Christopher Salom is not your kind of everyday gospel singer. He is reputed to have penned down a couple of hits in six albums after 23 years in the business and in this interview, he speaks with SAMUEL ABULUDE on his terrain on the gospel scene, challenges and other sundry issues.
How do you hone your kind of music?
I am a worshipper. Worship songs are known for being slow. But I think that is where my strength lies. I also do other genre of music. If you listen to my album, you will hear pop, afro beat and all.
What inspires you?
My inspiration is varies. God is nevertheless my ultimate inspiration. I represent Him, I sing His words. The things I see around me also form my music. I read the Bible and I see a picture of God’s intention for man. So if I see anyone living contrary to that plan, because of what I know, that could become my inspiration for a song. Perhaps they might listen to the song and it may change their mind back to the plan of God for them.
Do you suggest that gospel music has a major advantage over secular music?
The Bible says that “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” Gospel music is life giving. That is it! Gospel music has the ability of lifting you from a lowly place and brightening you up. Gospel music inspires and assures you that God is for you. Gospel music has power. I have sung in many places where people get healed. I have received testimonies of healing from people who have listened to my songs. If you go to the comment section of my Youtube channel, you will find thousands of testimonies, not written by me, but written by people I have never met before save that they listened to my songs. And I am not the only gospel singer with testimonies like that. Most of my colleagues have similar confessions. Gospel music is life giving and we cannot say the same for secular music. Secular music only excites the mind and flesh. That is the most it can do.
Do you then think that authorities like the government should consider supporting gospel music?
The potential of gospel music to heal our land is not in question. The value in gospel music is high, so the sponsorship should also be maximum. We value doctors because we feel that they have the knowledge and expertise to cure a sick person. How about gospel music that can do that and much more? Doctors cannot raise the dead, but gospel music, because it is God’s word, can raise the dead. Gospel music can meet anybody at the point of their needs because of the spirit of God that is in Gospel music can. When we find something like this, we should consider it. We should value it as gold and support it because, even if we don’t want it now, we may want it tomorrow.
But this is just music. How do we guarantee all that you have attributed to gospel music?
It may just be music to the ordinary man, but the words that our music carry are life-giving. Yes, because it is the word of God and the word of God is life. The Bible says His word is truth, His word is life. As a matter of fact, even the world we live in today came as a result of spoken words. The Bible says, “In the beginning was the word… and all things were made by the word.” So as gospel singers speak the word of God and those who hear them receive life into their spirit which leads to diverse healings and resurrection. Gospel music is one of the most powerful forces in the world.
Some say that gospel singers are free agents; that their services should be given for free since it comes from God. Where do you stand in the divide?
The word of God is free. Nobody can pay for the word of God. But a pastor that comes on stage to preach to you didn’t get the microphone, his clothes and many other things for free. He had to pay for them. In the same vein, we give people gospel music for free, but you must realise that the studios where we record the songs are not free. The bloggers that publicise the songs do not work for free, the musical videos, which are very expensive to make by the way, are not free. That’s why people should support gospel music. We don’t need to demand for it. People should naturally support gospel singers.
You talk about people naturally supporting gospel singers, but what do you say of gospel singers who charge for their service?
I don’t have anything against them. The reason you find people charging is because many haven’t learnt how to appreciate gospel music well. They feel if I have to do this for free and allow people to do what they please, not many people will do it right. How do you go to a place that cost N10, 000 only to receive N4, 000 in an envelope? How will you offset the balance? So, if you find people charging, they are actually justified because it is expensive to put good music out there. It is expensive to find a good place where you can concentrate and write a song that will make impact in the life of other people. A whole lot is involved in this. Support should be natural. And people should support good things as well.
Which song gave you the break?
‘You’re the Reason.’ In 2010 I recorded an album titled ‘Second Chance’ and from it, the song, ‘You’re the Reason’ rose to become a global break.
Are you aware that in spite of the absolute success of this song, not many people know you are the original singer?
Absolutely. That is one of the challenges that gospel music has in Nigeria. A situation where people don’t understand copyright and how to give credit to originators. This is not just about music, it happens with books and movies. So many artistes have recorded the song in Nigeria and even outside Nigeria. Only very few of them gave credit to me. Others simply didn’t. Well, gospel music, it must be said, is also a collection of mixed breeds: there are those who are called to minister and there are others that have called themselves. What the latter does is to take other people’s songs, record them and keep everyone else in the dark as to who the originator is.
How do you feel about this?
Some of the credit is beginning to come back to me now. When I travel to other countries to minister, the minute I start singing ‘you are the reason why I lift my hands, why I sing to you…’ people tell me that without me even telling them that I wrote the song they know I did because of the spirit in the voice. You see, the spirit of the originator is the original. The spirit of the song lies in the originator. Every other person can only try to sing to some extent.
There has been a significant improvement in the quality of gospel music over the years. What in your opinion is responsible for this quality shift?
The support for gospel music has increased. Before now, it was pretty difficult to record a good song, not because you didn’t have the talent, but because the finances weren’t just there. Somehow, we have been able to deal with that. I think that the support and our exposure to new tools are two out of the many reasons gospel music in Nigeria has improved significantly in quality.
What has been the support system for you because people still feel that gospel music is grossly under-funded?
More pastors are showing great support and are helping to create enabling environment for singers. This goes a long way. Before now, we didn’t have this opportunity. You were left on your own, sort of. And that was why most of the now great secular singers, when they could not find a support base, took any offer from the secular music. We all know that most of the singers in the secular music started from the church. That was the reason, lack of support. But now, we have a few pastors who have taken the responsibility of supporting gospel singers and are major patrons of what we do. And with that kind of support base, it has become very possible to improve our craft in terms of quality and inspiration.
Which pastor has immensely contributed to your music?
Pastor Chris Oyahkilome, he is my pastor. I have been in Christ Embassy for 23 years. He has been a major support for me. We also have people like Sinach, Buchi, Frank Edwards, Eben, Ada, and Testimony, among others, benefiting from the support of Pastor Chris and Christ Embassy in general.
How did you get the money for your first album?
The money for my first album came from months of saving. I got a few support from some people, but it was largely from many months of saving.
What did you do at the time to save up money?
I had to work in a business centre. I was typing and making photocopies for people. At the end of the month, I saved up some of my salary.
Did you make any money from the sales of your first album?
Funny enough I didn’t. Not a dime. I didn’t even break even. At that time CD wasn’t that popular, it was cassettes. We are talking about 17 years ago. Not many people owned a CD player. Half of the 1000 cassettes that we produced were distributed free of charge. But looking back now, I did the right thing because I was sowing seeds. I remember when I wanted to set up my first studio, I needed to get a desktop computer, but what I had money for was a keyboard. I bought it and kept it at home. I then bought the mouse, then I bought the computer casing only and then the CPU, the CD rom, the motherboard, then monitor. When every item was complete, I took them to Computer Village where everything was assembled and I started using it to make music. That was how I became a music producer. It was not easy in the beginning. It’s good that budding singers know that there will be some challenges.
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