Category Archives: Special Features

Put your Black life in music – NOW.

Nobody liked *Colin.

What made things particularly ironic was he was such a nice guy.

Colin was sales manager in a company I worked for in the 90s, and back then (I don’t imagine it’s any different now) sales was hard.

Horrid

Put it this way: if sales were a girl she’d be the little one from the nursery rhyme: when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.

Which brings me to Black Lives in Music (and, yes, you’d be quite right to ask what any of this has to do with BLiM).

To answer that question, I need to give you a bit of background for context. Here’s a quote from their website’s ‘About’ section:

‘Talent is distributed evenly, opportunities are not!

Black Lives in Music addresses the current inequality of opportunity for black people aspiring to be artists or professionals in the Jazz and Classical music industry…

Representation matters, we need to take action together and create a level playing field for everyone to have an equal chance to succeed…’

While this extract flags people working in Jazz and Classical, make no mistake: this affects every Black person working in music in the UK.

UK Gospel: Sheltered

Where you pitch your tent on this will be directly influenced by your experience and relationships in the UK music space.

I think we’re relatively sheltered in the UK Gospel music scene – because we’ve had to bootstrap our way to any successes we’ve found over the years. (Caveat: I admit this is a broad generalisation and I’m sure it’ll be challenged by many).

As a result we have an hyper-insular and comparatively self-sustaining marketplace (such as it is).

Awkward

However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t uncomfortable, inconvenient, awkward, monolithic, elephant-in-the-room questions that need asking, like:

  • How come there aren’t any Black-owned major media organisations in the UK Gospel space?
  • Why aren’t our biggest radio and TV stations in Black hands..?

Like I said: awkward.

Racism

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting there’s anything untoward or underhand going on.

The underlying structural and socioeconomic issues that brought us here are complex, and the easy draw of the racism card is the least nuanced, least intelligent answer to the question.

What gets measured…

What it does do is bring us nicely back to Black Lives in Music. And funny enough: Colin.

One of the reasons people didn’t like him was because he had this saying: ‘what gets measured gets done’.

When mid-month numbers started showing our month-end sales target was fast becoming a myth, he began by asking what everyone’s current priorities were.

And that was uncomfortable.

Why?

Well, we were all bonafide experts in our relevant spheres and could fully justify whatever projects we were working on. And typically those justifications would be sound.

  • However, the fact still remained that we were adrift of our team target
  • And if we didn’t hit it, the company didn’t make money
  • And if the company didn’t make money, we didn’t get paid, talk less of earning any bonuses

So: nobody liked Colin‘s essentially neutral, spotlight questions:

  • What are you working on?
  • Does it directly help us hit our target this month?

They were annoying, self-evident truths that required we temporarily park whatever priorities negatively impacted the bottom line, no matter how much fun or interest we might have had in them.

Allegory and parable

Don’t read too much into this story: I’m not telling it as an allegory for Black music in the UK.

  • It’s not even a parable with hidden meanings to be deciphered by the favoured few
  • What I want you to take away is this: what gets measured gets done

You need to *do something*


And that’s what Black Lives in Music is trying to do: start with a qualitative and quantitative baseline – a measurable catalyst for proper and lasting change, if you will.

  • This is about your story: hard data that reflects the reality of our shared, lived experiences in Black music here in the UK
  • You can argue with anecdotes, but it’s virtually impossible to ignore evidence that data provides

‘You can argue with anecdotes, but it’s virtually impossible to ignore evidence that data provides..’

To quote Colin:

  • What gets measured gets done

So if any of this has inspired you in some way to be part of creating a compelling narrative that will genuinely and empirically shape the future of the lived professional music experience in the UK, you need to *do something*.

  • Tell your story by taking the Black Lives in Music survey (link below)
  • Do it now
  • Get your Black life in Music
  • I’ve done it, and it doesn’t take that long to complete at all

There are only 4 days left (I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks)

*Colin is his real name 🙂

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Black Lives in Music

More from Yinka’s Head

World Exclusive!!! V9 Collective is back!

Gospel RnB/Soul fans – assemble!

A decade after one of my FAVOURITE family group put out their brilliant and fantastically well-received debut album, ‘World To Me‘, family group V9 Collective is back, folks!!!

After time away from public appearances, Sam, Vernetta, Tula, Ruth and Semele return with a brand new album, ‘Message in the Music’, out 31st May 2021.

V9 Collective, 2010 – I wonder what their new look will be like..?

Sam says: ‘After a few years in the making, this musical offering is a collection of heartfelt songs about life and faith, with the same V9 Collective soul and flair’.

  • In other words: if (like me and many others) you’re in the market for brilliant organic Soul, real instruments, vocal harmonies and musical relationships like only families can do, all wrapped up in a completely unashamed Gospel message, then you need to pre-order your copy already
  • Pre-orders kick off May 11th 2021. Join their mailing list at V9Collective.co.uk for album release updates.

