Gospel music in Ghana now has taken a new direction as our latest gospel artistes are doing more and introducing new styles.
Gone are the days when you will see someone dress in a long dress that covers all parts of his or her body and for the ladies, cover their hair with scarves and sing solemnly to a-one-way sound from a guitar or piano.
Growing up, I saw most gospel artistes shoot their videos in churches where elders and members of the church were seen dancing or humming the tune of the songs.
In the last decade, the trend has changed; the music is more danceable, the artistes (most) are high fashion oriented, the videos are shot with the latest and expensive cars and at plush locations and the dance moves are beyond description.
Many people, especially the old who are used to listening to gospel music in the form of hymns find it difficult to conform to these new changes.
Being the only music genre that is a combination of all others (reggae, highlife rap, etc), the gospel industry is one of the fastest growing industries in Ghana now. All you have to do is turn your TV set on, especially in the afternoon, and you will see the different talents the gospel music industry has.
The level of competition (though most of them will prefer not to call it competition) in the industry means you have to work harder to stand out or to be accepted.
In her short stay in the industry as an artiste, Gifty Osei, formerly Gifty Oppong has become one of the household names in the industry.
Her energy, zeal and high sense of fashion on stage are some of the elements her fans look out for whenever she hits the stage.
In 2007, her debut album “Aseda,” became an instant hit in Ghana.
It was, therefore, not surprising when her second album “Fefeefe,” followed the same trend and subsequently won her two enviable awards at the just ended GMA.
Coming from a humble background, Gifty had her basic education at the Mantey Din and New Oninku JSS, all in Tema, before learning fashion designing.
Currently married to a Tema based Pastor, Prince Elisha Osei, Gifty sees her breakthrough as something preordained by God.
“When I look at where I am now and where I began, I know it’s not by my might or strength” she says.
For her winning the Gospel Album of the year, and Gospel Artiste of the year awards are the beginning of the wonderful things the Lord will do in her life.
Below are excerpts of the interview Times Weekend (TW) had with the ever cheerful gospel songstress as she unveiled the incidents leading to her breakthrough.
TW: How are you doing?
Gifty: Smiling…Please I am fine.
TW: Eeeei madam, what’s with this “please please” approach?
Gifty : Laughing heartily….that is me oh……(still laughing)
TW: I hear you…I know you are doing great, so there’s no need to ask how you are….right?
Gifty: (Interrupts)…by God’s Grace, I’m OK.
TW: I know that, with all the awards you are receiving and the money you are making from the numerous shows you are playing lately…. Anyway, how come you were the only gospel artiste in the awards category who performed at the GMA this year?
Gifty: Its just by Grace ooo and I believe its my time.
TW: Are you sure you did not lobby for those shows you played during the GMA festival?
Gifty: Laughing…oh No… they invited me to play during the nominee jams and I did and I guess they liked it so they invited me to play at the main event.
TW: Is it strange that you were the only gospel artiste they kept publicizing in their promos for the main event?
Gifty: You can contact CharterHouse and find out, for me I was doing my work, it was the first time working with them and I enjoyed it.
TW: Did you make a lot of money from those performances then?
Gifty: Laughing….it was my manager they negotiated with, so I cant say that.
TW: OK…if you say so, what next is for you, after winning two awards at the just ended GMA’s?
Gifty: I’m still preparing to play some shows out of Ghana.
TW: Is it true that “king of the streets,” Kwaw Kese says he will do a track with you?
Gifty: For that I am so grateful onto God, if through my performances Kwaw says he will like to collaborate with me, we must give thanks to God. My team and I have taken note of it and we will work on that at the appropriate time.
TW: …You won the album of the year, apart from picking the award, did the album sell?
Gifty: I can boldly say it did, this is my second album. People knew me but I know this album established me well in the gospel scene.
TW: There are many genres of music, including hip life, hilife, hippop, so why did you choose gospel?
Gifty: I see, what I do is a calling from God and I have sung in the church since infancy and from infancy, anytime I see someone sing I admire the person and I always told myself I will sing one day.
TW: ….And it has happened, not so?
Gifty: It’s not as if I forced my way through, I believe it’s my time and the Lord is seeing me through, if it’s on my own, I won’t be here.
TW: You have been in music for awhile now, how do you see the gospel industry?
Gifty:I know our mothers started with the gospel and we are here to continue, I also know our God always has new things for us those who are doing gospel music now,it is one of the new things He is doing for us and our generation. In a way our kind of gospel is different from what our pacesetters started with, even how we approach music itself is different.
TW: Is it the case that sometimes people are not too comfortable with what you wear as gospel musicians?
