In Nigeria, Gospel is the biggest and highest-selling genre of music in Nigeria. It is unmatched and it is untouched. Lamba is Lamba, but gospel music is the cream of the crop. Nigeria is a religious nation. As such, gospel musicians have become celebrities who inspire millions and require as much branding as the next secular act.
The past decade witnessed a slight decline in mainstream English-speaking gospel acts who could penetrate the upper class. What we saw was the rise of ethnic superstars who mostly sang in their native tongues. But since 2010, the rise in the power of pentecostal worship gave way to an increased number of gospel acts with a national reputation.
For this, Pulse celebrates them and picks 10 of the best. The criteria is; commercial success, impact, discography, critical acclaim, awards and international acclaim.
His debut single ‘Imaranma’ got people to pay attention to the artiste who has, with the passage of time, evolved beyond his rock music beginnings to ballads and popular church music. These days, Eben is pretty much as gospel pop as they come.
With multiple albums to his name and a plethora of well-known praise and worship hits, Eben deserves accolades and surely, recognition for his contribution towards meeting the unquantifiable demand for inspirational and gospel songs that Nigerians always have.
- Ayoola Adetayo, Senior Content Creator at Pulse Nigeria
You really can’t think of Nigerian gospel music without this guy getting his well-deserved mention. Mans legit singlehandedly brought contemporary gospel music into the mainstream.
The man has carved a niche for himself with music that features heavy instrumentals, super-urban and almost-secular sounds, as well as a regular use of breathtaking syncopation that make all his albums and live performances genuinely satisfying to witness.
- Ayoola Adetayo, Senior Content Creator at Pulse Nigeria
No, ‘Ijoba Orun’ is not the only thing she has released. This decade alone, she has released four albums. Her power is in her voice and the gospel ballads with which she communicates. She might not be as popular anymore, but the earlier parts of the decade get her on this list.
He was a member of Infinity, the English-speaking brand that truly disrupted the market in the 2000s. After going solo, Eledumare - his album - dropped in 2010. With it came the eponymous single, ‘Eledumare.’ Then came another smash, ‘Hallelujah.’
His brand of music stood him out. His voice is built like that of a Yoruba praise singer. His brand of music heavily borrows from traditional Yoruba folk music. As such, he became a star. Since then, he has released two albums, NOAH Relentless and Burned Brass.
Chioma Jesus is a lesson in perseverance. Before the turn of the decade, she was around, but she just couldn’t penetrate certain circles. But as years became more years since 2010, she has soared in reputation and music.
She has also penetrated the higher class circles of gospel.
He might have slowed down over the past few years, but he is still heavily popular within church circles. At some point during this decade, he arguably had the most popular English gospel songs in Nigeria.
This decade, he has released four solid albums. When people see his pint-size, they’re usually shocked.
He is a pastor at King’s Court, Redeemed Christian Church in Victoria Island. Once, this writer was at his Sunday Service and it was like the heavens were on earth - his music will have that effect on you.
This decade, he has released five solid albums. For one month between June and July 2017, he had Nigeria on standstill between 12:00 am and 1:00 am. It was called Hallelujah Hour. That was a moment.
Yinka Ayefele is the king of gospel tungba. He makes gospel-themed music with a party hue. This decade alone, he has released nine albums. His popularity might not be at the level it was once at, but he’s still not your ‘Average Joe.’
His influence in Yorubaland and in the adult circles is like Keith Urban’s. He has the influence to match it. He doesn’t only release music, he makes parties jump.
Some people will argue this, but her life is a testament to staying power. When she released her debut album, Ore Ti O Common in 2001, she had gospel hits. But then, she became even better known as the voice of Nollywood soundtracks. This decade, she has released over five albums and has become the most consistent Nigerian gospel singer since 1990.
She has also pivoted into stage performances at ceremonies. You might now know her, but her numbers on are ridiculous. No moment underlines her status as ‘Logan Ti O De,’ a 2018 collaboration with photographer and singer, TY Bello.
Spontaneous Worship had been started by Bello for a while. Then, Tope Alabi came on Boomplay and did a madness. You would think the agnostic-generation wouldn’t appreciate. That day, everybody became closer to God until they decided to go fornicate. She might not be important to the Twitter generation, but her reps are big in the Nigerian mainstream - that is the majority.
The depths Lamba will never touch, gospel music has gotten there. More importantly, the biggest cross-over Nigerian song of the past 20 years is a gospel song.
The song belongs to Sinach and it is titled, ‘Way Maker.’ If it had an official release in the US, it will probably be a certified platinum-selling single. It gets performed everywhere across the world and even by Kanye West’s Sunday Service. A lot of foreigners don’t even realize a Nigerian made the song. In her career, she has released more than five albums.
For every show, Sinach will only reportedly move for $50,000. She might not have your pop appeal, but her musical success in her chosen field - a bigger platform than pop music - means she has achieved something bigger. For that, she has been Nigeria’s biggest female artist of the decade.