It is a known fact that Nigeria is a very religious nation and Christianity is by far one of the most practiced religions in the nation. As churches increase in the nocks and crannies of the country year in year out, so has new gospel musicians spring up. Before we delve into looking at the top ten gospel musicians in Nigeria, we will first do a hasty historical review of the music genre in the country.
Christian music popularly called gospel music in Nigeria has a history that could be traced to as far back as the 16th century. As commonly known, Christianity is not an Indigenous religion of Nigerians, hence, it was brought into the country by the Portuguese Catholic missionaries. They surgeon to Warri and Benin city respectively and propagated Christianity. As Christianity was been widely accepted by Nigerians, the missionaries introduced a form of liturgical music which was characterised by minimal tunes. Since this newly introduced pattern of music by the missionaries is strange to Nigerian culture and existing music pattern; Nigerians brought their own tunes, rhythm, language, and worldview into their musical renditions to venerate God in churches. This can, however, be seen as the origin of Christian music in Nigeria.
As civilization began to set in, in this era, so as musical instruments were available, also, western education was within the reach of some privileged Nigerians, hence the Christendom began to see the faces of talented Nigerians who sing songs in their dialects to venerate God in their local churches. The following are among the few early influencers in the evolution of the Christian music in Nigeria: Reverend Ransome Kuti, he began his gospel music career by using his local dialect the Yoruba language. He composes music in Yoruba language and his audience could easily relate to the content of his songs. His work received international recognition to such an extent that he was invited to England in 1922 to record an album of his compositions.
Another notable figure was composer Ikoli Harcourt-Whyte. He was the first person to compose music in Igbo and his compositions were over 200. Most of his songs are still used in churches to venerate God even to this day. Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, and the Karis Band are other categories of the early influencers in the evolution of gospel music in Nigeria. In the 1970s and 80s, the Pentecostal movement was gaining ground, and churches began to spring up hence, there was room for improvisation in the musical renditions. This however equally has an impact on the growth of the Christian music in Nigeria. It is important to note that when these musicians were in vogue the internet was not available to them, however, most of their compositions could not travel outside the shores of Nigeria. With the advent of the internet, the voice of the emerging gospel musicians in Nigeria currently is being heard everywhere in the world.
Having traced the evolution of the gospel music genre in Nigeria, we present to you Top Ten Gospel Musicians in Nigeria. It is worthy of note that irrespective of the language these musicians use; since they sing-song in the Christian faith to worship God and their songs have received national and international recognitions, acceptance and awards, they are worthy to be in our Top Ten list of gospel musician in Nigeria.
10. Amaka Okwuoha
Chioma Jesus as popularly called is one female gospel musician whose with outstanding moral and fashion qualities. Her first music track Chioma meaning “My Good God” made a huge wave in the gospel music scene. If you listen to gospel music very well this track should not be strange to you. The song catapulted her into the limelight in the gospel music scene.
She was birthed on 12 of February 1973 in Lagos but she hails from Imo State Nigeria. She is notable for putting on her signature hat and wearing flowing gowns. Before she ventured into gospel music she was a businesswoman when God called her to minister to the world through her songs.
Just like Tope Alabi who uses the Yoruba language predominantly to sing songs, Chioma Jesus is notable for using the Igbo language and a little mix of English. She won the Deta Yadah Awards for two consecutive years 2011 and 2012 respectively; She also won the Omega Legend Awards as the Most Outstanding Gospel Artiste in Nigeria; HFTBF Award for Transparency and Integrity in the Gospel Music Ministry; World Ambassador for Peace Award by United Nations-Pol-ac Peace Nigeria, in collaboration with Platinum Standard Publications Limited Lagos. These among others are the awards she has won to her name. Her latest album titled Testimony released in 2019 includes songs like Prophetic Praise, I have Never See Anyone Like You, Ejim Chukwu Ugwo, Odironye Dika Gi meaning there is no one like you and many more.
She is married to Evangelist Callistus Okwuoha and blessed children. We present to you, Chioma Jesus as the number ten in our list of top gospel musicians in Nigeria.
