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You know what they say: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you hang around the UK Gospel music scene long enough, you’ll get to see that – as with pretty much every other industry – things go in cycles.

In other words: we have our ups and downs. We experience times that (if I can get biblical for a second) the people lament the lack of good quality music, especially in view of the tremendous talent pool we have to draw from.

Upsurge

With the scene’s relatively muted musical highlights between 2013 and 2015, it stood to reason that we were due another upsurge in our quality music release cycle, and – bless the Lord – 2016 hasn’t disappointed.

The Re-Emergence of the Female Artist

This time around there was also another returning sub-trend, one we sadly don’t get to see enough of: the re-emergence of the female artist.

Gospel music has always had a tradition of superb female vocalists. The issue is we never seem to have quite enough relative to the amount of men around, and definitely not in the ‘recording artist’ definition of the word.

Gospel music has always had a tradition of superb female vocalists. The issue is we never seem to have quite enough relative to the men around…

2016 has been different. From the official announcement a couple days ago of the eagerly-awaited debut album of MOBO award winning Lurine Cato to the growing profiles of relatively ‘new’ names like Sharon TemboBecca Folkes, Olaedo, Estella Letman, Lorraine McGhie, Fiona Yorke and Julliette Farrell, it certainly feels like there’s suddenly quite a bit to get excited about.

It’s worth pointing out that many of these ladies have been around for years.  I don’t know why, but 2016 is building critical mass, resulting in a respectable block of female artists coming through at once.

This is a good thing, and long may it continue.

Lots of Theories, No Concrete Answers

So, why does it take so long for this to happen?

Why don’t we have enough women delivering consistently (and dare I say with quality) at the same level as the men all the time..?

I’ve got lots of theories but no concrete answers. And when faced with a situation like this one of the best things to do is ask someone about it. So I did.

Sarah Teibo

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Sarah first came to my attention in 2015, and caught my eye for so many great reasons.

Practically every thing I came to discover about her was done to the highest possible standard, from her social media presence, music presentation and media relationship management.

And this isn’t necessarily about money.  It’s more about how an artist deploys their intention, and the imagination they bring to bear in utilising the little (or lot) they have.

It’s also worth pointing out at this stage that I’ve no direct connection to her in any shape or form.  I’ve just been a huge fan of the way she’s appeared on the scene and gone about her business.

Turns out I’m not the only one that’s been impressed: in the course of my writing this she’s won two Jump Music video awards (RnB/Soul and Female categories) in the event that took place last weekend.

She’s also the only female nominee in a very strong MOBO 2016 Gospel category.

Open Brief

So, while it’ll be entirely unfair to offer her up as the voice of all female artists on the scene I was quite curious about her take on both her journey so far, and the scene.

I gave her an open brief – to write on anything she liked, from her individual point of view.

These things are always tricky: people can generally read intentions where none were inferred, but this made a very interesting, balanced and inspiring read.

These things are always tricky: people can generally read intentions where none were inferred, but this made a very interesting, balanced and inspiring read.

Is it a man’s world?  Not without a woman, it isn’t…

Yinka Awojobi
Content Development
UKGospel.com


Sarah Téibo – It’s A Man’s World..?

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When Yinka first asked me a few days ago to write this article on the state of female vocalists in the UK Gospel scene today, my first thoughts were ‘Wow, this is not going to be easy!’

But being the person I am, I never run from a challenge and I’m not about to start now.

So here’s my two cents worth, based on observations and my (very little) personal experience. Let me quickly add this caveat – I am not a feminist, but I’m all for ‘girl power’.

So now that we’ve got that firmly established (and in the course of doing so, confused you ever so slightly), let’s dive right into it.

I am not a feminist, but I’m all for ‘girl power’

It’s A Man’s World…

But it’s not quite anything without a woman! A cursory look at the music industry in general would appear to suggest that whilst there might be a marginally even distribution of male and female representation across all genres, this is not necessarily always reflected at the top.

Very recently, I was snooping around the  Billboard charts to see which artists were topping it and found it was dominated by male artists, with just 6 out of the top 20 entries coming from females. Just 6!

When we consider that on the flip side, females constitute the majority of music consumers, it almost seems unfair, to put it in simple terms.

Shift the lens on to the Gospel scene and it would appear to be no different from mainstream, with what appears to be more males reaching the ‘peak’ than females.

Shift the lens on to the Gospel scene and it would appear to be no different from mainstream, with what appears to be more males reaching the ‘peak’ than females

Interestingly, it’s not for the lack of talent, which in my opinion we have oodles of! So if we have just as much female talent on the scene, what factors could be responsible for a disproportionate representation where it matters?

