Meet the new wave of Gospel

2017-07-16 13:00

Johannesburg - Old-school greats such as Rebecca Malope and Benjamin Dube have helped to cement gospel as one of the most popular music genres in SA. So, how do new artists stack up? Gospelhead S’Busiso Mseleku reviews the latest releases.

Abongile Mangala – The Lift of Life DVD

Rating: 2/5

Available as a DVD for R89.99

Abongile Mangala made a name for himself as a motivational speaker. He was featured largely during the days of Linda “Mr Magic” Sibiya on Ukhozi FM. This is a live recording of one of his shows at a community hall with Sipho “Sgqemeza” Mbatha as MC.

I’m not sure whether such a product can sell – once I’ve listened to a motivational talk, I wouldn’t want to hear it many more times. But maybe there’s a market for it that I’m not part of.

Veliswa – Amandl’ Endumiso

Rating: 2/5

Available for R79.90 on iTunes

It was some years back that I bought what I think was Veliswa’s first album. I can’t even remember the title of it or any of the songs.

Unfortunately, this one also falls flat, with no creativity.

It contains a number of traditional choruses such as Bless the Lord, Kuwe Baba and Ujesu Uthanda Bonke Abantu.

The problem with these are that we grew up hearing them, and once one artist records them, you feel you’ve heard enough and they end up doing zilch for your soul.

Pastor Khaya Mayedwa – Ngiyamethemba

Rating: 4/5

Available for R79.90 on iTunes

Yet another offering from this evangelist that takes you straight into a tent revival. His mostly up-tempo songs done in that gravelly voice familiar with evangelists sets you dancing and becoming one with the Holy Spirit.

He has beautifully mastered the art of rendering traditional hymns in his unique style. This is displayed on Ngiyamethemba, a popular hymn from the Icilongo Levangeli hymnbook as well as Usaphila Ujesu, which is found in both Amagama Okuhlabelela and Amaculo Aserhabe hymn books.

The sleeve tells us that all songs except Uyintoni Umuntu, I Lay My Life were composed by Pastor Mayedwa. I find this misleading as there are some traditional hymns and choruses that were sung long before he came on to the scene.

I’ve noticed this trend with a number of gospel artists and I find it disturbing.

They should just say “traditional hymn” or “chorus”.

Sgwili – Jesus at Work

Rating: 4/5

Available as a CD for R89.99

Since going solo, this offshoot of the once-popular duo Sgwili & Babo continues to grow in stature.

On this album, he gives us some soothing, soulful music as we’ve come to expect from him.

It’s a slow start with the intro; however, the album rises in crescendo from track four (Gideon), and by the time you reach Hamba Nami at number 10, you are highly blessed.

Sgwili does a great rendition of Libala Kuye that was previously popularised by Amaphoyisa Asolundi in the 90s. His band and back-up singers are greatly in sync and production is so superb that their music just flows, making you feel like repeating William Shakespeare, “If music be the food of love, play on ...” but this time, replace love with “soul”.

Andile KaMajola – Chapter 8, Sekwanele

Rating: 4/5

Available for R79.90 on iTunes

Andile KaMajola hit the gospel scene like a tsunami a few years ago, and has maintained the high standards he set for himself from his first album.

In this offering, he continues to display that he’s a giant of praise music. He’s mastered the art of mixing high-tempo songs such as Uma Sengiqedile, We Shall Overcome and Lena Ivela Emazulwini, as well as what can easily be called “slow jams”, such as the opening track Ubani Owayazi, OMorena Wamarena and Awubazi Ubuhlungu, which really speaks to and sinks into your soul.

KaMajola serenades God with the love song Uthando Lwakho. He’s also mastered the art of making traditional hymns sound fresh, as he does on Hlala Enhliziyweni and Bathembe Igazi Lemvana.

That this is a 17-track album is a bonus. It’s a must-have for lovers of this genre.

Jabu Dlamini – Akasiyen’ Umuntu

Rating: 4/5

Available as a CD for R89.99

This is the first time I heard this artist, and I’m not sure whether it’s his first album or not. However, one can easily say, well done. It’s one of those albums that you don’t have to grow into or have it grow on you because you’re going to be hooked from the first track, Akasiyen’ Umuntu, which also happens to be the title.

There’s a combination of things that makes this a great benefaction but what stands out above all is the great, strong voice of the artist. Throughout the album, he takes you through a journey of highs and lows, with his high pitches and then down the valley of sorrow when he goes down and hits low keys, accompanied by proper instrumentation and arrangements. When going through his acknowledgements, it becomes obvious why this album’s so great, as he mentions known giants such as Babo Ngcobo and Sgwili Zuma as contributors in one way or another. Just one downer for me is track eight, Lord I Need Your Grace – it’s one of those songs that has been previously recorded by a number of artists.

Unless you’re going to take a song to another level, there’s no reason to touch it. And after hearing different musicians deliver this one, Dlamini’s falls flat as he doesn’t bring anything new. But overall, I’m predicting he’s headed for greatness and is set to be one of the giants.

Malibongwe Gcwabe – Kungegazi

Rating: 3/5

Available for R79.90 on iTunes

Having been in this business for 22 years, one expects better from this man of God. Malibongwe Gcwabe has blessed us with music of a high level in the past. Previously he took songs such as All is Well – popularised by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – and the Siyakudumisa Mbhedesho from the Methodist Church hymn book to a different level.

It’s because of these lofty standards that one goes agog with expectations when he has a new release.

There’s a good effort to spice it up and mix things up by featuring Veliswa Skeyi, Timothy Mabuti and Simphiwe Gcwabe in these songs Ujesu Uyakulawula, Libali Lam, Molweni, Zithatheleni Ujesu, Sasilahlekile and Wophepha Ngantoni.

It would be nice and a welcome breath of fresh air for an artist such as Gcwabe to just release an album full of his own or other compositions without traditional hymns or choruses.

***Declaration: The artists and the reviewer belong to the same church denomination, The Assemblies of God.

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