And in case you’re wondering – yes, you can just scan that QR code to go straight to their site

If you can’t wait, check out ‘World To Me‘ below to get a feel for what’s in store

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4 Retro UK Gospel Vibes to Mellow You Out (Part 2)

Sometimes kicking back is absolutely the right thing to do…

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

It might be just a tad too cold outside (don’t worry, summer’s on its way) or – in case you’re one of those really weird people that prefers the cold weather – I’ve got you covered (see what I did there..?)

Whatever your story is, here are four classic UK Gospel tunes to mellow you out. You’ll find links to other great songs in the series at the end of this entry.

You’re welcome.

New Direction Crew – ‘Young Girl’

To those in the know the album this was taken from, ‘In the Saviour’s Shadow’, is arguably one of the most underrated albums of its time (circa 2008).

Featuring several early gems from Stephen GP Abramsamadu (who has gone on to produce several modern classics for S.O.) ‘Young Girl’ was an excellent vehicle for Elizabeth’s voice riding over GP’s carefully arranged RnB/Hip-Hop hybrid.

Jahaziel – That’s What Friends Are For

Jahaziel’s ‘ready To Live’ album is regualrly cited as an #UKGospel classic for good reason.

The title was an antithetical reply to Biggie Smalls’ ‘Ready to Die’, and ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ is one of several popular hits from the project (others include ‘Power’ [another GP production] ‘In My Neigbourhood’ and ‘Ready to Live’)

The bilingual, collaborative ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ remains one of my favourites with its cool vibe, clear message and classic Jahaziel lyricism

London Community Gospel Choir – Sun in the Rain

I say this to anyone that’s willing to hear – this is one of my all-time favourite LCGC songs. It’s a pure feel-good, uplifting song that falls squarely in the ‘inspirational’ category and the world is all the better for its completely relatable lyrics.

This is top drawer, musical class.

Marsha Garrick – Hello

This was a big radio hit on London Gospel radio back in the day: four and a half minutes of perfect Gospel Pop like we rarely get in the scene.

It was (and arguably still is) a very usual sound for its time but a very welcome one at that – it’s songs like this that make the UK Gospel music scene one of the most interesting and diverse in the world.

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Celebrating #UKGospel: Brits Abroad (Part 1)

I knew I was on to a good thing when I launched the ‘Celebrating UKGospel’ series…

I get excited when I can come up with different and interesting ways to honour the great work so many people continue to put in across the UK Gospel scene.

Most-shared feature

It’s also especially rewarding when many other people share that same excitement: the ‘Celebrating the Ladies of UKGospel (Part 1)‘ article was by far and away the most shared feature in the history of all versions of UKGospel.com.

Shutting down UKGospel.com

  • That was particularly encouraging because I’ve seriously considered shutting UKGospel.com down once or twice in recent years, mainly as I feel there are now some great players in this space.
  • I’ll put a link to a few excellent websites for you to check out (as well as my reasons for wanting to shut down UKGospel.com) at the end of this feature.

Stories you didn’t know you wanted

  • Anyway, on to the matter at hand: the intention of this series is to make it ‘part showcase, all celebration’, while ‘making it atypical’
  • In other words: how can I bring you stories you want – but you didn’t even know you did…? 

Over the moon 

  • I’m over the moon about this instalment: the story of amazing people who – even when they moved abroad – continued their craft. In fact, they now ply their trade professionally
  • If you’ve new to the series: welcome – I hope you enjoy it
  • If you’re already familiar with the way this goes: have fun – it’s another good one
  • As with the Ladies edition, this is also part 1 of what will probably be a 2-part run, not least because there are so many other Brits across the globe also worth celebrating
  • I’m truly grateful to every one of the people that’s given their time to contribute to this instalment – you guys are amazing!

Before I start: huge shout out to my girl Angel Sonshine (UKGospel.com day 1 family) for the Harmony Samuels hook-up.

It wouldn’t have happened without you… ❤️

Yinka Awojobi
Content Development
UKGospel.com

Celebrating Brits Abroad (Part 1)

Hello, my name is: Ruth Waldron

  • I am a: vocal tutor, choir director, singer songwriter, event organiser
  • I’m a Brit in: Norway
  • You might know me from: directing and singing with Dave Daniel & The PCF Choir or singing with V9 Collective

  • Find me at: YouTube: Ruth Waldron or Instagram: Real Express Art to follow my art journey

