Breaking Down the "Messages" of the Christian Music Industry. Xavier Naidoo and His Album "Telegramm für X"


Essay, 2009

9 Pages


Excerpt

Contents

Introduction

Biography

Telegramm für X – The Religious, Social, and Political “Messages” of Xavier Naidoo's Songs

Contemporary Christian Music and the Christian Music Industry

Arguments and Criticisms of the Industry

Conclusion

Reference List

Introduction

The above quotation is quoted in Billboard by Billy Ray Hearn, now former president of Christian record label Sparrow Records. He explains how the Christian world has “attempted to co-exist within the record industry”, and briefly outlines the issues surrounding the Christian music industry and its growth (Hearn, 9). Arguably, the quote describes the various “messages” that can be interpreted by critics and consumers of contemporary Christian music. What are the motivations of Christian musicians within the industry? Are they creating music for the purpose of “saving souls”, or are they more interested in making profit (Hearn, 9? Should their sole ambition be to spread the word of God, or should they have the right to sing about secular issues and still wear the “Christian” label (Hendershot, 63)? While this essay will not attempt to draw any conclusions about the “true” motivations of the Christian music industry (such an attempt is impossible to achieve), it will however explore how the Christian music industry has allied itself with the secular music industry to promote their “message” to the general public. In turn, consumers of contemporary Christian music derive their own interpretations of the “message” Christian artists send about themselves and their professed faith through this alliance.

My argument will be supported by using German rap/hip-hop/R&B artist XavierNaidoo as an example of this process in action. I will use his 2005 album, Telegramm für X (Telegram for “X”) to demonstrate how Naidoo combines secular music styles with biblical text, in order to promote Christian values. The commentaries concerning his life and works demonstrate the various “messages” critics have drawn from the image he presents, and will be used as evidence of how impossible it is to pinpoint the “true” motivations of a Christian artist. All of this will be discussed within the contexts of industry, genre, and society and politics.

Biography

Xavier Naidoo was born on 2 October 1971 in Mannheim to an African mother and ahalf-German, half-Indian father (Flink, 64 and Slezak, 71 - 72). As a “coloured” person growing up in Mannheim, Naidoo struggled against prejudice and racism growing up(Slezak, 72) At 18, he became an active participant in the Gospel choir his mother had established, where he discovered his talent (Slezak, 71). It wasn't until he was performing his community service (the alternative to the obligatory military training men in Germany must undertake) that he decided to pursue a musical career (Slezak,71). This took off when he became the background singer for the Rödelheim Hartheim Projekt (Flink, 64). In 1994, he became a solo artist and in 1998 released his debut album, Nicht von dieser Welt (Not of this World) under the independent German record label 3P (Flink, 64 and Slezak, 71). The album was quite successful, selling over 10 million copies and winning two prestigious awards (Flink, 64). Today, it “remains one of the all-time, best-selling German albums” (Hine, 168). Later successful album releases include Seeing is Believing (2003), Alles für den Herrn (Everything for the Lord) (2003), Telegramm für X (2005) and Alles kann besser werden (Everything can be Made Better) (2009) (Discogs website, 2009). The last three mentioned albums are produced under his own label, Naidoo Records. Although he was raised as Catholic, Xavier Naidoo professes not to belong to any religious denomination, and rejects all “organized” religions (Hine, 168 and Slezak, 73 – 74). His “conversion” experience in 1992, where he was touched by a scripture he read from the Bible, motivated him to promote the existence of God through his music (Flink, 64 – 65, 70 and Slezak, 73 – 74). Many of his songs deal primarily with preparing for the Second Coming (Flink, 66 – 71), while others deal with love, tolerance and respect, often combining the religious aspect of his lyrics with his own social and political commentaries (Hine, 168 and Slezak, 76). His use of soul, hip-hop and rap music styles makes his music more “accessible” to secular consumers, making his “mission” of preaching the Gospel to the “unbelievers” possible (Flink, 70). We will look at specific examples out of Telegram für X which demonstrate how Naidoo shares his “message” to the world by combining secular and religious elements in his music.

Telegramm für X – The Religious, Social, and Political “Messages” of Xavier Naidoo's Songs

