Continuing our survey of the international impact of Christian music, Jan Willem Vink goes to Belgium.


Belgium is a divided country. For the last couple of years there has been a strong process of federalisation. With a little reservation you can say that Flanders (Dutch speaking) and Wallonia (French) are entities in themselves and Belgium is an artificial solution. Of course, the capital, Brussels, has a status apart being bilingual and housing the European Committee of the EC.

It is for this reason this article will focus primarily on Flanders. Sadly, the division between Wallonia and Flanders is also true for the Church, meaning there is little interaction. This division is probably a practical one as well. Insiders say that besides some festivals little or nothing of any significance is happening in Wallonia.

Studies report that in Flanders there are 9,000 evangelical Christians, which isn't a lot. Of course that also means there are very few people active in contemporary Christan music, often times below standard or simply bad results. Recently a festival in Antwerp featuring artists Rodney Cordner, Sal Solo, Garth Hewitt and others, drew a crowd of about 20 people. 'Spring', the main youth day in Flanders, attracted a record attendance of 1,000 people last year.

Through the years a number of unsuccessful attempts have been made to set up proper Belgian distribution of contemporary Christian music albums. Currently the Dutch record company GMI Music Partners is responsible for distribution in Belgium and serves the few Christian bookstores and other outlets that sell contemporary Christian music.

For this article I spoke with Eddy Haesaerts (director) and Angie C (artist) of the Flemish foundation Sound Ministry, artist/missionary Adri van den Berk and drummer Arjan van den Bijgaert of rock band Solid.

"You can't speak of a Belgian gospel scene", agree both Eddy Haesaerts and Adri van den Berk. Eddy is leader of Sound Ministry, in Flanders better known as GTS (Gospel Top Selection).

In 1985 Eddy got involved in Gospeltime, a syndicated radio programme of the Assemblies Of God. He had lost his job in marketing, working for Japanese multinational Komatsu. "I had to choose whether I opted for making more money or serving the Kingdom of God", said Eddy. "I became youth leader in my church. When Gospeltime was formed I became the representative for our church." Within no time Eddy became co-host and Chairman of the board. But some internal differences led Eddy to form Sound Ministry.

Under the wings of Continental Bible College near Brussels, which housed a radio studio, Eddy and a team of young enthusiasts started producing a radio programme. Currently GTS produces two programmes that are running on almost 30 local stations in Flanders.

"Our vision was to reach people with anything that has to do with music," commented Eddy. "We had radio, that was extended. On 27th March I989 we started distributing contemporary Christian music through stands, some bookshops and a (mail order) music-club. "Through these activities we came in contact with musical talent Angie C. So now we distribute music, do radio, have our own artist and have started writing about music. We want to serve the Belgian churches in promotion and education," continued Eddy. Current plans include an attempt to begin a contemporary Christian music programme on national radio and the further push of Angie C and Frank Valentino. Both Angie and Frank have been quite active and respected in the secular music scene in Belgium. It is the objective of GTS to push these artists into the charts with Christian material.

Angie C comes from the beautiful city of Brugge and is most known for her performance of Maria in the musical 'West Side Story'. She played Maria for six months in the Netherlands and Belgium.

"I have been studying at a conservatory from seven years old," explained Angie. Later I have been studying at the Royal Conservatory in Gent and Brussels. From 18 years old I have been working with various bands. For instance, I have been involved with a band called Cly-Anne. We recorded a single and have been on television. We were at the point of signing a major contract with EMI Belgium."

Through a stand at an evangelical meeting Anne Clicteur (which is her real name) came in contact with GTS. Anne became interested because she was doing a programme at the time on a local radio station in Brugge. "Because I am a Christian I got interested. Eddy told me about GTS and then we talked about the fact that I am a singer. So Eddy suggested I could do Christian music." So far Angie C has recorded a successful single, "Hallelujah", and recorded an album ('Angel') with a Belgian band named Stop The Press. Currently Angie has got interest from major secular producers, Peter Bouwens en Philip Wilde, who are also responsible for the success of a group like 2 Unlimited. But negotiations are still going on. We'll keep you informed.

Rock band Solid, who originated in 1988, were the first Belgian band to record an album, named 'This Isn't Fiction'. Originally, Solid consisted of four members and a drum computer. Now Arjan van den Bijgaert, former drummer of Dutch symphonic rock band Target, has joined Solid and the band has moved on to a more straightforward rock sound and is playing little from their debut album.

Said Arjan, "Solid has become a unity, both spiritually and musically. You can describe us as a band that makes powerful pop and rock, without pretence. We sing our songs in English, they are always simple and talk about the general things of life in the light of the gospel."