Genres

Gospel Music
Gospel music is used interchangeably with Christian music or church music in the Nigerian context. According to Femi Adedeji in his book, The Making of a Gospel Musician: Theological and Pragmatic Perspectives, “Gospel music is a brand of Christian religious music that dwells on telling others, especially outsiders, the good news in Christianity” [1] This simply means that gospel music is a proclamation of Good News or Good Tidings of Christ Jesus and His finished work of salvation at Calvary as expressed by Paul in Acts of the Apostles 20:24b. It is simply music that is composed by the Christian aiming at proclaiming God’s faithfulness, goodness, and love towards humanity. The lyrics mostly convey messages regarding confession of sin, repentance from sin, acceptance of God’s offer of salvation, comfort, care, commitment, encouragements, and fellowships. Gospel music is usually composed by Christians, or believers in Christ and is sung by the same set of people in worship. The acts of singing can be done anywhere inasmuch they are songs inspired by the Holy Spirit. Worship in Nigeria allows for performing gospel or church music on all service occasions.

Several gospel music artists have become famous through their production of musical albums. Some notable gospel artists are Panam Percy Paul, Niyi Adedokun, Prof. Femi Adedeji, Tope Alabi, Mama Bola Aare, Funmi Aragbaye, Ebenezer Obey, Lara George, Nathaniel Bassey, Sinach, Travis Green, Shola Allyson to mention but a few. Gospel music has greatly helped in propagating the gospel in Nigeria.

Praise & Worship Music
Praise and worship music is an expression commonly used for lyric airs or choruses performed during worship services. Praise and worship songs are the music of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and petitions to God. God alone is the main central focus and attraction in worship. This is because God alone deserves to be worshiped.  Consequently, praise and worship songs are usually simple and short choruses that can be sung from memory in worship. English and other languages are used for such composition. Worship leaders select praise and worship songs carefully and purposefully. They study their audience before choosing which songs to sing in worship. Multi-languages or blended songs are used in multicultural settings to carry all worshippers along and to communicate effectively.

Anthems
Anthem in the Nigerian church’s context is a musical setting of a gospel or Christian text to be sung by a choir during a church service. According to Hal Leonard, Pocket Music Dictionary, Anthem is “A choral composition, most often with religious lyrics, with or without accompaniment, written for performance.” [2] Though, in some churches in Nigerian, anthem, choral music, or special song is used interchangeably. At every church service, especially Sunday worship (either morning or evening) or any functional events service, choirs always minister in choral songs that are fitting to the worship program. This anthem may be a hymn-like, gospel medley, contemporary indigenous songs arranged into SATB form.

Performance of anthem or choral music differs from context to context. Some churches encourage congregational participation when the choir is ministering in worship, especially when the program has to do with funeral, wedding, convocation, services of songs, etc. Members join the choir by dancing and moving forward to the podium to give their offering in some cases. However, some denominations frown at this practice. They forbid congregational involvement of dancing forward and backward or giving of offering while the choir is rendering their songs. They equate this period with the sermon period and believe that all members should pay attention to the message of the song.

Choir special song is being performed in terms of posture by standings or sitting depending on the choir’s arrangement. It may be sung in a cappella or with musical accompaniments. Choristers hold a piece of music (written on paper or scored ones) depending on the standard of the choir, while some choirs perform from memory. Most especially, the purpose of the gathering is usually considered before the selection of songs. This simply means that songs are selected based on the events going on in worship. For instance, lyrics that convey funeral are performed at funeral services, while love songs are used at weddings and so forth. In a nutshell, Nigerian churches have adequate and creative repertoires for all their worship event services.

Hymns
Hymns are ode of praise to God. They are spiritual songs composed by some European musicians and compiled in hymn books for use in Christian gatherings as churches, homes, schools, and seminaries. These hymns have been translated and transcribed into other languages for use across the nations. For instance, churches in Nigeria have attempted to translate their hymns into different languages such as Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Itsekiri, Urhobo, etc. The standard notated hymnals are used in some Nigerian Churches while printed lyrics are incorporated and used in other churches, especially where there are not music experts who can read musical notations.

Hymns are performed at every worship service, including Sundays, Mid-weeks, vigils, convocations, graduation ceremonies, funerals, weddings, naming, house, or church’s dedication. Even other public domains use gospel hymns in their programs. For instance, party outings like weddings and funeral events in halls or fields incorporate hymns to engage the congregation.

Contributed by Matthew Abioye & Ayobami Ayanyinka.

[1] Adedeji, ‘Femi. 2015. The Making of a Gospel Musician: Theological and Pragmatic Perspectives. Ile Ife: Timade Ventures, 1.

[2] Leonard, Hal. 1993. Pocket Music Dictionary. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, 13.

Interview Responses on Genre
Click here to see more interview responses

“If it sounds good and the text is scriptural, scripturally balanced, then we go for it.”
“What I try to do is make sure everybody has a feel.”
“The first is the lyrics.  What is the song saying?… Then, what is the best medium, the best style of music to make it get to the people the way God wants it?”
“We use different aspects—genre of music rather.  We do the classics. We do the gospel, the contemporary, the Yoruba traditional music.”