Telegramm für X (2005) demonstrates how Naidoo combines religious text with secular music styles to share his beliefs. For example, the songs "Dieser Weg" (This Way), "Seelenheil" (Salvation) and "Sie sind nicht dafür" (They're Not All For (The Truth)) allude to certain biblical passages in the lyrics. "Dieser Weg", with its catchy hip-hop back beat and soul-sounding melody, has allusions to Jesus' admonition to his disciples during his Sermon on the Mount: “Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life...” (Matthew 7:14). "Seelenheil" addresses the importance of preparing to meet God before one dies. The first verse speaks of “waking up” the child inside of us, and refers to Jesus' instruction to his disciples to “(become) as little children”, in order to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:1 – 4). In the second verse, he sings “Zieh' deine Rüstung an: Du weisst welch' ich meine ” (Put on your armour: You know which one I'm talking about), which is a direct reference to putting on the armour of God, as mentioned in Ephesians 6:11 – 18. The heavy synthesized bass riff that is repeated throughout the piece gives the song a “doomsday” feel, and accentuates the urgency of Naidoo's “message” to repent, before it is too late. And in "Sie sind nicht dafür", Naidoo warns his listeners against the dangers of listening to false teachings, referring to Jesus' warning against false prophets in Matthew 7:15 – 20. The simple, two-chord progression allows the listener to concentrate more on the “message” Naidoo wishes to share, and less on the back beat and melody. -ther songs from the album carry both religious and political statements. "Bist du am Leben interessiert?" (Are You Interested in Life?) discusses the “evils” of abortion and war, and emphasises the importance of preserving life. Naidoo backs up his argument by alluding to Genesis 1:28, where God instructs Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth”, and to Malachi's prophecy about the “heart(s) of the fathers(turning) to their children, and heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6) "Was wir alleine nicht schaffen" (What We Cannot Accomplish Alone), promotes respect for others and teamwork. The message of tolerance for others in the song has possible reference to the prejudice he faced growing up (Slezak, 72) and describes the “utopian” lifestyle that will prevail when Christ returns (Revelations 20:4). The light, “heavenly” synthesized sounds in "Bist du am Leben interessiert?" can be seen as reflecting Naidoo's lyrics about the sanctity of life. The sudden, fast rap section towards the end of "Was wir alleine nicht schaffen" captures the impending “doom” that will befall sinners who do not repent before Christ's return, and the excitement of the “faithful ones” who are eagerly awaiting his coming. All of these examples demonstrate the social and political “messages” Xavier Naidoo wishes to convey.

Contemporary Christian Music and the Christian Music Industry

Naidoo's amalgamation of religious text and secular music makes him one of the many contemporary Christian musicians who seek to engage with religious and non-religious audiences through the genre of “Christian music”. The exact origins of contemporary Christian music and the Christian music industry is difficult to pinpoint, as the time period of when the genre and the industry emerged varies from country to country. In England, for example, the birth of contemporary Christian Music apparently began in the 1950's, where The Twentieth Century Light Music Group (an organisation consisting of “priests, chaplains, musicians and schoolmasters”), proposed that: “... not only the great and lasting music of the past, but also the ordinary and transient music of today – which is the background to the lives of so many – has rightful place in our worship”.(Wilson-Dickson, 241) The “transient” music that the group referred to was the “waltzes, foxtrots and quicksteps” of the day, and attempts at writing Christian songs using these “transient” styles were being undertaken (Wilson-Dickson, 241). By the 1970s, the genre grew in popularity, as more contemporary Christian music books were being printed for the purpose of worshipping God through song (Wilson-Dickson, 242).

In the United States, it is debated that the roots of contemporary Christian music stem from the “Black Gospel” music of the 1920s (Wilson-Dickson, 201). Others argue that the genre began in the 1960s, at the time when the Christian music industry was beginning to develop (Hendershot, 52 – 53). Starting off as only a small genre in by the “Jesus Freaks” movement that began in California, its popularity quickly spread as more Christian musicians, radio stations and independent record labels began to emerge(Hendershot, 52 – 53, 55 – 57). By the early 1990s, major record labels such as EMI were buying into the independent Christian record labels (Hendershot, 56 and Price, “It's Not Just for Sundays Anymore”, 33). This “selling out” to the larger mainstream record companies resulted in more sales and increased appreciation of the genre (Hendershot, 56 – 57 and Price, “It's Not Just for Sundays Anymore” 33). The early developments of contemporary Christian Music in both countries were received with mixed opinion (with the divide between Christians standing either “for” or “against” the new genre) (Wilson-Dickson, 241 and Hendershot, 55). However, as it began to increase in popularity, and parents of Christian communities were seeking a more “wholesome” alternative to what the mainstream market was producing (Hendershot, 51), it became more accepted in the Christian world. Today, with the huge range of Christian music “styles”, one can walk into a large Christian book store and find albums by artists who sing “rock, hip-hop, reggae, ska, adult contemporary, alternative, and heavy metal” music (Hendershot, 53). Such has been the variety of music styles that the Christian music industry has adopted, in order to further spread their intended “message” to the world. Like his British and American contemporaries, Xavier Naidoo is part of a much larger system, which has been predicted will continue to grow in coming years (Price, “It's Not Just for Sundays Anymore”, 33).

[...]

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Details

Title
Breaking Down the "Messages" of the Christian Music Industry. Xavier Naidoo and His Album "Telegramm für X"
College
University of Queensland  (St. Lucia Campus)
Course
MUSC2700 - Music in the Digital Age
Author
Year
2009
Pages
9
Catalog Number
V966065
ISBN (eBook)
9783346316677
Language
English
Notes
This essay was awarded a HD (High Distinction).
Tags
Christian, Music, Xavier Naidoo, Contemporary, Music Industry, Genre, Society, Politics
Quote paper
Raymond Teodo (Author), 2009, Breaking Down the "Messages" of the Christian Music Industry. Xavier Naidoo and His Album "Telegramm für X", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/966065

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