Radio DJ and television personality, Jay Smoke (real name Justin Agyei Mensah), one of the main promoters of urban gospel in Ghana, says Christians were not ready to give a listening ear to the genre at the early stages.
The Urban or contemporary gospel is a modern form of Christian music that expresses either personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music. Musically, it follows the trends in secular urban contemporary music.
But its introduction onto the Ghanaian music scene was hit with some resistance as the people were not familiar with the genre.
In an interview with Hitz FM’s Franky 5 on This Is Gospel, Jay Smoke revealed that radio and television stations were reluctant to play urban gospel when it was introduced into the country.
“There weren’t many avenues for us to push whatever it is that we had. Radio stations were not playing it, Christians were not ready for stuff like that, and for me it was a big challenge because there was no avenue at all for me [to] promote it. Here I was, I had tons and tons of Christian hip-hop music and the society doesn’t understand it, they don’t want to accept it, so for me, it limited how much I could push the music,” he said.
Although the style developed gradually, early forms are generally dated to the 1970s, and the genre was well established by the end of the 1980s. The radio format is pitched primarily to African-American young adults.
Jay Smoke, however, admitted even though urban gospel has made major strides to enter into mainstream music, some Ghanaians are still yet to accept rap as part of Christianity.
“We live in a community where 65% to 70% are Christians but we still tend to box the music we listen to. We still think [not to disrespect anybody] the Ohemaa Mercy, the Cecilia Marfos; they are the gospels like Sarkodie can’t do gospel songs.”
Jay Smoke is the owner of RepJesus.com a website created for the promotion of urban gospel.