(9) Lara George
Lara George is unarguably one of the most amazing gospel musicians in Nigeria. She was born in Lagos State Nigeria but currently based in the US. Unlike other gospel musicians who had their parents encouraging them to do music, Lara’s mother was against her doing music from the onset of her career. All she wanted for her was a proper profession in the corporate world. The result of her mother’s quest is evident in the two degrees Lara has obtained over the years. She has a first degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in the same course all from the University of Lagos.
Despite the heat from her mother to stop her from doing music, the gospel music chooses Lara. Lara was fortunate to attend Queen’s College Lagos, where she was voice trained, and learned how to play the keyboard. Lara quickly utilized this and was given the lead role in any musical rendition of the school. At a time in her school, Lara took the lead singer role at a Christmas Carol organized by the school, the choir presented O Holy Night, this event was phenomena to an extent that Lara asserted the carol was a stepping stone to her success in the gospel music scene.
After her secondary education, she was admitted into the University of Lagos, where she met her amazing friend Emem Ema and TY Bello. They formed a crew that was called the KUSH. This trio worked so hard that they got some musical endorsements. After a while, the group crashed and everyone started to build their musical career independently. In the year 2008, Lara released her debut album titled Forever in My Heart which includes the hit song Ijoba Orun.
Lara George has won so many awards and visited so many countries around the world for so many musical concerts. To mention a few of the awards she has won over the years are; 2011 Nigerian Entertainment Awards, Best Gospel Artiste; 2012 Gospel Music Awards, Best African Female Gospel Music Artiste; 2013 Africa Music Award, Trailblazer of the Year; 2014 crystal Awards, Female Vocalist and many other awards. The following are concerts she has taking part in over the years: Green Belt Festival the UK, the experience, Festival of life UK and Festival of Life Canada and many more. She is married to Lawyer Gbenga George a practicing lawyer and a musical entrepreneur. They are both blessed with two children a boy and a girl.
8. Emmanuel Benjamin
Eben as popularly known is one of the most fast-paced gospel artistes in Nigeria, famous for his hit song “Victory”. He is a vocalist, a songwriter, and an entrepreneur born on the 9th of September 1979 in Lagos. Just like other gospel musicians, Eben is from a deeply rooted Christian home. Eben started off as a rapper under the tutelage of his elder brother, this was in the year 1997. Eben later discovered his true calling to be gospel music and he started training himself towards his voice been heard all over the globe. In the year 2005, Eben rose to fame as he performed his song Imara Nma at a Concert organized by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome. A year after i.e. in the year 2006, Eben joined the Christ Embassy.
Just like Sinach and Frank Edwards, Eben is a product of the spiritual tutelage of pastor Chris. Pastor Chris has a way of rebranding up and coming artiste to become an international figure in the gospel music scene. This is evident in Sinach, Frank Edwards, and Eben, Kudos to him. Since Eben joined the ministry he was very consistent in his song release. In the year 2017, he released his first album On the Rock which includes songs like Imaranma, I Don Harmer, God Dey, and Iwon Nikan. In the year 2010, he released another album Phenomenon. Three years later, i.e in the year 2013, he released another album titled Justified which includes songs like You Alone Are Worthy, Onye Nwem, How I Love You, Forever, and the likes.
Eben owns a record label called Harmer House of Rock, with a business wing called the Harmer house venture which specializes in video and music productions and even event management. Eben is not left out in the gospel music awards, hence the following include few of the awards he has won to his credit and name: in 2012, he won the PBO Musical Video Awards; Best Male Artiste Africa Gospel Music Awards UK; Best Male Artiste at the National Gospel Awards Nigeria; 2014, The Album of the Year at Crystal Award; Best Songwriter of the Year at Lima Awards, and many more. He is married to Jahdiel (Grace Okodwa). They got married in December 2013 in Christ Embassy and their union is blessed with two children.