  • I started doing this because: as a child I loved singing and attended choir rehearsal with my parents. I joined the church youth choir (The PCF Choir) which was started by Donna & Dave Daniel
  • Donna directed the choir for a number of years but when I was around 14 years old she said God had called me to take over as director
  • I really didn’t want to direct the choir and resisted for a good while. Donna never gave up and kept persisting that I take over, so finally I did
  • I haven’t looked back since then and continue directing choirs 28 years later
  • In 2009 my big brother Sam Lynch ran with a dream he had, which was to form a family group, V9 Collective and share original material
  • It has been wonderful working and singing with my family. We released our first album World To Me in 2010 and are excited that our second album will be released later this year!!
  • Here’s a random fact about me: for many years, I secretly wished I studied psychology
  • Favourite thing I did: it was a huge challenge, but directing the amazing choirs/singers for the first Gospel Proms was massive for me
  • Favourite thing I wish I did: I wish I wrote the song Nessun Dorma, the song Pavarotti made famous
  • You’ll be my new best friend if: you’re an open, genuine person who likes to eat food and talk honestly about life and recipes… We could be besties
  • Everyone thinks I’m a: confident person who likes the spotlight
  • But in actual fact I’m a: person who shies away from the spotlight
  • The one thing I like about where I am now is: the beautiful scenery and open natural space
  • The one thing I miss about the UK is: there are a few things, but if I can only give one answer, it has to be my family
  • The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: I’d love to open an eatery, with live music and displaying art. Yeah, ok…let’s talk about my art!

You can publish a story on any ONE topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about? Performers/artists who are Christians who are or have been involved in the secular music world in some form. 

The book would give them the opportunity to share their experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Discussing the positives, the negatives, their wins and temptations whilst being involved in the industry and how it impacted their relationship with God.

Hello, my name is: Dami Adeoye

  • I am a: record producer, audio engineer & studio owner
  • I’m a Brit in: Dallas, Texas
  • You might know me from: being a drummer or producing songs for Faith Child, Triple O, Rachel Kerr, Christina Matovu or Guvna B
  • I started doing this because: initially my love for production stemmed from curiosity as young as 11 years old. I would record sounds on a tape machine because I was always intrigued with the different elements it took to make a song
  • 2008 (when I was 18) would be my first time getting my hands on software and equipment. It was a time when pro-audio consumer products were increasingly being released at an affordable cost. I indulged. With my student loan. This marked the start of my producer/audio engineer journey
  • So in hindsight I started doing this because of my love for music and the various stages it take to make a song
  • Here’s a random fact about me: in school you would have found me both in musical theatre clubs but also the various sports teams like the football/basketball teams. I was pretty good
  • You’ll be my new best friend if: you buy me a new studio furniture or gear
  • Everyone thinks I’m an: extrovert
  • But in actual fact I’m an: ambivert
  • The one thing I like about where I am now is: the weather 😍
  • The one thing I miss about the UK is: friends and family

The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: my idea of success is a happy and healthy home for my wife and children. They are my motivation for everything I do.

Hello, My Name is: Harmony ‘H-Money’ Samuels

  • I am a: British Nigerian in Los Angeles
  • You might know me as: the producer that produced ‘Champion’ for Chipmunk ft Chris Brown. I started producing at the age of 14. my love for music and playing instruments at 4 years old is the reason I pursued music in the first place

    BUT being able to create my own ideas in my head and write my own songs that would affect the world is why I fell in love with producing
  • Here is a random fact about me: I almost had a professional running career (100 meter hurdles) I ran for Blackheath Harriers
  • Favorite thing I did: produced and wrote the song ‘Say Yes’ for Michelle Williams ft Kelly and Beyoncé

    Not only did I have the opportunity to work with one of the biggest female groups in the world, I got to use my Nigerian roots and culture and connect both pop culture and African culture together. 

    BUT the main thing is that we got to give God Glory across the world and nation

  • A song I wish I produced‘Crazy in Love’ by Beyoncé!! It was produced by Rich Harrison and literally changed the world with its sound
  • You’ll be my new best friend if: you follow us on our social platforms
  • Everyone thinks I’m a: New Yorker
  • But in actual fact I am: British Nigerian
  • The one thing I like about where I am is:  I get to open doors for others. Change my family’s life and inspire the younger Generation to be all they can be and more
  • The one thing I miss about the UK is: Summers (as short as they are) I love UK carnival
  • The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: I want the world to know God saved me from death, when I was hit by a car at 13 years old.

    This is when I first heard God’s voice saying it’s not yet time. And I knew I had a mission and an assignment in my life.

One topic I would love to publish is called
The Key to success is Obedience. There is a lot to this title but it’s the key that has kept me staying successful in my life today.

