Sierra Leonean Gospel Megastar Rebecca Touches Hearts and Souls in Virginia
By Jacob Sax Conteh, Cocorioko Editor-in-Chief
When Sierra Leoneans in the United States first came in contact with Rebecca Arthur, a gospel singer based in the UK in a wedding in Philadelphia, and later at the Sierra Leone Progressive Union fundraiser in Washington, DC, last year, they were thrilled. Equipped with an angelic voice that thrills the heart and rejuvenates the soul, Rebecca is one of those rare gospel singers who are able to penetrate the pericardium of doubt and touch bleeding hearts and troubled minds. That was what happened on Saturday, August 4 when she took the stage at the Restoration Fellowship Church meeting place at Glasgow Middle school, in Alexandria, Virginia.
David Vandy, host of African Rhythms at the Voice of America hosted the Saturday program which was sponsored by the Restoration Fellowship Church. Josephine Atanga and Giileh Kebbie Scholz, two of Africa’s most celebrated gospel singers in the US opened the show with spectacular performances. Backed by a trio step team adored in traditional African attires, Josephine, who is from Cameroun, opened the floor with a spirit-filled gospel song. Afterwards, Giileh took the stage and with her signature smile and penetrating voice, she brought down the house and left us in a standing ovation as her dedicated husband Solo caught the moment in his camera.
Dressed in a dazzling white flowing gown, dangling earrings, embedded in shoulder length hair, Rebecca walked to the stage in a meditative melody. After recounting her testimony, the singer captivated her audience with a stunning performance. Singing songs from her CD “I Believe,” the singer’s voice vibrated on the wall of Glasgow Middle School and sent an echo throughout the building. Soon, everyone was on their feet as the singer left the stage to sing and dance with the audience. While I remained calm as I took pictures with my iPod, when Rebecca sang my favorite song on her CD, “The Battle is over,” I sprang on my feet, ran to the stage and gave her a warm hug. Several people later joined her on the stage as she sang and prayed for the audience.
Perhaps the most captivating scene throughout the evening was to see Steady Bongo, an icon in Sierra Leonean secular music who is a Muslim, get on his feet and walk to Rebecca’s arms as she sang about the glory of God. For what seems like ages, the veteran musician stood still while Rebecca sang and later prayed for him. This is the power one gets when they allow the Holy Spirit to lead their ministry.
Apart from Steady Bongo, other celebrities that attended Saturday’s concert included popular Celebrity Health Talk host Fatmata Koroma and Hassan Iftoni of Sierra Leone Fun TV. Many Sierra Leonean and Ghanaian pastors from the Washington, DC metropolis also attended Saturday’s event. DJ Alimamy Conteh was the DJ for the occasion, but even he was so touched by Rebecca’s music that he often left his set and danced on the stage.
Apart from the three musicians who performed in a spectacular way and Pastor Kamara who opened his church to this event, credit for this event goes to David Vandy of the Voice of America. Unlike other celebrities who are so stuck with their profession that they forget about other people Vandy is a master promoter who goes out of his way to promote African talent. Each year he sponsors and hosts a show for African Christian musicians to showcase their talents. He has taken Rebecca under his wings and exposed her to American audiences where she is new. This is the mark of a great man; a man who is willing to sacrifice his time and talent to elevate others without attaching any strings.
As for Rebecca, it is crystal clear that her talent transcends nation, color or tribe. She has warmed audiences around the world, and has shared the same stage with some of gospel music global megastars like Kirk Franklin. For me, her appeal comes from singing from her heart and reaching out to touch aching souls. She touched my heart and calmed my soul during her Saturday performance. Visit her website, order her music, and find a balm for your soul.