After holding the release of the project to honour the passing of the fallen gospel songbird, Grace Chinga, Malawi hip hop gospel artist Gwamba and his team has now released both the video and the audio for his second song as a gospel artist Alleluyah. Two songs now as a gospel rapper and it is now making itself easy to track his movement and predict his future: Where is this man heading to?
Well, above all, time and space will tell who he will become. He is a rapper who has proved to be versatile, and looking at his progress, success is written all over him. But let us have a critical look at the newly released song. First, Gwamba featured Emm Q, the same man who did the hook for his first gospel song, Better. The contribution of Emm Q to the success of the first song cannot be over emphasized. It came out perfect. The engine room for ‘Better’ was not in the rapping that Gwamba did. It was in the singing of Emm Q and Tammy. That is where the trending phrase of “Zidzakhala Better” came from, two words that have defined the song to many people. Getting him to be part of ‘Alleluyah’ was a simple decision for Gwamba. But has he made any more difference to the present song? Yes, once again, he has given the song its ‘gospel’ sound. The common criticism Gwamba has always received is that he rides to his rapping success on the shoulders of the people he features in his songs. In other words, Gwamba is yet to prove it that he can make a hit song only using his voice. ‘Alleluyah’ takes him into the criticism again.
Second, if you remove the singing by Emm Q, the song will start sounding boring. Gwamba’s rapping on the song is horrible. In ‘Better’, although the song was a success, it did not sound gospel enough. It was said that Gwamba had a secular music hangover. This is also the case in Alleluyah. The other version can be that we the listeners are failing to release him into the gospel music and are always looking at his gospel work using the secular Gwamba we have known for years. But still, there are hints in his rapping that can tell of his continued hangover. The talking of ‘Masiku ano sindipezeka ku bawa…’ reminds one of his secular hit, Sindidzasiya Bawa. Of course the context for the two songs is different, and it will be unfair to judge him using this as being stuck in his past. But for a gospel artist, there are a lot of things to talk about as leaving behind than Bawa (Beer). It shows his lack of rise from the specifics urban music characteristically has to the generalities that gospel music is known for. He is yet to master the art of being a gospel artist.
Third, in the second verse, Gwamba comes up with a lazy rapping style. It is not that he was lazy. Rap being art, this is one way of expressing what has to be said. Being lazy sometimes is a way of emphasizing. But rapping lazily when talking about Satan, the arch-enemy of God in the Christian religion, did a great harm to the already questionable image of him as a gospel artist. You do not casually talk or sing about Satan like that in the Christian circles, especially when you are intending to mean what you are saying. This brings in the view that Gwamba is not yet fully into gospel music following his heart as a born-again Christian. There must have been other calculations he made to come up with that decision to go gospel. There is no passion in his style of music and in his voice as a gospel rapper in all the two songs he has come up with. This sounds harsh. But if the singing of gospel music is not real, soon he will find himself in the Christian-prison of which he will fail to escape from because of the impression that he has created that he wants to sing for God.
The song largely was made out of a need for it and not because he was moved by the Holy Spirit, according to the Christianity. He forced himself on the song, and not otherwise; the song forcing him to be on it. If it was not for the Emm Q, the song could have completely gone out of the gospel lane. Once again, he came onto a Gwamba song and saved it from falling off the cliff. And with the lack of anthemic sound, as it was with ‘Better’, the song will be a sensation in just days before it disappears. But Gwamba has to know it that he is yet to sound like a real gospel rapper. He should work on that.
*Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.