Seasons come and go so do fashions. That is the normal trend in life and art, particularly music, is not spared.
There was once a time when rhumba and kwasakwasa were household music genres. Many artists, including those from Malawi, embraced these West African genres wholeheartedly only to dump them few years later for other types of music.
But in recent times, Malawiâ€™s music scene has witnessed a gospel music boom that has seen some prominent artists abandoning secular music and opting for gospel.
But memories are still fresh of how before the 1990s, gospel music could hardly propel any artist to the world of fame. Gospel music sales on the local market were poor and lagged behind secular music.
Those who actively remained in gospel music circles for more than half a decade did so because they naturally loved their genre or else they did so because of personal convictions. Even stories about secular artists moving on to try gospel music were rare. Few gospel music bands such as Katawa CCAP Singers and Alleluya Banda were the only ones who stood the test of time.
But during the past decade, the story has completely changed. The gospel music industry continues to witness an influx of artists, most from secular circles. In fact, most of the big names in gospel music today were once renowned secular music artists.
Some of the most notable ones include Evance Meleka, San B, Ethel Kamwendo-Banda and Geoffrey Zigoma. And more recently, two top secular artists, Bon Kavalasanza and McDonald Mlaka Maliro, have also joined the bandwagon.
But why do secular musicians opt for gospel music?
Calling from God?
In random interviews Society conducted during the week, the artists claimed they became gospel musicians after being called by God. Most of the gospel artists said their change from secular to gospel started from the heart.
Kamwendo-Banda, in one of her interviews last year, said her move from secular to gospel music followed a call from God.
The 2011 Malawi Music Awards Female Gospel Artist of the Year Award winner said God spoke to her and invited her to serve him through music.
â€œThere is nothing that attracted me to join gospel music. It was God who called me to serve him and I accepted. Interestingly, since then, I have been experiencing miracles in my daily life and He is doing wonders in my life.
â€œHe gave me a wonderful husband and family and has endowed me with talent such that I can see myself growing up everyday in my music,â€ she said, stressing that she will never quit gospel music.
â€˜Itâ€™s not about richesâ€™
Another gospel music sensation, Evance Meleka, who renounced secular music last year, says he is now in the Promised Land and that is where his destiny is.
â€œI did not become a gospel music artist by mistake, neither was I attracted by anything. It was God who called me and the call came at the right time.
â€œIt is obvious that the world is in its last days and I donâ€™t think it is wise for me to be busy singing secular music instead of helping my fans to repent and receive Jesus Christ as their personal saviour,â€ says Meleka, who has since partnered Vincent Kadzakumanja.
Meleka further says he grew up with the desire to sing gospel music and when the chance came to play secular music, he took it seriously because he knew it would act as a platform from which to launch a career in gospel music.
He insists there is competition in both genres, saying gospel music is like a ministry set up to serve the people of God. He said the main focus is not riches.
Meleka also said good music sales come as a result of good quality of production and how that particular music is liked by the public.
â€œNaturally, there are two types of audiences, gospel and secular. These buy music depending on its quality and it would be wrong to conclude that artists are being attracted by good sales because the success of any album rests on its quality,â€ he said.
But despite the apparent success that gospel musicians enjoy, some artists have gone silent and their productions have not done well on the market.
Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) president Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango agrees that changing from secular to gospel music comes after a call from God.
â€œFrom the theological point of view, going into gospel music is a calling from the Lord and when this happens, one cannot refuse because the Lord touches your heart and body.
â€œIt is not a surprise that most secular artists are shifting to gospel. To me it signifies that we are on the right track. This also means there are many people who are serving God and huge volumes of gospel messages are reaching many people,â€ said Mhango.
â€˜Analyse artistsâ€™ lifestylesâ€™
But Mhango admitted that some artists start playing gospel music because of other benefits such as good sales and fame. He said this can be determined by analysing how one lives after becoming a gospel music artist.
â€œWe have good examples in Kamwendo-Banda and Meleka. If you judge these two based on their lifestyle, you will realise that they were called by God. It is time for Malawi to have many gospel artists and the Lord is doing wonders by calling many to serve Him,â€ he said.