‘Exodus’ Of Talent

This might be a bit of a touchy subject, but from my observations, it is quite clear that there has been a gradual exit of great talent from Gospel to mainstream. It’s nothing new, we’ve got Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Fantasia Barrino as prime examples of mega stars who started in church, so no news there really. And that is not to say the same does not apply to our male counterparts.

The thing is though, the U.K. Gospel scene would be even stronger than it is now, IF we were able to retain our talent.  I imagine the ‘Exodus of talent’, if you like, is not without reason. The ‘other side’ pays better and gives more opportunities and exposure.

How much stronger would our genre be if we were able to retain all these strong female vocalists?

So, by all means a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do and I’d be lying if I said this isn’t something I considered myself, but wise counsel kept me focused :). Praise God for that!

I’m a newbie and I don’t want to get into any trouble here by naming any names but you think of a few names you know and ponder the question, ‘how much stronger would our genre be if we were able to retain all these strong female vocalists?’

I’ll just leave that there and move on to the next point on my little list

More Than Music

sarah-teibo-4Probably 90% of artists today, if not more, are independent artists. This means that more than just being singers, we are our own marketer, manager, promoter, booking agent, PR representative, tour manager and everything else a label would provide to a signed artist.

It’s not an easy task, wearing all these hats, but these are areas that need to be covered and are just as pertinent as having a great voice.

Could it be that one of the reasons we aren’t seeing as many women at the top is the fact that by virtue of being nurturers and natural multi-taskers, we already have lots of commitments from work, family, business, church and everything in between, that we struggle to cover all grounds where our music career is concerned?

…We are our own marketer, manager, promoter, booking agent, PR representative, tour manager and everything else a label would provide to a signed artist. It’s not an easy task, wearing all these hats, but these are areas that need to be covered

If the answer to this question is ‘yes’, then we need to consider delegating more, we simply can’t do it all by ourselves. Or, is it possible that we do have the capacity but don’t possess the required skills to be the perfect ‘all-rounder’?

Then the simple answer to this would be ‘get more knowledge’.

Go on a music business course, find a mentor who can help you develop and give constructive feedback, read books on the areas you need to improve on and get to work 🙂

The Total Package

I have to put my hands up and confess that I watch the X Factor (which may come as a shock to some). But I do this for a very different reason than most people. I do it to hear Simon’s comments, tips, advise and most importantly, criticism.

When he throws difficult questions at wanna be pop stars, I put myself in their shoes and ask myself those same questions (and that’s not because I wanna be a pop star by the way :)).

As ladies in a relatively conservative Gospel genre we sometimes don’t think of the importance of branding, styling and image.

With most of us coming from strict Christian backgrounds, we are inclined to thinking of these as vain, unspiritual and nothing to do with ministry

I’ve found that over the years, what has made several artists stand out is that they possess what some call the ‘total package’ and have that ‘knowing’ in themselves of what they represent – what their Brand is.

More than the vocals and the look, there is something about an artist that makes them stand out and attract the listener’s (and observer’s) attention.

As ladies in a relatively conservative Gospel genre we sometimes don’t think of the importance of branding, styling and image. With most of us coming from strict Christian backgrounds, we are inclined to thinking of these as vain, unspiritual and nothing to do with ministry.

We don’t want to think too much of ourselves lest we get consumed by ourselves. Whilst this school of thought should not be entirely discounted, my response to it has always been – take a look at Queen Esther. Before going out to the King, she took care of her appearance in such a way that served the purpose of her assignment.

She didn’t say ‘oh we’re fasting so I can go to the King any way I like, I’m covered’.

In addition to being discerning to the Holy Spirit for inspiration and ensuring our vocals are on point, we need to get our branding and image right. And re-brand where and as often as necessary.

‘…not everybody needs to wear a centre part wig – set a new trend!…’

I’m going to be a bit harsh here and say something that might be a bit of a low blow, but not everybody needs to wear a centre part wig – set a new trend!

To Infinity And Beyond

This was meant to be a quick and painless read, so I won’t be going into the minutiae of areas that we could address on this subject and as such, I’ll end here but not without attempting to predict the future.

‘What does the future of UK Gospel look like?’, I’ve often been asked. Well, I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, so I’m very hopeful and excited about the future of our genre – not just nationally, but also globally.

Trail Blazers

I see the female artists that are already trail blazers continue to surge ahead, and I see a lot of potential in artists like myself that are up and coming. With the right information and inspiration topping our gifting, I see female artists taking the stage and becoming more relevant than we’ve been in the recent past.

I see more confidence and a stronger presence. I see at least 2 females nominated for MOBOS in 2017 (somebody say ‘Amen’!)

But just like our male counterparts, we need to put the work in and the results will naturally follow.

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