Edmonton·Audio

African gospel music producers aim to break into Edmonton's music scene

A number of renowned African gospel music producers, who now call Edmonton home, are working non-stop to break African musicians into mainstream Christian radio stations.

‘Sometimes in a world where maybe the favour is not in your lane you create your own favour’

African gospel producers Solomon Bill and Emmanuel Mike at Bill's Worship Seer Records studio in north-central Edmonton. (Thandiwe Konguavi/CBC)

A number of renowned African gospel music producers, who now call Edmonton home, are working non-stop to break African musicians into mainstream Christian radio stations. 

"When it comes to how music is spread, I guess you can use immigration," said music engineer Emmanuel Mike. "Twenty years ago we were not that many Africans here in general … even beyond music. 

"When you migrate you don't just bring yourself, you bring your culture, you bring your taste, you bring a tradition."

Solomon Bill, founder of Worship Seer Records in Edmonton, first came to Canada with ZimPraise, a gospel choir in Zimbabwe with millions of followers around the world. 

He has been operating a music studio out of Vanguard College in the north-central Westwood community. He hopes to one day move the operation into his own studio complex.

Lends itself to dancing

Often incorporating sounds like Rumba and upbeat drumming, African gospel lends itself to dancing. And now the music is becoming more professional, Bill said. 

In an interview aired on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active Tuesday, Bill said he would like to expose African artists like radio stations promote pop or country stars.

"They keep on playing the same songs over and over again because they make sure that you really like this song and it does not become boring. That's what we want to do with our African music.

"They have to play that song over and over again until they start to feel like they can feel cows here, I can feel chickens running, I can feel the air of Africa. That's what we're trying to do."

Alicia Krawchuk, director of the recently released Memoirs of the Motherland, a film documenting the musical landscape of Africa and its reception in Edmonton, said despite a growing African community, there is little representation in music.

There is still no hip hop radio station in Edmonton, she noted, and the mainstream music landscape is still dominated by top 40, country and rock.

'Organic, diverse'

"So I think there is a space for that to come into play more and people will be receptive," said Krawchuk, who grew up in Edmonton listening to popular Christian rock.

She fell in love with South African gospel music during a mission trip to that country, despite the language barrier.

"It's organic, diverse, and nice," Krawchuk said. "It's just a matter of whether or not it's promoted and people are exposed to it."

Despite the lack of black gospel artists who have made it in Canada's Christian music industry, Mike says Edmonton is a good place to start. 

"It's actually a blessing to be here because there is no industry," Mike said.

"So us coming at this time and everything happening simultaneously is even spiritual because then God is giving us the opportunity to grab that blessing to develop our own industry in this country. So that will be the perfect time to start our own record labels."

Mike encourages artists to take initiative with their careers and to bridge the gap with good quality, strong branding, public relations, and networking.  

"We take every opportunity we get because sometimes in a world that where maybe the favour is not in your lane, you create your own favour," Mike said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thandiwe Konguavi

Reporter/editor

Thandiwe Konguavi is an award-winning journalist, born in Zimbabwe. She is a reporter/editor at CBC Edmonton. Reach her at thandiwe.konguavi@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter:

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