Hello, my name is… Bobby Bobbart The Fourteenth… or Will

  • I am a: commercial and advertising photographer
  • I’m a Brit in: Jamaica
  • You might know me from: CATFORD, South London… New Wine Church… Kings Church… Calvary Chapel South London… Like every single gospel event ever at one point at least – lol!
  • I started doing this because: I think it is the perfect profession to get to know and interact with all kinds of people and have conversations about all kinds of things
  • Here’s a random fact about me: I farted
  • Favourite thing I did: I’m not so hot with these kind of questions but maybe taking the step to move to Jamaica in 2014
  • Favourite thing I wish I did: again that is a weird one for me. Invent sliced bread
  • You’ll be my new best friend: if I can’t find the old one! JOKING… Well, I don’t know about best friends but if you introduce me to a bunch of music that I DIDN’T already know that I really love… that’s a good move.
  • Everyone thinks I’m a: very silly man
  • But in actual fact I’m an: outstandingly silly man. But I am actually very keen on serious conversations… which might not be the impression you get if you see me working, but it is true 
  • The one thing I like about where I am now is: Jamaica is beautiful. As a photographer this makes a HUGE difference to the creative mind… mine at least
  • The one thing I miss about the UK is: the weather. JOKE
  • The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: ‘do you think you will be ok?’ answer to the world… ‘It may get better but it may not, so when I pray God, I pray that I’ll trust you whether or not the rain stops’ to quote Trip Lee

You can publish a story on any ONE  topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about..?
Intrusive thoughts, the church and our attempts to save ourselves from something only Jesus can save us from.

Hello, my name is: Naomi Parchment

  • I am a: singer-songwriter/producer/vocal producer/ arranger/ vocal pedagogue
  • I’m a Brit in: Huntsville, Alabama
  • You might know me from: can’t say anyone knows me from anything in England, lol or anywhere. Maybe social media?
  • I started doing this because: music is something that is in my DNA. Music is my innate release and freedom. Music is my way of communication with the divine
  • Here’s a random fact about me: I have a huge fear of peacocks after being chased by one as a child (lol)
  • Favourite thing I did: One of my favorite moments so far in life has been being able to travel to South Africa. I never thought I’d be able to travel and perform globally.

    It was a very humbling moment to connect with people who support me all around the world
  • Favourite thing I wish I did: I wish I wrote the song ‘No Air’ by Jordin Sparks, amazingly penned
  • You’ll be my new best friend if: you make me home cooked meal. Food is the way to my heart for sure
  • Everyone thinks I’m an: extreme extrovert because that’s who I have to be for work. I love people, I love to meet new people and connect with them
  • But I’m: most comfortable when I’m mellow and with small groups of friends
  • The one thing I like about where I am now is: beautiful weather, beautiful sunsets, very quiet and calm living
  • The one thing I miss about the UK is: THE FOOD! My family, catching public transport, city centres, baked beans, scrambled egg, toast… Yes most definitely THE FOOD!!
  • The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: I am definitely very empathetic. I enjoy everything art. Recently picked up painting which has become a great release for me during the pandemic times

You can publish a story on any ONE  topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about..?
The process behind the art and the artist.

A lot of people only see/hear the final products, but not many people consider the very delicate and intricate lives a lot of people who have the courage to be an artist have to deal with

Hello, my name is: Jalil Saheeb aka Jay Ess

  • I am an: artist, teacher and film director
  • I’m a Brit in: North Carolina
  • You might know me from: Intoxicated, Questions & Answers and Live It Up
  • I started doing this because: I wanted to make a long lasting impression on my generation. I also wanted to have a direct impact on young people so I started working in schools to do a lot more ground work
  • Favourite thing I did: writing and directing my Live It Up movie (here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2). It has always been a dream of mine to produce and star in a film so I’m glad I was able to accomplish that
  • Favourite thing I wish I did: Well, I’ve still got time to do it God willing
  • You’ll be my new best friend if: you’re a Michael Jackson fan
  • Everyone thinks I’m: a serious and no nonsense person
  • But in actual fact I’m: really easy going
  • The one thing I like about where I am now is: happiness
  • The one thing I miss about the UK is: my family

Hello, my name is:  Lain Gray

  • I am a: Singer/songwriter, producer, label owner, real estate investor and online entrepreneur
  • I’m a Brit in: Houston, Texas, USA
  • You might know me from: the Wookie UK Garage hit song Battle or if you’re not into that kind of thing, UK premier gospel/RnB vocal group Nu Colours
  • I started doing this because: it seemed like the natural order of things, from my home made shoe box and rubber band guitar as a 4 year old, to writing my first song aged 11 or 12.

    If God gives a talent and if we recognize it and nurture it, it will blossom at some point
  • Here’s a random fact about me: I am a huge Liverpool fan (from the age of 5, so I’ve known initially from their glory days, right through to the painful premiership era. Long may Klopp reign!)
  • Favourite thing I wish I did: Songwriter envy is a real thing, but meant as a compliment really

    There are so many songs I wish I’d written. Anything from early Fred Hammond or early Coldplay to name but two
  • You’ll be my new best friend if: You get me tickets to a Liverpool game. Ha!
  • Everyone thinks I’m a: Comedian (which really doesn’t speak much volumes for my music, but hey, what can you do)
  • But in actual fact I’m a: bit of a grump until my first tea (or coffee since moving out here) “Dem cyaa mek tea”, so I gave up ordering it. WHO BRINGS [WARM] WATER IN A CUP WITH A TEABAG NEXT TO IT IN THE SAUCER??

    WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT??
  • The one thing I like about where I am now is: It’s nearly always sunny with blue skies, even when it’s a bit chilly
  • The one thing I miss about the UK is: Well, tea obviously for starters, ha! Might sound strange but, the people.

    We Brits are special and I’m not sure I realized it until I left

You can publish a story on any ONE  topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about..? As a black brit who was raised in the UK countryside, racism was actually very low in the pecking order of my life.

It was there and I had to deal with it when it came up, but since moving to the states, it’s SO glaringly out there, that I have to speak on it at every opportunity.

There’s the blatant side everyone sees: [police related] shot while: sleeping, jogging, playing with a TOY gun, running AWAY from police, oh and kneeling, in plain sight, on a man’s neck for the whole world to see.

And then…. there’s the church racism that is so deeply ingrained in the fibre of society at large, it seamlessly flows into church hierarchy without missing a beat.

I saw an artist (Lurine Cato’s entry in Celebrating the Ladies of UKGospel – link below) mention “why the divide of christian and gospel music?”, well it goes deep into the racism issues and not all are ready (or willing) to start that discussion.

Some may ask for specifics, so for me, seeing a new church grow its multi-racial congregation to need 4 services and then 4 additional locations is phenomenal, but if the congregation is mixed across the locations with no diversity in leadership, that’s a problem.

The thought process that black pastors are not good enough to lead white or mixed congregations is where that comes from.

Let’s start more of these hard conversations please!!!

Hello, my name is: George Mhondera/Jorge Mhondera

  • My nickname is: Jorgyjacket
  • You probably know me from: singing and writing with Matt Redman /Chris Tomlin / Passion / LZ7 /The Tribe & M.I.C / WHISTLEJACKET back in the day and maybe some of you from working in Mainstream Music Industry writing and placing songs in the (U.K /U.S /EUROPE / KPOP /JPOP / music scene).
  • I’m a Brit in: Nashville, Tennessee
  • I started doing this because: I felt I had a calling to do Music and just had a passion for Music from a very young age. Also had a desire to see the world and get to experience and engage different cultures.

    I knew Jesus was calling me to serve him through Music. (Serve him within the Church as well as beyond the walls of the Church in the Mainstream). Love getting to do both.
  • Here’s a random fact about me: if I hadn’t done music, I wanted to be a Professional Rugby Player.  I love Rugby especially the ALL BLACKS!!!!!
  • Everyone thinks I’m: An extreme extrovert
  • But in many ways I’m: Also an Introvert ……I do love large gatherings, but I also love being by myself 🙂 or with family.
  • The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is: Well 2 things: I never get asked about is my heritage and where i’m originally from; Yes I have lived on 3 continents, but I was born in Zimbabwe and so I am Zimbabwean and African to the Core.
  • The other thing: yes, I love getting to perform and sing on stage, but my heart is into pouring into others behind the scenes and see them grow in their calling, musical giftings and see them hopefully achieve their dreams.
  • You can publish a story on any ONE  topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What is it? One story I would have to post is on Racial Injustice & Reconciliation.

    The greatest Commanded is to Love your God with all your heart and with your soul and with all your mind.

    The second is love your neighbour as you love yourself… If we as people did truly did this we would never have racism for this kind of love doesn’t allow prejudice to grow and where there has been injustice this love fights fearlessly for equality and for all despite our difference.

    A lot has happened in the past historically and there is a lot to heal, there is a lot to learn, there is a lot to forgive, there is a lot undo and make right and this Love, Jesus, is the answer

    If WE  TRULY KNOW HIM, TURN TO HIM things will change!

Hello, my name is: David Oluwaferanmi Balogun popularly known as DavidB

  • I am a: singer, Songwriter, Vocal Producer and Coach, Content Creator
  • I’m a Brit in: Lagos, Nigeria
  • I started doing this because: I absolutely love creating music and I recently discovered that I love teaching people how to sing just as much.
  • Here’s a random fact about me: my nostrils flare up involuntarily when I do riffs/runs… So embarrassing.
  • Favourite thing I did: In December I released “Fall In Line” which has 5 key changes, and in February “Special” where I held a note for 17 seconds.

