Gospel singers switch to embrace live shows

Alice Kimanzi performs at a past event. Artistes have been forced to adapt to shifting needs of the music industry. [File]

In the absence of music concerts, and the trend to restrict who attends church services, many praise and worship gospel singers have chosen to reach their fans through live streamed shows.

One of the most hyped events earlier in the year brought together Eunice Njeri, Evelyn Wanjiru and Mercy Masika. It was aired to thousands of receptive viewers, casting any doubt that the public was not willing to embrace this new form of entertainment.

Be it at a party, in church or the confines of one’s home, it would appear that audiences prefer live music performances to recorded shows.

In Kenya artistes who have embraced live concerts stand out not only because of their longevity in the industry, but also for the quality of the music they release. A viewing of their YouTube channels shows a shift in business and adapting to the needs of the music industry.

One such singer, Alice Kimanzi, is married to Gideon Kimanzi aka Gydkym, who is known for his studio as well as live recording productions. Before Alice took a break following pregnancy reports, she had a studio recording ‘Yuko Mungu’ that featured Tanzania’s Paul Clement. 

In addition, there were three live performances for ‘Surrender’, ‘Nikuabudu’ and ‘Yule Yule’ produced by her husband.

Njeri’s latest release is a studio live recording of her song ‘Worthy’ featuring Wanjiru. Before that, a couple of live performances of her earlier releases had more than 110,000 views each. These live recordings were produced by Gydkym, and it is easy to see why Njeri tapped his talent.

“I have been doing live music all my life. It is only that in some churches they are unable to afford it,” she said, adding that the recent uploads to her YouTube channel were part of a campaign to raise funds to drill a borehole in Lodwar.

Wanjiru is another singer who chose to record her performance and upload it instead of shooting an official music video. 

“As we were doing the recording for the funds drive, I thought, why shoot a video for some of the songs yet I can record them here?”

Wanjiru is married to music producer Agundabweni Akweyu, and together they run Bwenieve Studio. She recently released two songs that were recorded before a live audience.

“In live music you not only sing the song as is, but you are able to improvise,” she said, adding that this also gave her the opportunity to minister and pray as the band performed.

Kanjii Mbugua, a pastor at Mavuno Church, is a veteran in the music business. His latest album, ‘Set Us On Fire’, which was released last year, was recorded live in the US.

Kanjii has hosted different musicians on his YouTube channel to do acoustic sessions of different songs.

Bethuel Asoi of the Highest Praise Band and Mike Manoa are other notable artistes who have been pushing the envelope on live music performances.

Away from Kenya, singers in neighbouring Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been known to prefer band music.

DRC’s Deborah Lukalu’s music is beloved by most Christians. She is based in South Africa, another country that has allowed Christians to interact and enjoy live music, with Joyous Celebration leading the way.

Still in the DRC, Patrick Kubuya’s songs, which are at least one year old, have a large number of views; proof that his fans have embraced live performances and recordings.

In Tanzania, it is easy to pick out Boaz Danken from other performers for his ‘Haufananishwi’ song.

Internationally, music from Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation Worship and TRIBL’s Maverick City is revered.

These bands have one thing in common–the release of live music. Hillsong and Bethel Music have been around for some time. Elevation Church and its brand of music has also grown under Pastor Steven Furtick.

Maverick City is a collective of young musicians who release live recorded music from Atlanta, Georgia. The group of young musicians was formed following a successful writing camp that they host on occasion. Their music, with the most notable song being ‘Promises’, is easily identifiable with young people.

Live music, whether local or international, appears to have found secure lodging in people’s hearts and is here to stay.