The American church’s quarantine anthem made its way to the States from Nigeria, where songwriter and Pentecostal worship leader Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu, known as Sinach, first popularized “Way Maker.”
Her hit has since topped the US charts for both Christian airplay and church worship during the first months of the pandemic. As churches joined protests in US cities in recent weeks, the song has also been sung by demonstrators marching for racial justice, calling out for God as a “way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness.”
“Way Maker” holds the top spot on the list of Top 100 songs ranked by Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI), based on use in churches. In April, the song also claimed two of the top 10 spots on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs when Michael W. Smith and the band Leeland both released popular renditions.
It was the first song in the chart’s history to hit the top 10 twice at the same time. Performances of “Way Maker” by Mandisa and Passion took spots 39 and 40 on the same chart.
Her original music video for “Way Maker,” released in 2015, has been viewed over 151 million times.
Les Moir, a manager and talent scout for Integrity Music in the UK, first heard Sinach’s music in 2014 when he received one of her albums during a trip to Nigeria. Integrity licensed Sinach’s “Way Maker” to appear on two British worship compilations in 2018 and 2019.
But “Way Maker” didn’t take off among American evangelicals until Christian music godfather Michael W. Smith released it as a single in February, featuring longtime backup singer Vanessa Campagna and worship leader Madelyn Berry.
Integrity Music formally partnered with Sinach in July 2019, said Mark Nicholas, the company’s vice president of song publishing. Her songs soon appeared on releases from Integrity artists like Leeland, whose Better Word album highlighted songs from other nations.
“Way Maker” has been sung by Christians protesting in the wake of George Floyd’s death, including in Milwaukee; Fredericksburg, Virginia; and Indianapolis, where they sang it during a prayer vigil interrupted by police tear gas.
The song has been translated into 50 languages, and Sinach wrote that “Way Maker” has become “a theme song sung in many languages [to] bring hope and faith to many in distress during the Covid pandemic.”
In March, Smith released an Italian version—“Aprirai Una Via”—again featuring Campagna, who is Italian and has family in Italy, which was one of the earliest hot spots for the coronavirus outside of Asia.
Though some Sinach fans bemoan that Smith recorded her song, fearing he will steal her credit, Sinach is not concerned. In an interview with CNN Africa, Sinach said she is thrilled when artists can introduce her work to their audiences.
“The joy of a writer is that when you write a song, the whole world will sing it, because the song is really not about you,” she said. “If the song goes ahead of you to announce you before you even show up, that means the song is successful.”