(Written on 26 Jan 2004)
It is now almost 3 years since I established my website www.tabernaclemusic.net and shared my vision publicly about developing the Malaysian Gospel Music Industry where Christian song writers, musicians and music producers can make a living with their music. In fact, this has been one of my dreams for nearly 22 years. I have often shared that I was disappointed for most of these years because there was no platform to take local Gospel music further. The quality of Malaysian songs and album production lacked so far behind those from the United States and other western countries. In fact, some Malaysians actually relocate to the United States to fullfill their musical dreams.
Here are some hard facts to consider. In the United States alone, the Gospel Music Industry is as large as USD 3 billion per year. This amount of sales allow song writers and musicians to turn professional and make a living with their music. They can tour, produce albums, sell them and survive financially. They do not need to have a secondary job to make a living . In Malaysia, there are no statistics on Gospel Music Sales, probably because so little albums are produced, it was not even worth considering having statistics. 5 years ago, I estimate that local Gospel Music Sales to be less that USD 50,000 per year. I found less than 5 local CDs in the shops 5 years ago.
But here are some good news. Things have changed over the last 3 years. The industry is slowly forming. Artistes are now investing funds to produce better quality albums. Some artistes are also net working and getting invitations to sing in different churches. In fact, a group of artistes gathered together and even talked about having an award of some kind for various gospel music produced. I have also discovered many others who share the same vision and are doing something to develop the industry. Here are the latest developments.
Christian Recording Label - Oops Asia
Several months ago, this recording label surfaced in the market. It was brought to my attention as they wanted to me to feature their albums in my website. Besides, I know the founders personally. In a short span , Oops Asia have released 2 very good quality albums called For Your Love by Patrick Leong and Exalt by Altered Frequency. As far as I know, this is the first Christian Recording Label in Malaysia. They are now actively touring Malaysia promoting their albums and recording label. With a Christian Recording Label, Artistes will have a chance to record their albums without worrying about where to find the finances. The recording label will also manage the artiste, promotions and programs. This is indeed a major breakthrough for the local industry.
Surfacing of good Christian Music Producers
Malaysia is not short of very good Christian Producers. Unfortunately because there is no industry to support their work, many of them are producing secular albums , just to name a few like Aubrey Suwito, Jose Thomas, David Gomez etc. They have been in the secular market for years. Aubery Suwito is regarded as one of the best producers around. He is in high demand even by international secular artistes and his name surfaces almost everywhere in the secular industry. Recently, I have seen Aubrey produce some Gospel songs in the albums For Your Love and A Gift of Love. Jose Thomas also produced a Christmas album called King of Kings. It is heart warming to see these gifted producers lend a hand to the Gospel Music Industry.
Interestingly, a very good music producer, Nick Lee returned to Malaysia from the United States just about a year ago. When I caught up with him, I was amazed that we shared a similar vision. Nick Lee has set up a state of the art recording studio and has already produced 2 albums entitles Power for SIB KL and Exalt by Altered Frequency. These are pretty good albums.
Other independent producers have also been active. Timothy Lee from GSUS produced several albums, Every Time I Pray and Shining Stars for Wah Lok, Together for Praise City Church and Favored Chick for Barbara Tipper etc. James Yee of Chenaniah Studio produced several Mandarin albums and COOL for Lim Chee Peng. Beatrice Teh produced the album For Your Love for Patrick Leong. Jordan Rivers also produced his album Hallowed be Thy Name.
Indeed with good Christian Producers rising, we can expect the quality of albums to improve. Hopefully, this will transform to increasing sales which will allow Christian musicians to turn professional and further improve their quality of music.
Emerging Artistes and Bands
Several artiste and bands have emerged with a storm in the last 2 years. Here are some of them.
Altered Frequency, a band based in Kuala Lumpur recently released an album entitled Exalt produced by Nick Lee. This is a very good youth album. Altered Frequency have been touring and singing at many youth rallies and gaining popularity quickly.
Patrick Leong released his album For Your Love. Patrick used to sing back up vocals for Siti Nurhaliza and Sheila Majid. He has an amazing voice and is also a gifted song writer.
SAND released by Lucy Loo is a group of youth from Penang gathered from several churches. Lucy writes all the songs and produces the album. Her music is indeed exciting to listen to. She is currently working on her second SAND album.
Michelle Tan released her exciting album Better Days. This album was produced in the United States by Rick Balentine.
