There’s no way to sugar coat this.
Over the years the UK Gospel scene has sadly lost a huge amount of incredibly talented people to the blight of an unwritten rule:
‘Christian artists should only write about explicitly Christian experiences’.
(And of course you can replace ‘write’ with practically any creative endeavour whatsoever and get the same result. It’s a deeply-held, strongly felt conviction in many quarters).
That’s all well and good, but the fact of the matter is that the totality of our human experience is, by its very definition, our Christian experience.
When faced with the choice between either producing exclusively ‘Christian’ content (and being continually embraced by the church at large) or having a much broader creative palette that may not be as explicit on faith issues, many of our artists have had to make the hard (and often very sad) choice of opting for the latter.
I don’t know why it’s that way. It just is. Sad but true.
Fuel to the Fire
But rather than add fuel to this eons-old fire and end up with yet another (unnecessary and unending) argument, I’m going to be part of the solution with this series.
I’ll point you in the direction of some really good music that’s worthy of your time, created by people who may or may not still be ‘in church’.
Not Prescriptive or Evangelical
These are songs that often aren’t necessarily prescriptive or even evangelical, but nevertheless have their world view informed by Christian tenets.
You’ll probably never hear ‘repent and be saved’ in these songs but the principle of ‘help your fellow man regardless of his social or ethnic background’ (for example) is pretty much straight out of the Luke 10:25 play book (that’s the story of the Good Samaritan, by the way).
Give Me Your Suggestions!
While this is a blog series based on my suggestions please send me any songs you think qualify and I’ll see if I can include them in later posts.
A Friendly Word of Warning
Now that you know where I’m coming from let’s get this show on the road.
However, a friendly a word of caution: I’m not suggesting one style of music or creative writing is more relevant, superior or meaningful than another.
In fact, from where I’m standing we need music that covers the entire spectrum of life and living.
I welcome all comments, but let’s keep it civil and open. Ultimately there’s always the option for us to agree to disagree.
Got that? Thanks.
5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out
1. Artist: Monique
Find at: Facebook.com/MoniqueMusicUK
I’ve been a huge fan of Birmingham-based Monique’s writing for years (I strongly recommend you check her entire body of work).
In this song several things come together: beautifully written words (perfectly complimented by Tony Bean’s brilliant, sun-filled production) and the classic story of Christian conversion told in the most picturesque of ways.
If you don’t know this one already, you’re about to enjoy a really good song…
‘You’ve altered the colours of my mind/To a new dimension of time/It’s eternal beyond the sky/There is more than meets the eye/Who could ask for any more? Supernatural love’.
2. Artist: Caleb
Track: Free Someday
Find at: Facebook.com/caleb.ajitena
This is one of those lyrically ambitious endeavours that tries to distil (and resolve) all the world’s problems in a 4 minute+ song, and it largely succeeds. Free Someday’s optimistic, aspirational Gospel root is pretty much undeniable.
I like that Caleb has attempted to write a timeless classic in the vein of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ (and before you crucify me for these ambitious comparisons, have a listen yourself).
‘See our brothers and sisters/Going off to war/Not knowing what they’re fighting for/Listen, if you see the things I see/Then you’ll feel the same as me/Cause things have got to get better’
3. Artist: Victizzle
Track: I Dey Fine
Find at: @VictizzleMusic
I don’t know why one of our most talented producers isn’t as visible on the Gospel scene as he once was (I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of a back story here), but one of Victizzle’s most recent releases references hard work and determination to better one’s individual circumstance.
It’s the latest in a long line of productions gaining traction under his new production collective, ‘London Boyz‘ (Remedee, Big J, Captain and Victizzle himself).
It’s a real shame Victizzle’s isn’t as active as before (if you’re reading this there’s a very high probability you know at least 2-3 really big Victizzle tunes). I’d argue our scene is poorer for it.
Like I said: I’m sure there’s history here (I could probably find out if I really wanted but to be honest I don’t really need to).
However this what this series is about: asking uncomfortable questions to which I may not necessarily have any answers.
‘Think you know/But you don’t know/I’m telling you that/I’m gonna blow/And if you don’t believe me/I’m gonna show/My mama never raised no fool’.
4. Artist: Rio Young
Track: Music ft Da Fellowship
Find at: Facebook.com/RioYoungOfficial
This is one of my all time favourite songs to come out of the UK, full stop.
Ironically I came across this via Da Fellowship’s EP (I think they only ever did this one) but in the intervening years Rio went on to put out a massive body of work.
The near-perfect groove on this hugely under-appreciated classic is from production duo Wez Er Nate (Wesley Muoria and Nathan Ledwidge at the height of their considerable production powers). I still play this on a pretty regular basis.
The song argues for music as a neutral entity, ostensibly abused by its end-user’s intention. Along the way, Rio references his mixed race background, racial tension, domestic violence, mental health and more. Totally inspirational tune.
‘Music is life/But how’s it used/I mourn for you, music/Cause you’re abused/They spit at you/Rap dirty bars over your tunes/Cause of the street life/Music you’re accused’
5. Artist: Icie
Track: Whips and Chains
Find at: Facebook.com/iciemusicofficial
Icie is one of UK Gospel’s modern-day troubadours. His narrative requires you invest time to enter his world (which I suspect limits him having a truly deserved wider audience), but what a world it is: honest, meticulous, well-observed, challenging and refreshingly cliche-free.
Whips and Chains is an ode to post-Windrush achievement, also celebrating African and Black British enterprise in a 2000s UK environment where – for whatever reason – we seem more obsessed with pointing out all that’s wrong with the Black British experience, regardless of the stellar achievements of so many young people.
Case in point: most of the people name checked (and there are quite a few) are in their 20s and 30s, from Rachel Kerr to Reggie Yates to Craig David to Jordan Dunn and many, many more.
Sure, you can argue for socio-political parity in wider society, but – as Icie points out – young Black Britain is actually pretty phenomenal right here, right now too…
Local MCs turn to global icons/Front cover kids from the same place that I’m from
So there you have it: series part 1. Let me know your thoughts (and more importantly your suggestions) for Part 2 in the comments
I’ll try and include some of them in the next instalment.
LIKE THIS? EXPLORE MORE
- 5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out (Part 2)
- UK Gospel: Exciting Trends for 2016
- MOBO Gospel: Time To Move On?
- The Essential UK Gospel Tracklist