7. Timothy Chukwudi Godfrey
Tim Godfrey as popularly known by Christians is often referred to as the Kirk Franklin and Tye Tribbett of Nigeria. He is most popular for his hit song Nara, which he did in collaboration with Travis Green. He is one of the few of the gospel musician who was not born with a silver spoon. He came from a very poor background that at a time in his life he was a bus conductor to his own dad, as if this was not enough, he was one time a house boy, at another time a hawker selling Coconuts and Bananas round the street of Nasarawa in Kaduna state Nigeria. Despite all these ordeals of his, Tim Godfrey has been able to rise from grass to grace, from nobody to somebody and from nowhere to an international gospel artiste.
Tim Godfrey hails from Abia State Nigeria but was birthed and grew up in Kaduna State on the 26th of August 1979 to Mr. and Mrs. Victor Godfrey. Growing up as a child for Tim was football all the way, but since he was a Church boy, he was exposed and privileged to learn some musical instruments. He was formerly a chorister in his early church’s choir and later transitioned to the adult category. He was an ardent supporter of Kirk Franklin, Hezekiah Walker pattern of music and followed suit, this actually informed the kind of music he does. He is the CEO of Rox Nation, a record label that he owns.
He hosts a concert annually called the Fearless with his crew Xtreme Crew. In this concert, he invites musicians from home and abroad to grace the occasion. As a result of his hard work, Tim has won diverse awards which include: BAFFTA Awarded UK 2011, NEA Award U.S.A for Best Gospel Artist/Group of the Year 2017; he and his crew bagged the Musical Group of Excellence Award at the Africa Gospel and Media Award (AGAMA) 2019; Male Artiste of the Year at Africa Gospel Awards (GAVEST) 2019. His songs include: Toya, Victory, Akpo Aza, Amen Hero, Bless the Lord and many more.
6. Sammie Okposo
Sammie is one of the most enigmatic figures in the Nigerian gospel music ministry. He is so enigmatic to such an extent that when you feel his most recent hit song is the best of him, you just wait for a couple of months for his next release and see the better side of his soul-lifting song. Therefore, Compiling a list of the Top Ten Gospel Musicians In Nigeria without this international figure who has successfully carved out a niche for himself in the gospel music scene will be totally incomplete. We present to you the multiple awards winning Samie Okposo as one of the Top Ten in our list.
Sammie was birthed on the 30th of May 1971 into a Christian home in Delta State Nigeria, his father was a founding elder of a gospel church in Delta State and his mother a Deaconess and a chorister. He grew up in a deeply rooted Christina family, but as he reaches the climax of his adolescence, he decided to experiment and took a tilt toward the secular music. Hence, he and his band started all kinds of secular music in some notable Jazz joints in Lagos. He did this for a couple of years before he felt the need to use his talent to worship God properly.
Sammie did not start off as a gospel musician but as a producer. Before his name was heard in the gospel music scene he had already been very popular as a producer and a sound track artiste. He learnt all the nitty-gritty of the skill sets needed to excel in the entertainment industry from his Boss Kingley Ogoro. Some of the skills he learned from him include Jungles, TV Commercials, theme songs, and album production. Sammie Okposo has a music band called the Next Generation Band and he performs live on stage. He does not believe in mime; according to him fans paid money to listen to musicians perform live on stage so that when they get home they have something to narrate and have a good feel but when you mime you don’t give you fans what they really came for. Sammie is indeed an amazing gospel musician.
Since Sammie Okposo rose to fame he has won close to 30 awards to his name. In 1994 he received Fame Music Award for Most Promising Male Artiste; in 1997 he received the Movie Award for Best Sound Track Artiste for four (4) consecutive years-1997, 1998, 1999 to 200. Moving to the most recent awards, in 2016 Sammie won the Atlanta Georgia USA Train Blazer Award. Award for Best of African Gospel Music and Media Awards, UK (AGMMA) Awards Male Artist of the Year, and many more. He is happily married to Ozioma who he met in a concert in the UK and she currently resides there. Some of his selected songs include Welu Welu, No Wahala, Celebrate, Bless His Name, I go dance, He is Worthy, Shine and Proud and many more.
