Dubbed the “unforgettable experience”, Uganda witnessed the power of gospel music in a night that indeed left an indelible mark in the hearts of believers. Nigerian gospel stars Joe Praise, Sinach, TB1, Ada, and Rap Nation wooed the packed Mandela National Stadium in a praise, worship and healing crusade organized by Christ Embassy Church.
The undiluted moments of praise, worship and dance took place on the 14th October from 6pm till dawn. Due to the rather lackluster media attitude towards gospel music and related events, we decided to recount the experience for you!
Unlike secular music that reveals character and imagination of the individual singers, gospel music has been hailed for putting the audience in touch with God thanks to lyrics inspired by sacred scriptures. In affirming the unique significance of the Holy Words, St. Paul when writing to Timothy describes them as “theopneustos” meaning the heart of God becomes thoughts that are expressed in words.
The evening started off with praise and worship songs from various local gospel singers and choirs each limited to one song. One by one each took the stage performing praise, devotion or worship songs mainly in the Luganda, the most spoken language in the city. As they performed, gradually the pitch was filled up and revelers were limited to the pavilion of the stadium.
It was a shame most were not known to the crowd as most local gospel singers seem to have limited their vibrant performances to church premises. Nevertheless, renditions of popular praise songs, and unifying messages kept the crowd lively irrespective of identity of the singers.
It was a cold reminder to people to pay more attention to homegrown gospel singers. By 10pm, the stadium was packed with thousands of worshippers.
To spice up the night, traditional gospel songs from various cultures took the mantle from the contemporary gospel singers. Often times, many have misunderstood local cultures for bad influence in matters of faith and worship.
However, the infusion of gospel music with popular traditional songs, dances and sounds reminded the crowd of harmony between culture and worship.
A cultural troupe from Northern Uganda performed the energetic traditional “Larakaraka dance” with a twist of Bible inspired lyrics. Crowned with ostrich feathers, the males in animal skin outfits made rapid hasty sounds hitting thin metallic strands against wide calabashes. The women vigorously shook their waists as the crowds cheered.
The “Bakisimba” dancers from Buganda region took the stage. They performed traditional tunes with a blend of gospel messages. The heart stomping Kiga dance got the crowd on their feet as they cheered the dancers. Graceful Ankole and Kinyarwanda dance imitating the long-horned Ankole cows ushered a relaxed feeling in the enthralled crowd.
The similarity of the cultures of Kinyarwanda from Rwanda and Ankole of Uganda reminded the crowd of unity in diversity. They paid homage to authentic African sounds with a sprinkling of spiritual messages.
Musical performances inspired by the fateful affair of Biblical King David and Bathsheba thrilled the crowd. The couple in all-white robes waltzed and dazzled to the stimulating and soothing sounds of Arabic harps, flutes, trumpets and cymbals. The deeply-percussive set drew cheers as they performed Salsa, Rumba and tango. They showcased the timeless power of romance and music.
Clad in suits, Christ Embassy’s all-male rap group, Rap Nation put an eclectic performance. With an unorthodox style of evangelism, the rappers demystified rap. With lucid scripturally laden lyrics, they moved the crowd with their latest songs “Salvation” and “The arrival”.
Their rhymes reminded people that gospel music is limited to any genre of music and rappers are not all about ripped jeans, chains, sneakers and faded tee-shirts. They painted a refreshing image of rap. No wonder the preacher introduced them saying,’’ These guys are so anointed! When they rap, people receive healing!”
Joe Praise and Sinach had the most memorable performances as the crowds rose their feet, sang and danced along to their popular songs. Joe Praise’s “Unchangeable God” had the crowd energized in the depth of the night. A strong wave of chants, ululations and cheers blanketed cover the stadium.
Renowned gospel singer Sinach took the celebration to a higher octave as she performed her hit song “I know who I am”. Sinach has won a massive following for the hit song which has transcended boundaries enjoying popular play in bars, churches, parties, weddings and clubs. The song has had several covers including global gospel music star Donnie McClurklin of the “Days of Elijah” fame.
With a huge catalogue of hits, Sinach was perhaps spoilt for choice over which songs she should sing to the crowd. She performed continued her performance with “Way Maker”, “I’m blessed” and nibbled through a few of other songs but the crowd could not get enough!
At around 3pm, she left the stage for preaching and miracle session where the lame walked, the blind that eyes opened, and sick healed. What a way to start a new dawn!