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Fertile soil for gospel music

Published:Thursday | September 14, 2017 | 6:52 PMShereita Grizzle
Chevelle Franklyn
Tommy Cowan
DJ Nicholas
Kevin Downswell
Junior Tucker
Papa San

Several up and coming artistes enter the music industry with one goal in mind - to make money. However industry insiders, particularly established artistes, have long warned newcomers that it takes time to build a successful career in music.

This is not just a lesson being taught in the secular industry but also the gospel fraternity.

It is often believed that gospel artistes have a more difficult time attaining financial stability than secular performers, As a result, questions surrounding how gospel artistes survive in the entertainment industry arise.

In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, veteran producer/artiste manager Tommy Cowan said contrary to popular belief, gospel artistes are not struggling to survive. Cowan, a devoted Christian, explained that while there is room for improvement in the local gospel fraternity, the industry has come a far way in terms of providing stable career paths for entertainers.

"Gospel music has increased so much over the past two or three years," he said. "Much more gospel concerts are being held, so the shows are no longer few and far apart, and my opinion is that there will be more gospel shows coming in the near future."

Cowan said the problems currently being faced by the gospel fraternity, such as low music sales, are not unique to the genre. "The market is not stable for any aspect of the industry, whether secular or gospel, but persons entering the gospel industry should not be focusing on the market and how they can make money," he said.

"If you are coming into the gospel music industry to make money, then you have the wrong focus. Gospel is about ministry; money is an additional blessing, but it cannot be the focus. Your focus should be carrying out the calling on your life and blessing other people with your talent."

Cowan, who is married to gospel artiste Carlene Davis, explained that similar to dancehall/reggae, there is a process to getting to the top of the gospel music industry. He said there are countless dancehall artistes currently still trying to make a name, struggling to pay bills, and it is just the natural order of things when one is coming up in an industry.

"You have gospel artistes who are doing well. Stitchie is doing well, Papa San, Jermaine Edwards, Junior Tucker, Papa San, Kevin Downswell and so on, but they all made a name for themselves before they started to make money," he said. "You have to know that you have the talent and be prepared to make sacrifices."

However, he told The Sunday Gleaner that while money should not be gospel entertainers' focus, if one is going to make a stable career from gospel the focus - like secular artistes - will have to be on the international market,

Chevelle Franklyn, gospel artiste agreed. Franklyn, whose album Set Time recently made it onto the Billboard charts told The Sunday Gleaner that there are many gospel entertainers who are quiet on the local scene, but are making strides internationally.

"When people didn't see me here (Jamaica), God was doing something else somewhere else. I was taking stages that many artistes here never get the opportunity to take. Jamaica is just a little dot on the map. There are places like Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Zambia and even the Middle East that people are craving the music," she said.

"A lot of people are saved but not delivered, and so they want more of the things that are of the world than the things that are of God. People have to understand that it's not about them when they're doing gospel and, as soon as they understand that, God can trust them with certain moves and will take them places," she said.