5. Tope Alabi
Tope Alabi is one of the most versatile gospel music ministers in Nigeria. Her versatility cuts across diverse aspects of the entertainment industry. She is a soundtrack artiste, actress and a journalist by training. Although most of her songs are written and delivered in the Yoruba language and a little mix of English language, yet the content of her songs are sole lifting, and therapeutic. She was birthed into the Catholic family of Pa Joseph Akinyele Abayomi and madam Agness Kehinde Abayomi who hailed from Yewa, Meko of Ogun State Nigeria.
Tope Alabi obtained her WAEC from Oba Akinyele Memorial High School, Ibadan in 1986; afterward, she proceeded to the Polytechnic Ibadan where she obtained a degree in Mass Communication and graduated in 1990. As a child, Tope has a flair for music and drama, hence, she joined diverse drama groups and worked in some media firm before building her music ministry. Her love for acting made her join Jester International (Jacob, Papilolo and Aderupko) group in Ibadan; she got her rubric training in acting in the this group, and later she worked with NTA in Ibadan as a correspondent between the years of 1990 and 1991. She proceeded by working with Centre-spread Advertising Limited, Ilupeju Lagos. After she had garnered enough experience from these media firms, she later committed herself into acting fully by joining Alade Aromire Theather group in 1994. It was in this group that she felt the need to commit her self to the gospel music scene properly.
In an interview, she had with Punch Newspaper on November 10, 2018, she said so many things about her gospel music ministry. She said in the interview that she never knew she would be a successful gospel musician. As a child her parents especially her mother keep repeating that she would work for God and stressing that she will become Reverend Sister, unknowing to her that the area that God will use her was the gospel music ministry. Just like other gospel musicians, Tope Alabi started from scratch, at a time in the early days of her career she could not pay her bills, she used to struggle to pay her children school fees, she once hired a bus for her band members and had to pay in instalments. To further worsen issues, a time came in her career pursuit that she gave some marketers some copies of her first album to sell and the marketers asked her to come and take her discs away because no one was buying them. Along the line, things fell through for her and now she is a major force to reckon with in the gospel music scene in the country.
She has the following awards won to her credit: Gospel Artiste of the Year, Nigeria Entertainment Awards 2015; Best Soundtrack Artiste of the Year, City People Awards; Proclamation Award, New York State Senate 2016; Award Presented by Gospel Promotion Outreach Orioke Baba Abiye Ede and more. The list of her songs are endless, to mention a few are: Logan Ti Ode, Imole De, Aye Le, Emi Mimo, Agbara Nla.
4. Nathaniel Bassey
Nathaniel Bassey is another figure in the Nigerian gospel music ministry with diverse interests and expertise. He was birthed in Lagos State Nigeria on the 27th of August 1978 into the family of Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Bassey who is a native of Ikot Ofon Ikono, Uyo Local government area of Akwa Ibom State Nigeria. Just like other prominent gospel musicians whose interest in gospel music sparks and ignites in their early days, Nathaniel Bassey was not left out in this order.
He developed an acute flair for music as a child but his interest in Jazz music was pressing. As a child, he used to listen to the songs of the likes of Getz and Kirk Whalum, Phil Driscoll, and Hugh Masakela. Still yearning greatly for Jazz music he joined the Jazz Quartet in Lagos, Spectrum 4. As if this was not enough, Elder Steve Rhodes also invited him to join the Jazz Orchestra in the country called the Steve Rhodes Orchestra where he served as the bandleader and lead trumpeter for a period of two years. Although Nathaniel Bassey was an ardent churchgoer his interest was somewhat fickle. This fickleness persisted until his late mentor, pastor Eskor Mfon, the former pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God RCCG, City of David Parish kept on telling him that music is beyond making money; not until one faithful day, the man of God asked him to compose and minister a song at the church because the wife of the former president late Stella Obasanjo will be worshiping with them in the church. After this performance, he had an encounter with God and let go of all his plans about exploring other aspects of music and focused completely on gospel music. Now he is one of the leading figures in the gospel music ministry in the country.
