May 22, 2008
Stomp with Kirk Franklin
By John Vianney Nsimbe

So, can the euphoria surrounding Kirk Franklin’s coming to perform in Uganda bring good tidings to Uganda’s gospel musicians?

Ugandans love him and seem to go bonkers when his songs are played.

Humphrey Kiyingi (Hum Kay), a Gospel musician, preacher and lecturer at Makerere University, told The Weekly Observer: “This is the most opportune moment for us to break through. This guy is the best around and it would be ideal if we interacted with him one-on-one to find out how he has succeeded.”

Hum Kay added that if there was a chance that he could hold a simple workshop, say, for an hour telling of his experience and programmes, then the local gospel musicians would know which direction to take.
It was considered impossible for a gospel song to be popular among Christians and non-believers alike. Franklin defied that with his Stomp. Many danced to the hit in nightclubs, only to hear the ‘hallelujah’ and ‘oh I love you Jesus’ in between lines.

Brian Ourien, a gospel music enthusiast, told The Weekly Observer: “I attended Kirk’s concert in Nairobi but it blew me away. He is an emotional entertainer who shows that gospel shouldn’t be boring. He has made gospel music pretty cool and an up-market thing where his albums aren’t necessarily cheap but sell like hot-cakes in America.”

Ourien stressed that the musicians must be there at the concerts.

Nick Nyombi, the director of Victory Gospel Awards (VIGA), told The Weekly Observer that he has encouraged musicians to attend the show for their self-actualisation. “Interacting with him would mean a lot in enriching our industry too, but I don’t know if that will be possible since we are not the organisers.”
Joseph Walugembe, the Director of National Theatre, said: “When you host such performers, use them to the best. But at times because of their managers and contractual obligations, they may not be readily available to share their gifts. Yet, it’s people like Franklin that can guide a growing gospel industry like Uganda’s.”

Ugandan gospel music still suffers from quality deficiencies.
Father Anthony Musaala says: “Franklin has shown that gospel music can be world class. We must learn how he does it.”
Many Ugandans unfortunately think gospel music should be a free thing.

It could be a little far-fetched but Walugembe says collaborations with some local gospel musicians is something that can benefit Uganda’s budding gospel industry in the long-run.
In 1993, Kirk Franklin released his debut album, Kirk Franklin & The Family. It spent almost two years on the gospel charts, also charted on the R&B charts (very rare for a gospel artist), and went platinum. It stayed at number 1 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart for 42 weeks, into 1995.

It was also the first gospel music album to sell over a million units. The group released its sophomore release Whatcha Lookin’ 4 in ‘1995.
The album was hugely successful, certified two times platinum and earned Kirk his first Grammy award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel album.

In 1997 the lead single, “Stomp”, featuring Cheryl “Salt” James (of Salt-n-Pepa), was a huge hit, enjoying heavy rotation on MTV and other music channels, charting at number 1 on the R&B Singles Airplay chart for 2 weeks, and even making it in to the Top 40.
God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation was number 1 on the R&B Albums chart for 5 weeks, number 3 on the Pop charts, and would go on to be certified three times platinum. It also brought Franklin another Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album as well as three Grammy nominations.

Kirk Franklin escaped the shackles of a poor background growing up when his mother deserted him, indiscipline in school and a pornography addiction in marriage to become a prodigy in the industry.

Courtesy of Uganda Telecom, he performs tonight at the Serena hotel in a VIP show and will have a family show at Lugogo Cricket Oval on Saturday.