The Plex basketball courts took on a brand new purpose Saturday afternoon, as hundreds of chairs were lined up in anticipation of Boston College’s first large-scale gospel concert, featuring popular gospel music artist Mali Music. Sponsored by the Multicultural Christian Fellowship (MCF), the concert drew a large crowd and was the first of its kind at BC.
The gospel concert started as an idea at a meeting last October, according to Kadeem Massiah, MCF President and LSOE ’12. “Last year we had a gospel showcase and this year we wanted to take the showcase one step further,” Massiah said.
“BC hasn’t been exposed to gospel music at all, and we thought it would be a good thing for Mali to come to BC and give everyone here a taste of what gospel is,” said Kimberly Addison, head administrator for MCF and A&S ’12.
“This is a beautiful opportunity for Boston College,” said Karl Bell, assistant director of the Student Programs Office. “There hasn’t ever been a gospel concert like this at Boston College.”
Massiah also stated his hope that the concert would become an annual occurence, perhaps even in Conte Forum.
Mali’s act was preceded by two opening gospel music artists, David Metayer and Ashley Nicole.
Mali Music, also known as Jamaal Pollard, was born in 1988 in Phoenix, AZ. Growing up in Savannah, GA, he was exposed to music at an early age through his church.
“I played keyboard and sang at my church, Faith on the Move Ministries, when I was 11 years old, so my whole childhood I was serving musically in the church,” Mali said. “Since I was so young, my pastor gave me free rein and said, ‘As long as God is doing it, do it.’ It was always my style, it was always my interpretation, but it was always to get us to a deeper place in God and have our church services be a lot more impactful. I never really had to take a lot of time to find myself, because through worship and the freedom of being able to serve, I was able to find my identity at a very young age.”
Influenced by artists like Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding, Mali’s success in music grew as he got older. His success in gospel music has given Mali the opportunity to travel the globe to locations as varied as the United Kingdom, the Dominican Republic, Kuwait, Canada, and Alaska.
“I’m amazed at how relevant [my music] is to people who aren’t even from my space or my culture or even my country,” Mali said. “It’s really a blessing.”
Mali, a devout Christian, emphasized to a great extent the importance of both faith in music and music in faith.
“Music allows [one] to really feel God,” Mali said. “In a scary movie, you wouldn’t be paralyzed in anticipation if it wasn’t for the strings in the background. One thing the music does is it takes you there even if you don’t want to be there. Even the guys in the movie who are trying not to be scared are jumping out of their seat because they’re so sucked in by the music. That’s what I want to do and believe music does. When we can do that for God, when he steps in, no one can deny what happens. I want to be a soundtrack for the move that He wants to make.”
Mali also pointed out that many are turned off by the idea of gospel music and the faith of strong believers such as himself.
“A lot of people want to only use the gift aspect of it,” Mali said. “They say, ‘Well you can believe what you want, but can you keep it down? Because we love your sound, but this might drive people away.'”
Despite some criticism, Mali said that he will continue to use the gift that God has given him to make the gospel “more relatable.” His faith has been of crucial importance in his career.
“When you introduce your faith with your sound, it makes it difficult to separate it,” he said. “My faith has been really important because this allows people to be able to see a believer who’s singing inspirational music and gospel music in a different light. The faith has been big, and it’s been opening doors in the industry and changing stereotypes about us as believers and also allowing people to receive God in a different way.”
The concert at BC is not only Mali’s first trip to Boston, but also one of his first with a college audience.
“I could not wait to come here,” Mali said. “We were doing a lot of things in churches, but we are just transitioning into the college realm. There are so many souls and so many people in an environment like this, and all of us are kind of disconnected from our families and finding our way. So it’s a blessing to be able to make another suggestion towards Christ with the freedom that everybody has, that none of us are really used to yet.”
Mali also noted how scary some mainstream music is becoming, in his opinion.
“It’s scary the way that [mainstream artists] are numbing the culture now, with clear and evident demonic manifestations,” Mali said. “And every other week, there’s another exorcism movie coming out. So demons are trying to show themselves strong, and it’s their little time to do that. But they’re not recognizing that the only other things that can come are angels. The only other thing that can come is God.”
Speaking before the concert, Mali exuded excitement for the evening’s concert.
“This is awesome,” he said. “I’m so excited about tonight. I pray that everyone continues to pray for me. I’m definitely not in this for the same reason that many are—God has called me to be an artist, but I just was another guy wanting to sing my song, was writing music that I wanted to hear. A couple of people heard it, that turns into a hundred, that turns to a thousand, into millions. And now it has done so much for people’s lives that they come out to hear it. I’m so honored, and I’m going to keep singing for what it’s doing in the Kingdom.”
The concert had a large impact on students who attended.
“Our prayer is that the concert would leave a deposit of God’s spirit on this campus,” Massiah said.
Though gospel music has not made its way fully into the mainstream, Mali will always keep the faith. “Just give it a few years,” he said.