    Favourite things because when you’re not mainstream there are all these rules people impose and I enjoy breaking said rules and just going with what I feel and want. Freedom!
  • Favourite thing I wish I did: perform at Coachella with a Beyoncé budget and then release the documentary on Netflix.
  • You’ll be my new best friend if: you’re a confident independent thinker with sound values and principles while knowing and appreciating most of Brandy’s unreleased songs.
  • Everyone thinks I’m: super quiet and shy
  • But in actual fact I’m: a talkative especially when I’m passionate about the subject matter. When I’m quiet it’s not because I’m timid, I just don’t know you like that and I’m observing.
  • The one thing I like about where I am now is: the fact that anything can happen, even though that’s equally what I hate about it.
  • The one thing I miss about the UK is: being able to get in my car at 2:30am and go get a double cheese burger (no onions) and a banana milkshake from McDonald’s.
  • The one thing I never get asked, but I want the world to know about me is that: I don’t care what or who it is, I will not trade authenticity for approval.
  • You can publish a story on any ONE topic that’s close to your heart on UKGospel.com. What would it be about..? Hmmm… “UK Gospel” 🙂

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Other UK Gospel websites

Legacy Series: Tryumf – Fast Facts

The ‘Legacy’ series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of UKGospel.com, ensuring the history and evolution of the UK Gospel music scene is publicly accessible

  • Original publication date: 05 May 2005
  • Written and edited by: Yinka Awojobi

The ‘Fast Fact’ series was a workstream I used to introduce artists I saw doing exciting things on the UK Gospel scene back in the day.

It also quietly signalled that the artists were worth keeping an eye on, and in almost every case they went on to be featured several more times as their career progressed.

UKGospel.com Fast Facts presents: Tryumf

Chances are you’ve heard a track that Dwayne ‘Tryumf’ Shorter has either produced, remixed or engineered as himself or as one-half of the production/remix outfit ‘Brimstone and Fire‘.

Prodigal Son‘s ‘Things People Do For Money‘ remix, Wariyah‘s classic Hip-hop/Soul evangelistic joint ‘Heart of an Intercessor‘, Zion Noiz‘s huge debut single ‘& WHAT‘, various tracks by Greenjade, ‘Favour‘ by Dwayne Lanks, music for Jahaziel and many more.

2005 will most definitely see the release of his debut album, and we’ve been very privileged to hear a lot of work-in-progress cuts. 

A piece of advice: GET THAT ALBUM AT ALL COSTS!!!  Just in case you’re still wondering why: remember the Incense Rhythm?  It sold 3000 copies for label Jet Star in its first three months of release.

…Yes, it WAS his track! 

UKG Spin! BioChannel*, (the interview channel of our online radio station), has a 35 minute interview, complete with a few tracks from his production and engineering past, as well as music from his forthcoming album.  

But – just ahead of the station launch – Fast Facts brings you just that: a quick introduction to one of UK Gospel’s hot production, songwriting, engineering and vocal talents…

Introduction

There’s no need to spend a lot of time talking about your background and history as quite a bit of it has been covered on the UKG Spin! BioChannel*, but seeing as the interview isn’t live yet, let’s just go through some of the basics:

Name: Dwayne Shorter
Better known as: Tryumf
You’re a: Producer, Vocalist, Songwriter, Business Entrepreneur

How did you get into the Hip-hop game?
The first record that got me into Hip-hop was ‘The Show’ by Doug E Fresh and Slick rick. On the B side was ‘Lah-Di-Dah-Di’.  That was my favourite out of the two tracks.

And how did you become a Christian…?
I saw something on TV in August 1999 about the book of Revelation. I was so intrigued by this short film that it made me want to read the book of Revelation. 

As I started reading I got hooked into the words, it was like I could not stop reading.

I then went on to see books in the bible I had never heard of like 1st Peter, 1st Thessalonians, and they were all talking about the last days and that this world as we know it would one day be destroyed, and thus began my quest to know Christ…

Your production work has been strong on the underground and very influential in recent years, particularly through the mid 90s to date.

The first I heard of your work was on what I consider to be one of the most slept-on UK Gospel Hip-Hop releases, Wariyah’s EP, ‘Stand Up And Be Counted

More recently, you’ve done work with key UK Gospel Hip-Hop players from Zion Noiz to Prodigal Son.  What’s that been like…?

ZI is my family!   We all share a common goal, so being in ZI is a privilege as all the members have developed in the character of Christ, and to add to that we all got MAAAAD SKILLZ so we are a force to be reckoned with. 

When I did the remix for Prodigal Son, the timing was just right.

I had a lot to express and the lyrics on that track was similar to a situation that I was going through at the time. 

Working with the man himself was a privilege, and when I went up to Nottingham Prodigal and the family looked after me well, so BIG UP Prodigal Son!!

And then you were contracted to the label Jet Star as a producer…
It was a good time for me to learn more about the music industry and also set up my own studio and company Tryumf Productions.

We have to talk about the ‘Incense Rhythm’…
Boy, I was going through hell on earth at the time the idea came to me.

I had so many fears and issues between me and God that I thought it was all over for me, even as a Christian! 

But that was the time the Incense Rhythm was birthed. I remember going into the studio feeling like I could do nothing in my own strength.

Sometimes when a big tune comes to me it’s like I know where every instrument should go.

