BET took the search for Sunday Best to Africa for its Easter Sunday premiere. After watching the Nigerian auditions, while I appreciate seeing the global influence of gospel music, I seriously doubt the winner will come from the Motherland.
Droves of singing hopefuls displayed lots of spirit, but gospel talent was scarce. Many of the voices were suitable for corporate worship rather than potential professional gospel acts.
After a long day of grueling deliberation, hard-to-impress judges Donnie McClurkin, Kim Burrell and UK-based Christian artist Muyiwa Olarewaju only selected 7 singers. (Just one of them will be chosen to compete in the U.S. Tune in to Sunday best airing on Bet on Sundays at 8 pm to see who it’ll be!)
The sole judge on the panel from Nigeria, Olarewaju was the most rigid of the 3 and clearly was looking for someone to make his country proud. Nearly every person to try-out was not good enough to represent Nigeria on a world stage in his doubtful opinion. However, one vocalist, the very last singer of the day, contestant # 0087 sang "The Lord's Prayer" was an answer to his.
"Just hearing you is like water to my soul!," exclaimed Olarewaju, who performed on Celebration of Gospel with his group, Riversongz two years ago.
One of the highlights of the show was when Burrell attempted to make Olarewaju's point to female singer with an average voice. Burrell came from behind the judges’ desk and faced off with the singer to demonstrate she was out of her league. Instead of being intimidated, all of a sudden the contestant became emboldened and confidently held her own. Very few people in the world would have had the nerve to go to-to-toe with Burrell so I commend her for that. She made it through.
Overall, the premiere was eventful and entertaining, but in an American Idol sort of way. There were a few comedians in the bunch including a Kirk Franklin impersonator. The joyous drumming and dancing made me wish I was there. It was cool watching Kirk interact with the locals. Yet, I’m looking forward to seeing the fierce competition I’ve grown accustomed to at the stateside auditions.
As much as there is an undeniable kinship between African Americans and West Africans, Gospel Music is an African American invention and we own it. Don’t get me wrong. There is gospel talent in and from The Continent (i.e., international Jazz/Gospel recording artist Jonathan Butler). Nigerian-born inspirational/gospel artist TolumiDe is a good example. My exclusive interview with TolumiDe will correspond with the May release of her album.
Check out TolumiDe to get a taste of another quality African vocalist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZc5pKKToLE&feature=related
Also to see the contrast in talent, watch the video report for an introduction to New Orleans auditioner, Krishira Perrier.