pivotal in breaking the barriers between the prayerful and the playful is songbird, Rose Mhando, whose itinerary can be the subject of a twisted novel that grips readers, as she has traversed the wide scene in all sorts of scenarios.

At one time, she was being rumoured to have reached a sort of terminal stage of illness, after a stretch of worrying reports of what was going on in her music career, but at some point received either routine curative action or most likely a faith cure, as in the subsequent period she is a champion of faith music.

But her second coming is laced with tremors as well.

For one thing, the itinerary of activities leading to her being resurrected on a new plane at the local music level has plenty in store to excite her fans, and she seemingly isn’t sparing in her ammunition.

She has issued songs blasting her adversaries with vituperations sprouting in each song or series of stanza, such that it becomes hard to distinguish between a routine vengeance and victory song with her presumed gospel music.

One such song played at a major prayerful assembly to the north of Dar es Salaam, apart from being sold in chip form has unpalatable stuff directed at adversaries who maliciously mistreated her.

But the problem is actually wider than the songbird, as in the first place she would not herself have been able to produce virulent compositions against thinly hidden individuals unless there was some example to cite or copy from.

It wasn’t just a matter of example but a whole trend of developments in that field to which she ably latched herself into the wagon, and did it better than quite a few others, who have issued less remarkable stuff in the way of celebratory or even combative compositions.

And there is plenty in the prayerful sessions themselves that encourages them on that route, like 'six-pack anointment’ (if this is the correct translation of ‘upako wa kibabe’ that is now trending in multiple FM radio stations the house is heard).

What is characteristic about this trend is that it puts aside prayer as such, which has a mournful tone to it that has always characterized gospel songs, whatever breadth and depth this mode of spiritual entertainment has seen in the six decades of independence.

Still for most of the earlier period there were only choir songs, and then a different genre came up where there was a book of passionate compositions tied to new denominations but it also spread to traditional prayer houses.

Only in the digital age where elaborate bands, stage show, equipment, are stifled that compositions shift to individuals to break barriers.

The reason for this shift from marginally mournful or prayerful monologues in gospel songs to animated celebration that is free to take even 'Singeli' modes of happiness, despite that its gyrations are inseparable from the music itself, and scarcely blends with a gospel scenario, is deep seated.

It is the shift from older prayers where it is one’s own slides in conduct which are at issue, and the pursuit of grace or affinity with divinity that is only hoped for but not directly handed to an individual.

At present what is pursued is quite different, as first it is to defeat and eradicate strings blocking one’s health or welfare – thus, triumphantly.

There is also a cluster of praise songs (which is starkly different from prayer songs) that basically form the main body of what transpires in choirs or music groups associated with vast assemblies of what was traditionally known as ‘exorcism’ but is now more adeptly recognized as deliverance, freeing from bonds.

There are other situations where the prevalence of this unorthodox form of proto-gospel singing has been generated, namely in the Free Church of Emmanuel Mgaya, popularly recognizable as old ‘Masanja Mkandamizaji,’ who has the distinction of having teamed up with followers of the late evangelist, Dr Reinhard Bonnke, of numerous gospel ‘crusades’ in past decades.

These assemblies have a minimum requirement of being in their fellowship, namely to be able to sing a song of praise, and beyond that everything is permitted, from miniskirts to cigarette smoking, all within the same open air prayer service compound.

This could have been treated as an exception or idiosyncratic, but certified preachers are absorbing it too.

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