Lim Chee Ping release his album COOL together with Clarine Chun for the FUNGATES
Wah Lok released 2 albums Every Time I Pray and Shining Stars. His website www.tabernaclemusic.net has also become the focal point and resource center for Malaysian Gospel Music.
KB Chan, who has no kidneys and need frequent dialysis released his latest album A Song in the night.
HT Long, the Malaysian Elvis released Songs of love faith and inspiration.
Geoffrey Woo released his compilation album Reprise.
Diana Wee, a young songwriter from Kuala Lumpur release Your Love Remains.
Danny Tan and friends who are all handicapped released a Mandarin album Let love shine.
Mayya from the Tabernacle of David released Golden Rain.
Zoe form the Tabernacle of David released For such a time as this.
Prody G from Tabernacle of David released Lamb of God.
Snah and Suze Uknong release Fragrance.
Isaac Chang released his album Living Life to the Max.
All 4 Him, an SIB band released their self titled album.
Grace Lee released a Mandarin album Light Up Malaysia.
Impressions released Legacy.
Jordan Rivers released Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Vincent Ramesh released He's the One.
Danny Cheh released Love Letters.
Minni Ang released her album I'll never say goodbye.
Juliana Nicholas released The Lord is my Light.
Church based and compilation albums
It is also interesting to see that several churches have released their own albums. Here are some of them
SIB KL released their album POWER produced by Nick Lee.
FGA Youth released their album Heartbeat.
Praise City Church released their album Together produced by Timothy Lee.
ACTS church released their album Totally You.
Vineyard Church in Johor Bahru released their album We Reverence You.
Maranatha Church from Sabah released a Malay album entitled Pujian Memosik 2.
An independent group released a compilation of Christmas songs entitled Christmas Gift.
Christian Life Center released their album Passion Cry.
Renewal Lutheran Church released King of Kings.
New Life Restoration Centre released their album Stretched by Your Glory.
My list is not exhaustive. There are other albums not featured in my website.
Indeed the developments over the last 3 years have been encouraging. But the road ahead is still tough. The artistes and recording labels have invested a lot of finances into the music industry. The question will be whether the sales of the albums can sustain the production costs. If the sales can support the cost of production and generate some profits, then the industry will slowly gather pace. The artistes will emerge to release a second and third album. That is how I expect the industry to grow.
Christian Radio Station
In the United States, there is almost a Christian radio station in every major town. A Christian Radio station is necessary for an industry to grow. Even though so many albums were released in Malaysia over the last 2 years, most people will never hear the songs because they will not buy a CD until they have heard the songs on a radio or in a church. In Malaysia, there are no Christian Radio Stations to play Gospel songs. Christians should pray for one. This will indeed cause the music industry to grow rapidly.
Use of the Mass Media
We see Siti Nurhaliza and many secular artiste on the Newspapers or in advertisements along the highways almost every day. Secular artistes are featured on the Newspapers, TVs and advertisements all the time. But where are the Christian artistes in the mass media ? Christians must begin to use the mass media to promote their albums and generate interest.
Recently we have seen some Gospel albums and artistes featured in papers like SAND, Every Time I Pray, Shining Stars, Better Days, The Lord is my Light, Glen Pakiam, Michelle Tan, Jordan Rivers, KB Chan, Wah Lok etc. This is a beginning of a new trend.
I am excited about the developments of Malaysian Gospel Music over the last 3 years. If things continue at this pace , we could see the industry grow rapidly and hopefully a breakthrough into the international music scene soon. For me personally, it has been a joy to develop my website www.tabernaclemusic.net and network with all the local artistes and promote their albums. In a way, I am just happy to see my 22 year vision I have kept in my heart finally becoming a reality. Visit my website to see all the local albums I have collected and featured.
"The journey of a thousand miles begin with a first step"
About the author Ng Wah Lok
Wah Lok is trained as an engineer and holds a Masters Degree in Engineering. He worked as a Senior General Manager in the Soon Seng Group of Companies for many years. In 1999, he left his job to serve God in a full time capacity. He serves as a worship leader in Full Gospel Tabernacle for the last 23 years and has written over 100 songs. He has released 2 albums Every Time I Pray and Shining Stars. His signature song Every Time I Pray is widely used in worship in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia. Wah Lok is a Bible Teacher and teaches extensively across Malaysia on areas of music and worship and is the founder of the website Tabernacle Music. www.tabernaclemusic.net. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org