Is Sinach’s Way Maker the Latest Victim of White Colonisation and Cultural Appropriation? I Think Not – An Opinion Piece by Rachel Onamusi
I recently read an article wherein the writer espoused the opinion that a White evangelical group’s deceptive YouTube titling of a song originally written and sung by a Black gospel artist was an appropriation and symptomatic of a lot of the struggles Black people are facing today in the fight for equality.
Anneli Loepp Thiessen, a researcher, classical musician, and music educator, believes that anyone watching the YouTube video uploaded by megachurch Passion for their rendition of Sinach’s popular song “Way Maker” would have been forgiven for believing that it was written by the leaders of Passion and Kristian Stanfill, Kari Jobe, and Cody Carnes.
Her outrage seemed to paint Sinach as some poor, Black woman, robbed of her song and the credit that comes with it by these colonising white men – the typical gender and colour for American evangelical church song domination.
The narrative then careened wildly and dangerously to colonialism, where White people have “have forced or cajoled the world into adopting their religion, infrastructure, cultural traditions, and practices”. It went on to mention George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The current state of the world has many Black people in righteous indignation. Any time we lose a brother, sister, mother or father to racism, it’s as though a gaping wound is gashed afresh as we mourn not just the newly deceased but centuries of brutality, oppression and death. So, yes, the slightest whiff of yet another injustice wilfully carried out against a Black person – even the most furtive – is bound to cause umbrage for readers such as myself.
But I couldn’t align with this narrative. It feels like reaching.
Sinach’s live video of the same song had 17, 405, 836 views, considerably more than Passion’s 3.7 million views. Interestingly enough, in the time it has taken me to write to this point, a refresh of the page showed 17,407,754 views – almost two thousand new views in half an hour.
By comparison, her official video of the song has over 152million views with an additional 3,230 views in the same refresh timeframe.
Even while being credited for reviving Michael W. Smith’s career (Wikipedia states that the song marked Smith’s first time in 16 years that he has reached a Billboard top 10 charts with a non-holiday single), his version of this impactful song has “only” enjoyed 21 million views since its release.
Sinach boasts of nearly 1.3million YouTube subscribers to Passion’s half a million and Smith’s 362,000. The Nigerian songbird with a gift for writing lyrics that cut through to the very core of worship commands substantial fees for appearance and her concerts her instantaneously sold out.
She has been nominated for and won many awards – not just for this song, but for many of her songwriting efforts.
Make no doubt about it; she owns this song, and the world knows it.
I’ll admit to not having taken the time to study the evangelical music charts, but I make bold to say anyone sleeping on the Black music and gospel scene has not carried out conclusive research.
We run dis.
From the Winans family to Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Tamela Mann, Shirley Caesar, Andrae Crouch, Tye Tribbett and so many more, Black people hold sway overpraise, over worship, over rap, and almost every other subsection of the gospel.
And is the titling for the passion’s version misleading or deceptive? No, I don’t think so. Whitney Houston sang and won many awards for her Bodyguard blockbuster “I Will Always Love You”. Her meteoric success with this song brought it back to the limelight for Dolly Parton, the original singer-songwriter, but Whitney didn’t have to fall over herself in her YouTube titling or introduce it every single time she sang the song as being by Dolly Parton. Royalty cheques took care of that.
And it’s taking care of it for Sinach too. She smiles to the bank every single time someone covers that song, regardless of whether their version is better, gets more play, or sells out more seats at concerts.
Incidentally, Dolly Parton’s version of the song sits pretty at 12.3 million views while Whitney is currently nudging at a billion views.
It is what it is.
As we fight for Black Lives to Matter, to have a seat at the table, and to be treated equally and fairly regardless of skin colour, we will need every ally. I sense strongly that Ms. Thiessen is an ally, and I welcome a sister with open arms. But this is not the fight.
Her words are passionate, and I can sense she bristled at the injustice being meted out to Sinach. But take it from a Nigerian sister: Sinach is doing well.
Give us your voice. Please do not retreat into the background over this article responding to yours. Tell those old, White men to give our children equal access to education. To let us buy houses in whatever communities we can afford. To make funding available with the same level of accessibility to Black startups as it is to White startups. To narrow the gap between Whites and Blacks as relates to offences and prison sentences. Tell them that our daughters should be free to rock their afros, and our men should not be criminalised and be allowed to be husbands and fathers.
Do not tell them about Way Maker. Tell them to get their knees off our necks.
If you be for us, we can’t be against you.
Lastly, stay up to date with all you need to know about African music at SOA,right here.
Rachel Onamusi is the founder of VN Sync, a full-service digital agency with expertise in all aspects of digital media, with special focus on strategy development, implementation and facilitation. Her projects have ranged from marketing consulting, market research, corporate & personal brand management, product & campaign launch, media & publicity strategy development and management, to technology training and certification platforms’ management. An accomplished digital media strategist and growth facilitator for major corporate global brands, Ms Onamusi’s extensive experience spans three continents and covers both the private and public sector.
Is Sinach’s Way Maker the Latest Victim of White Colonisation and Cultural Appropriation?