He graduated from the University of London where is bagged a degree in Political and international relations. He also did few courses in music at the University of Middlesex Summer School, UK where he studies popular music and a little of music business and graduated as the best student. The followings include some of his albums and his hit songs; Albums: Someone at the Door 2010, Son of God and Imela 2014, This God is too Good 2016, Revival Flame 2017, Jesus the Resurrection and the Life 2018. Songs include: Emimimo, Book of Life, Elohim, No other God, Casting Crown, Onishe Iyanu, Hallelujah Wh, and many more.
He is not left out in the awards for gospel musician, the following are the awards he has won over the years: City People Awards for Gospel Artiste of the Year 2017, Best Gospel Artiste at the Africa Music Magazine Awards and Music Festival Awards (AFRIMA) 2017; Jesus the Resurrection and the Life, he was nominated for Album of Excellence at the Africa Gospel Music Awards ( AGMMA) in 2019; Artiste of the Year Nominee by the Crystal Gospel Awards 2019. He is currently a youth pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Have I forgotten to mention? He is the brainchild of the Hallelujah Challenge. He is currently married to Sarah Bassey and blessed with two children.
3. Frank Ogochukwu Edwards
Frank Edwards as popularly known can be described as a pure combination of raw talent and hard work. He was born in Enugu State, Nigeria, and began to build his gospel music ministry from his childhood days. Frank Edwards being fortunate to have come from a family that is deeply rooted in the Christian faith, seized this opportunity via the influence of his father hence, he was privileged to explore the gospel music in his early days as well as learn musical instruments like the piano, guitar, and drum sets. It is noteworthy to point here that his father’s contribution towards his success in his music ministry cannot be left out. His father was a chorister in his early local church and he often spurs him to learn these instruments and sing songs to worship God. Initially Frank had wanted to be a pilot but however, the gospel music through divine intervention chose him and now he is a household name among Christians in Nigeria and even some countries in the diaspora.
Frank Edwards prefers that gospel music be seen as a ministry rather than an industry. He made a clear dichotomy between the two states that, when you refer to gospel music as an industry, you are commercializing it, hence it will be similar to the secular music, but if you see it as a ministry then you are on point because the aim of the music genre is not to make money but rather it is meant to heal people, venerate God, lift the spirit of those who are down and also touch lives.
Frank Edwards made his debut in the year 2008 with the album titled The Definition; in 2010, he released his second album titled Angel on The Runway; in 2011 he released his third album titled Unlimited. As a result of his love and passion for gospel music, he owns the record label Rocktown Records where he signed some up and coming gospel music stars like David, Divine, King BAS, Joe, and Nkay. To further project Frank Edwards as an international gospel music superstar, in the year 2016, he made a collaboration with the famous American gospel musician named Don Moen. In 2018 Edwards released the following songs Miyeruwe( praise God), You are good, Praise Your Name, and the likes. Just like Sinach whose success story would be incomplete without mentioning her spiritual father Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, Frank also is a product of the spiritual tutelage of Pastor Chris, Kudos to Pastor Chris.
To mention a few of the awards he has won over the years are, in 2012, he was nominated as the gospel artiste of the year in the sixth annual Nigerian Entertainment Award (NEA). He won the award of the Best Gospel Rock Artiste in the First Annual Awards. He also won West Africa Best Male Vocalist, Best Hit Single at the Love World Awards in 2012. As if these were not enough, he won three (3) awards at the Nigeria Gospel Music Awards (Male Artist of the Year), Song of the Year, and Best Male Vocal. Lastly the most striking of all his achievements was his album Frankincense where he featured Micah Stampley and Nathaniel Bassey, this album got everyone thrilled as the album topped Beyonce’s and Adele’s albums within few hours of release on iTunes album.
