Curtis Campbell • Gleaner Writer
With the popular names in gospel reggae apparently going missing in action, up-and-coming gospel reggae artiste Othis 'Rychus' Jones believes the genre is going through a rebuilding process.
According to Rychus, stage shows are scarce and the radio is not fully supportive of the music.
In the early 2000s, the likes of DJ Nicholas, Ryan Mark, Goddy Goddy and Prodigal Son were popular names on the tongues of music lovers. However, 12 years later, that is not the case.
"The more prominent gospel artistes peaked and then decreased in their presence and nobody picked up where they left off. There needed to be some vibrant young acts to take up the mantle and carry it," Rychus said.
Speaking as one of those young acts, Rychus disclosed that gospel artistes were faced with thorny challenges.
"It's not that artistes don't have the ability and it is not that we aren't making ourselves available, but there aren't many record labels taking up young gospel artistes. We are also lacking in effective marketing to facilitate our success in the field," he said.
NOT A DEAD GENRE
Despite the challenges, Rychus said gospel reggae is not dead.
"Gospel reggae is not dead, but it's in a period of reconstruction. All of the work is being put in right now, and I think new acts will be coming out, but provision must be put in place to expose the artistes. We only have one radio station, which is Love 101, and that is a big disadvantage. We get a little time on Irie FM on Sundays, but that is not enough time to create a hit. We need more recognition and airplay from all radio stations, even in prime hours like other genres because gospel reggae is still Jamaican music. To play gospel music for an hour for an entire week is not enough," he said.
The artiste believes the dwindling of stage shows has also helped to cripple the gospel industry.
"A lot of the stage shows aren't getting sponsored, and shows like Genesis have been scaled down because of this. Also, we stand to gain less from dubplates because of the content of gospel music, so it's definitely not easy for us. This is why the gospel music fraternity needs the help from all industry players," he said.
SOME LOOK OVERSEAS
The current top artiste representing gospel reggae, Omari, added his piece to the puzzle.
According to him, other big names have gone abroad in search of greener pastures.
"The top man dem deh foreign. I got the chance to leave as well, but I decided to stay here and build my thing from ground up," he continued.
"A lot of artistes are looking to expand their brands. Some are doing promotional tours, while others became frustrated because they are not appreciated out here. We get a lot of obstacles here, but people overseas appreciate our music and that is why many have gone overseas … . Plus a lot of gospel events not keeping".
Omari agreed with Rychus that there needs to be more media coverage for gospel artistes.
"There are young people to replace the missing acts, but because they don't have any coverage, they are not making it to the forefront. It's hard to get coverage as an established act so you can imagine a young artiste … . But the genre is not dying. You still have Omari, Papa San, DJ Nicholas, Prodigal Son and so many others and wi naah stop," Omari said.
Omari also had some advice for young gospel reggae hopefuls.
"It's going to take a lot of hard work. Not because yu a duh the Lord work nuh mean seh success a guh drop inna yu lap. Yu haffi guh out and work same way. I do street campaigns and promote my music myself. You also need to do music that is relatable," the deejay said.
Omari recently released his debut book called Why Me God? While Rychus is promoting his new single, We The Saints, produced by Stephen Murphy.