Why did you mix secular artists with Gospel artists on the album…?
I wanted to bring the Gospel punch to the secular community.  So many times we put God in a box, but I have found that when I would put God in a box He would jump right out of it. 

The devil has put a separation between the believers and the unbelievers, so I wanted to bring the truth to the unbelievers.

To do this I put some well-known secular artists on the album and only by God’s grace the vision of the album was accomplished.

Now secular DJ’s across England are playing the gospel cuts on their shows and the truth is reaching the ghettos, night clubs and beyond.

How did you decide what artists to put on the album?
I didn’t just pick the first artist that came along. There were about 6 other versions recorded that did not make the album, some of which I regret even recording… But God is good! 

On one side I listened to what my heart was saying and on the other side some artists were sent to me and I watched God put the album together.

I learned that ‘God is in control’ in the midst of chaos and confusion.

What problems did you encounter when making the album?
Boy… I had plenty of opposition. I was told the album would not be released, I was told my records could not sell.  

When they told me that a word rose up out of my spirit and I said ‘The stone that the builders rejected shall become the Chief Cornerstone’ (at the time of this interview the Incense Rhythm album was at number 1 in the Jet Star sales charts!)

I was told that I had over mixed the album and lost the flavour.I nearly got into a fight while recording ‘That Feelin’ Again‘.  Pac Deep lost his voice while we were recording ‘School Holiday‘. 

When I finally finished the album I was told that they did not have a good enough response from the DJ’s so they were not sure if they would release the album.

In all this I knew that God would take care of it. He told me not to pressure the company to release the album as He was IN CONTROL!! 

What has happened since?
About 7 of the tracks from the album have gone on other separate albums, the Incense Rhythm is getting acclaim in various parts of the world from Philadelphia to Toronto to the Caribbean.

On just its second week of release the album went to number 1 in the Jet Star sales charts and sold 3000 copies in the space of 3 months between August and October 2004. 

What’s your take on the Gospel scene at the moment?
I’m liking what’s coming out of the States at the moment.  I heard a mix CD from DJ Official of Cross Movement and they’ve got some HOT MC’s on the Hip-Hop side. 

On the RnB side they are still the reigning champions. 

The US market is just getting hotter and hotter with artists like Tonex, Kierra Sheard, Shei Atkins among others but on the UK side we are starting to give them a run for their money with groups like Raymond & Co, Siani, Four Kornerz and The Company.

What do you reckon is the most exciting project that you’re involved in pushing at the moment?

My album; it’s where I truly get to express where I want to go musically without having to change what’s in my heart. I’m taking you right ‘Back to Eden’

What else is coming out of the Tryumf beat kitchen…?

Look out for the Four Kornerz tracks, one is a Brimstone & Fire production and the other is a Tryumf production and they are both blazing!!

And finally – what more can we expect from you in 2005…?

Brimstone & Fire will drop a single, Tryumf will drop an album and will be looking to sign HOT new producers to my production company (there’s one I’ve got my eye on at the moment so watch this space!!!)

  • Notes
  • *UKGSpin! was an experimental audio project (think of it as UKGospel.com’s in-house radio station), that I never really launched
  • It was supposed to have themed channels, dedicated to specific genres
  • As you can probably guess, the BioChannel was the Biography channel, dedicated to profile interviews in a format that we would now consider podcasts
  • You can listen to the UKGSpin! promo here

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5 UK Gospel AfroPop Songs to Soundtrack Your Day

‘Summertime and the livin’ is easy…’

Today is a perfect UK summer’s day: the maximum temperature is a cinderella-optimum, entirely agreeable 15 degrees: not too hot and not too cold.

So here are a few AfroPop tunes to turn up the heat just a little more and soundtrack a hopefully already perfect day.

Sarah Teibo – Blessed

  • This G Kid-produced track almost certainly needs no introduction
  • Ever since it came out in 2018 it’s been a radio, playlist and video staple everywhere
  • A true international hit for Sarah Teibo, one of the UK’s favorite female artists
  • Follow Sarah Teibo on Spotify

Andrew Bello Ft Victizzle – Never Be The Same

  • It’s always going to be difficult to pick an Andrew Bello song – his catalogue is extensive and his release cycle is impressively frequent
  • I’ve gone with this because it’s his biggest Spotify hit with just under 200,000 streams (as at the time of writing of this)
  • Follow Andrew Bello on Spotify

CalledOut Music – I Am Free

  • Another artist with a breathtaking selection of songs that so many people around the world have taken to heart
  • ‘I Am Free’ has now had just under 2 million YouTube streams
  • Not much more to be said apart from: enjoy
  • Follow CalledOut Music on Spotify

Qyubi – Odo

  • I only discovered Qyubi about a month (or maybe 6 weeks) ago
  • Since then I’ve been listening to as much of his back catalogue as possible
  • He’s got some GREAT songs, and if this is your first time hearing about him (and you like this kind of vibe), go check out the rest – you’re in for a treat!
  • Follow Qyubi on Spotify

