Christian Music

Christian Music

John Hebenton and Mary-Jane Konings

Mojo and Jethro chew over the hard questions. What is the Christian music scene really about? Is it a ghetto, a barrier from the real world? Is it a place of musicians of not enough talent to make a living? Is it a place for Christians to provide music for other Christians for their entertainment? Is it a place for Christians to challenge other Christians in what our faith is about? Is it about being prophetic in the 90′s, or is it about making a profit in the 90′s?

Jethro
I seem to have been bombarded lately with stuff about Christian music. There’s Life FMParachute Festival, and the odd tour. Half the bands and stuff I’ve never heard of before. What with DC TalkAudio Adrenalineand Rebecca St. James, not to mention Krusty. I thought Krusty was a clown off the Simpsons.It all seems a bit like a Christian ghetto music scene.

What is it all about anyway? Who is it for?

Mojo
Like, get with the nineties. Music for and about God has been the mainstream of Western culture for centuries. Identifying artists or music styles, as “Christian” is a new thing.
I suspect the advent of niche marketing has been responsible for splitting music into “Christian” and “secular” brands. I mean, no one totally listens to only Christian music – unless they are die-hard Radio Rhemasupporters. You realise some of those hymns you like so much were originally drinking songs!
Jethro
Yeah yeah. What is the definition of a hymn? An old Gaelic beer-drinking melody with religious lyrics, all written before the end of the last century. Even so, given I thought Christianity is about being counter culture! How come we seem to be buying into this “Niche-marketing” making a buck thing with Christian music?
Mojo
Ask Derek Lind or Luke Pilkinton about trying to live off their music! Plenty of people are happy to rip off muso’s by copying tapes or CD’s! There’s a tension between people wanting to share their talent and message and the practical reality of paying rent and buying McD’s. Music may be the food of love but it doesn’t fill pockets or bellies.
Jethro
And once you have a system that generates money, you’ll have people wanting to jump on the gravy train at all stations.So what’s all this “Christian music” for?
Mojo
There are as many agendas as there are artists. Like, you got your biting social satire, your poverty and third world consciousness, weirdly evangelistic humour a la Krusty, and of course the spotlight on human relationships powered byThe Lads. And your favourites would be?
Jethro
Larry Norman, an oldie but a goodie! And some of the more counter cultural stuff, like Derek Lind. I like the rocky feel, and the message is strong and needed. He is a musical prophet calling us Christians to live God’s counter culture way. Same with Luke Pilkinton. I can see the point to this music.
Mojo
Those guys all have two things in common. Long hair and a guitar. So you do like some Christian music. If you’re into this then why the cynicism about Christian music?
Jethro
My questions about what this is for comes from the vast amount of “Christian music” which would seem to be evangelistic, like Krusty, but because it is released as part of the Christian music scene, is only ever heard by Christians, more or less.At my most cynical, it feels like lots of Christian musicians think, “Hey, I can make a living out of this gospel music stuff! ” So they buy into all the commercialism, with the glossy image and label clothes and try to sell lots of records. And it all gets a little tedious. We need the prophetic stuff. And the evangelistic stuff too. But hey, why aren’t we getting into the secular music scene and getting the Christian message out there. Having said that, I did hear Jars of Clay in theWhakapapa ski hire
Krusty
Light hearted alternative rock.
Recordings: Sticky the Cat, Cake (sample CD)Performances: World Tour 1996 including Greenbelt Music Festival in UK and YWAM Olympic outreach, Parachute Festival Extreme, Operation Jerusalem 94/95, Summer Harvest 94/95/ 96.
Aims: Krusty’s’ aim is to assist the universal church in Youth Outreach and to provide modern Christian music.
Where they play? Youth Group Events, Youth Rallies, Anywhere they can help.
4 Members in group and have a demo available if needed.
Contact – Matthew Stott
91 Udys Road
Pakuranga
Phone: Hm (09) 576-9308
Mojo
Is ski-ing mentioned in the Bible?
Jethro 
Is the “Contemporary Christian Music Market?” mentioned in the Bible?
Mojo
OK, ski bunny, the secular scene, from all accounts is hard yakka! It takes guts, commitment, money and time to break in (notice I deliberately left out anything about talent. Just look at the Spice Girls. All you need is good trainers and not quite enough material for clothes).
Jethro
Leave the cynicism to me.
Mojo 
Well, if you do make the big cross over thing happen, your supporters accuse you of selling out. Look what happened to Amy Grant! I wonder if being a Christian immunizes you against being the kind of person that could make it big in the secular music scene. Then again, what about Cliff Richard?
Jethro
Or is it that Christian artists don’t have the talent to make it in the secular scene, so they have set up this Christian one instead? I don’t believe that really. During the 80′s, one of the biggest bands in the secular scene were U2, three of whom were self confessed “Christian artists”, writing and selling songs with very strong Christian themes. Even when they didn’t mention God or Jesus (which they did in for example, Pride and Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For) they had a positive message for young people to counter much of the more negative crap that is about.
Mojo 
Yeah, although the drugs compromised their message. And I’ve got to wonder how evangelistic music can be when you can’t hear the words.
Jethro
Perhaps you should take your earplugs out. Anyway, at least they were out there with their message. And despite their sins, the message is still out their being played. What good is it to sing about Jesus in the safe little Christian arena? They were (are?) Christian artists, but not in the sense that people involved in the Christian music scene would understand. Why aren’t there more people like U2 on the regular charts?
Mojo
‘Cause they are in the Gospel music scene?
Jethro 
Let’s face it, the gospel music scene in the States, where heaps of our Christian music comes from is big business and big money. That’s why people like Amy Grant are branded a sell out when they do break into the secular scene.It raises the question again, what is this Christian music really about? Is it a ghetto, a barrier from the real world? Is it a place of musicians of not enough talent to make a living? Is it a place for Christians to provide music for other Christians for their entertainment? Is it a place for Christians to challenge other Christians in what our faith is about? Is it about being prophetic in the 90′s, or is it about making a profit in the 90′s?
Mojo
All of it. While some of these reasons aren’t that great, mostly it is a good thing we have it. There would be no Derek Linds or Luke Pilkintons without it. We need a place where Christian artists can find their feet, learn their art, and offer God’s gift back to the world. Rock on!
This conversation was transcribed by John Hebenton and Mary-Jane Konings at the 1999Parachute Extreme Music Festival.