Gifty: As Christians we have to make our maker proud, its not appropriate for a Christian to look wretched or always wear rags to sing in church, even those we call worldly, do not look wretched and dirty, how much more those of us who are the children of God. That, however, is not to conclude that we should over do certain things, but the fact that we are doing gospel music does not mean we should look wretched? Personally if I wear an outfit and my fans think its too much or inappropriate, I will take their advice and not dress in that way. I always love to look good but there is a limit to that.
TW: Is it also the case that there is a kind of competition amongst a certain group of our female gospel musicians and do you try to outdo one another?
Gifty: It’s not a competition, we sing for souls to be changed and also win more for Christ, that is why I said earlier that those of us in the gospel industry now have a new way of doing things, even how we perform on stage is different. Moreover, though we are doing gospel music, we are regarded by the public as celebrities or public figures and it’s not good for our fans to see us on stage or in town looking messy. We try to look good and presentable but decent.
TW: How many years have you being in the music industry?
Gifty: For about 15 years.
TW: You came out in 2007, so how did you finally break through?
Gifty: A friend told me, AB Crenstill wanted a lead gospel singer for his band so I applied and was chosen. I worked with him for close to 2 years. Under him, I was able to build my stagecraft and added more knowledge to what I already knew in music. We played at different functions; from outdoorings to parties, to funerals and other events. AB groomed me and taught me how to go about things.
TW: We all know the kind of music AB Crenstill does, were you at any time not influenced in to branching into circular music?
Gifty: No, AB always referred to me as “Osofomaame”. He knew I could sing and he saw my interest in gospel music, so he didn’t push me into doing other music. I also think AB saw more than just music in me, though I had the talent, he always made sure I paid attention to what he was teaching us. I left the band well prepared and ready to do music and God being so good, I met my husband soon after leaving the band.
TW: Why did you leave AB Crenstill’s band?
Gifty: I knew a man who had written his own songs and wanted someone to record it. At that time, all my interest shifted to that, so I started recording his songs in the studio and I was always missing the band’s schedule. It got to a time where I felt I should leave the band and do my own stuff.
TW: So what’s the relationship between you and AB now?
Gifty: Its cordial, we talk and I am always grateful for his impact on my career.
TW: Are you sure you didn’t leave the band because of your husband?
Gifty: Oh no, at that time I had not met him, I didn’t know him at all.
TW: So how did you meet your husband?
Gifty: I met him through my junior brother. When I met him, he loved music so much and had already recorded his own songs, I got a contract to lead praise and worship in his church. Later, they wanted me to stay permanently in the church. I was also recording with that friend of mine. We started talking and he decided to produce me.
TW: You grew up in Tema, right?
Gifty: Yes, I schooled there and later learnt a trade and I still live there.
TW: Oh ok..I now understand, “Tema Girl”?
Gifty: Not the kind of Tema girl you are talking about. Though I lived in Tema all my life, I never went to any club or hanged out at certain places, its either I am at school, or singing in church or selling cassava with my mum.
TW: Do you think he married you because of your talent?
Gifty: That is not the only reason, we got married before I came out as an artiste, so I know he married me because he loved me not just because of the singing.
TW: The latest trend amongst female gospel artiste is that your husbands are either your producers or managers. Why is it so?
Gifty: I am saying this for myself; for me it was my husband who discovered me. I remember in the beginning, no producer wanted to invest in me, they didn’t see why they should put their money and effort into that. My husband single-handedly pushed me through into becoming what I am today. He used his own resources for the first album and so when I recorded the second one, there was no way I was going to a different person to produce me.
TW: How many children do you have?
Gifty: Two, one is four and the other is two.
TW: With all the shows you are playing in town and out of Ghana, do you make time for your kids?
Gifty: By God’s grace, I have an understanding and supportive husband.
TW: It seems all of you keep saying that, not so?
Gifty: Laughing… he really understands, if not our issues would have been all over. I don’t even have a maid or caretaker at home but he takes care of the the kids when I am not around.
TW: When should we expect your next baby?
Gifty: Not now, but once we are alive and my husband is there we could have more.
TW: So, when you are not doing music what do you do?
Gifty: I design clothes.
TW: Do you design them for commercial purposes?
Gifty: For now, my concentration is on music, the kind of music we do as gospel artistes are involved it means a lot. You can’t just walk into a studio and start recording, we need to pray for revelations and prepare well for every public appearance because our songs are ministrations and similar to that of a pastor. You can’t just walk to the pulpit and start preaching, you need to prepare. But sometimes when I am less busy I design my own clothes and give them out to someone to sew for me.
TW: Before you leave us, what are your last words?
Gifty: Am very grateful to God for his guidance and also my fans for their support through these years, without them I wouldn’t be here today.And to my special husband, I am more than grateful for all the love and support through these years. I am in the studio working on something, God willing very soon my fans will hear something new from me so they should watch out.