Gospel music as it is played and recorded today in Nigeria cannot be called a particular music genre because it cut across different musical styles. The only unifying thing is the lyrics,which is based on the bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. In other words,we have highlife gospel,Afro gospel,Juju gospel,Reggae gospel,Jazz gospel etc.
The origin of commercial gospel music recording in Nigeria could be traced to the city of Aba in the south eastern Nigeria,where numerous gospel artistes and bands were recording and selling their records by themselves. Some of these records were hits, but because of the unprofessional way they were packaged the artistes were not popular but their songs were known and sung in the churches. This problem of poor identification of the gospel artistes still persists today, especially in Aba/Onitsha axis of the country.
By the mid 1970s some singing groups such as the Agape Band and the Voice Of The Cross became very popular at the national level. The Voice Of The Cross album 'Satan Is In Trouble' released on Polygram Records label was a commercial success. In the mid 1980s there were some gospel artistes that recorded hit albums,these included Patty Obasi and Laurine Okotie.
In 1992, a former liberation singer Sonny Okosun stormed the Nigerian music scene with a gospel album titled 'Songs Of Praise' and followed up with another one titled 'Songs Of Praise II'. These albums relased on Ivory Music label were commercial successes and their highly dancable tunes and catchy choruses appealed to the Nigerian music lovers irrespective of their religious inclinations and affliations. This style of gospel music became so popular that countless number of artistes jumped into gospel music and with the proliferation of churches in the country there is currently a boom in the gospel music industry in Nigeria.
Emeka E. Okeke