2. Mercy Chinwo
Mercy Chinwo is another amazing, young, and multi-talented gospel music superstar in Nigeria. She is skilled in songwriting, singing, and even acting on stage. She was birthed in Port Harcourt of River State Nigeria on the 5th of March 1990 into a family of five of which she is fourth born and first daughter of her parents. Mercy has a flair for music right from her childhood days and kickstarted by joining the children’s choir of her early church and later the adult choir of her church.
In the year 2012, Mercy Chinwo emerged as the winner of the Nigerian Idol Season 2, where she performed Fela’s Zombie. After her exploit in the Reality-TV show, she got another push when she featured in Yvonne Nelson’s movie House of Gold. She started professionally in the gospel music scene, by serving as a vocalist to notable gospel stars like Sammie Okposo, Buchi, Chris Morgan, and the likes. In the year 2015, the young star released her first single titled Testimony and later the mega-hit song Igwe.
To lay credence to her ingenuity in the Nigerian gospel music scene, Chinwo has won numerous awards to herself. Among these is Best Gospel Artiste at the CLIMAX Award in the year 2018; in the year 2019, at the Maiden edition of Africa Gospel Festival (AGAFEST 2019). She was equally named winner in three successive categories viz: Africa Gospel New Artiste of the Year, Africa Gospel Female Artiste of the Year, and Africa Gospel Song of the Year for her song “Excess Love”. To mention a few of the hit songs she has released over the years are Testimony, Omekanaya, No More Pain, Chinedum, Oh Jesus, Obinasom, and Bor Ekom a song she wrote in Ibibio language and also sang it in the language.
1. Osinachi Egbu Joseph
Osinachi Egbu Joseph popularly known as Sinach among Christians and her fans is a leading figure in the gospel music ministry in Nigeria. Whenever her name is mentioned among Christians, different hit songs of hers like: Way Maker, I Know Who I am, Great are You Lord, Rejoice, The Name of Jesus and many more of her songs come to mind. She was born on the 30th of March 1973 to a family of seven of which she is the second daughter. She hails from Ebonyi State of Nigeria and studied Physics at the University of Port Harcourt River State Nigeria.
Sinach had nursed the ambition of becoming a gospel music superstar right from her childhood days, she saw herself singing to a large crowd but did not know how this will become a reality in her life. Just like every successful gospel musicians (they start their musical career by joining their local church’s choir). Sinach followed suit, she joined the Christ Embassy Church choir and served the Lord as a chorister and worked alongside as administrative staff of the church. This was where she started her musical career, therefore, whenever her success story is being told and pastor Chris Oyakhilome is not mentioned, that story is incomplete. This is so because he played an invaluable role in her success in Nigeria gospel music scene and even in the diaspora as she is known worldwide today. Upon completion of her university education, she considered traveling abroad but pastor Oyakhilome advised her to stay back in Nigeria and prayed for her and she gave her life to Christ.
Before Sinach released her first album Chapter One in 2008, she had penned down several songs. To lay credence to her exploits in the gospel music scene in the country, she has won several awards to her name. Among these is her popular song, This is Your Season, this song won the Song of the Year Award in 2008; in 2016, she was the first recipient of the LIMA Songwriter of the Decade Award, in recognition of her contribution in the gospel music in the previous decade; still in the year 2016, she received the Africa Achievers’ Award of Global excellence; as if this was not enough, that same year she won the Western Africa Artist of the year by Groove in Kenya and was listed by YNaija alongside Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and Papa Enoch Adeboye as the Top 100 influential Christians in Nigeria. Indeed she is a superstar in the gospel music industry in Nigeria.
To mention a few of the countries she has visited for gospel music concerts and performance are South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, United Kingdom, Jamaica India and many more. She got married to Mr. Joseph Egbu in 2014 and she is currently a mother.
After careful scrutiny of the gospel music ministry in Nigerian, the parameters listed in the introduction of this article was then used to select the Top Ten Gospel Musicians in Nigeria. I hope that your favorite gospel artiste is on the list. Who is on the list that you feel should not be? Who should be on the list that you feel is not there? Feel free to air out your opinion on the comment section.
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