24Eldaz – OMI ft Henrisoul

  • 24 Eldaz is one of those artists that makes me both happy and sad for the current season in the UK Gospel scene
  • Sad because there’s so much coming out these days that it’s becoming difficult to find and – more importantly – support brilliant artists
  • On the flip side I’m also happy that digital technology has made recording so cheap, meaning more artists are entering the scene
  • Plus: social media has (kind of) made discovery easy(ier)
  • If you like this one (made in collaboration with Nigeria’s Henrisoul), you know what to do:
  • Follow 24Eldaz on Spotify

BONUS 1: Stevie Valentine – Fall On Me

  • What can I say about Stevie Valentine?
  • If you know about him then you know he gets 40 thousand-plus listens on Spotify every month, and many of his songs on the platform have between 200,000 and 400,000 streams
  • ‘Fall On Me’ is one of his biggest AfroPop songs with over 400,000 streams (his biggest is the Neyo-sampled ‘Stay Strong’ with over 600,000 as at the time of writing)
  • Follow Stevie Valentine on Spotify

BONUS 2: Becca Folkes – Control ft CalledOut Music

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Michelle John’s ‘Paper Doll’ – The Back Story that Never Got Told

Michelle John and Yinka Awojobi at The Premises Studios, April 2016

Introduction

I wrote this back in April 2016, with the original intention to have it coincide with the release of Michelle John’s EP, Paper Doll.

If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of Paper Doll, the answer is simple: it was never released. 

I asked her a few years later why she didn’t go through with it and she cited two reasons, which – on giving it a bit of thought – I concluded were different sides of the same coin.

Buyer’s Remorse

The first: shortly after recording was completed (but before the scheduled release), Michelle appeared in series 6 of The Voice UK (she eventually gave in after years of repeatedly being invited to appear on the show).

The second was because she was struck by that thing that plagues many creatives, akin to buyer’s remorse: she simply felt it wasn’t up to the standard she had set for herself.

That meant I had this great story about one of the women I’ve come to admire the most in the UK Gospel scene, not just for her vocal ability, but also for her positive outlook on life, vulnerability, disarming openness and bags of personable charm.

Michelle has since gone on to do some amazing things, but unfortunately it seems the world will probably never get to hear Paper Doll.

I had the opportunity to listen to some of the songs being recorded live in the studio, and this is the story of that evening.

Yinka Awojobi
Content Development
UKGospel.com


‘I know who he means…’

The Premises Studios, Hackney, East London.  It’s about 7:45 pm. 

I step indoors, out of the chilly spring night.

‘I’m here to see Michelle’.

The guy behind the reception counter stares back at me, blankly.

In my head I start to work out how best to describe Michelle John: songwriter. Artist. Arranger. Activist. Accomplished vocalist…

It’s unlikely any of those will help Reception Man, even though they’re an accurate selection of the many hats she wears.  And she wears them extremely well.

Another guy I hadn’t noticed pipes up from behind the counter: ‘I know who he means.  Come on, I’ll take you. It’s right at the top – bit odd to get to.  You might get lost, mate..’.

Groundbreaking

While it doesn’t have the profile of Abbey Road Studios on the other side of town, The Premises is incredibly significant to those in the know, and sadly becoming one of the few key, heritage music studio spaces left in London.

Last time I was here I witnessed the making of something truly groundbreaking, the end product going down in UK Gospel music history as a true international milestone.

Back then Nicky Brown was on production duties with Janine, Chris, Gillian and Lisa, led by the indomitable Isaiah-Raymond Dyer working out of one of The Premises’ smaller rooms.

What came out at the other end of that process were tracks that included a reworked version of Song in the Midnight (that’s what was being recorded the day I was in), making up Raymond & Co‘s seminal Playing Games album.

Professional Background Person

Unless you’ve been around the UK Gospel scene a fair while, chances are that – at best – you’re only vaguely aware of who Michelle John is.

There’s good reason for that: she’s a professional background person, featuring both as lead and backing vocalist, as well as an arranger for some of the best Gospel talent the UK has had to offer over the years, including London Community Gospel Choir and Noel Robinson‘s Nu Image.

International

Michelle now occupies that rare space dreamed of by many but actually lived out by few – she’s one of the UK mainstream music industry’s go-to support vocalists for many international names you’ll recognise including Will Young, Annie Lennox, Eric Clapton and Joss Stone.

Michelle John and Eric Clapton

She’s in London for less than a week, having just returned from South East Asia a few days ago.

After this recording session she’s off to New York in 3 days’ time as part of Joss Stone‘s current international tour.  As usual, her schedule is jam-packed.

Michelle John and Joss Stone

Hang in the Studio

Michelle and I have been meaning to do the ‘come hang with me in the studio’ thing quite literally for years, but we could never make our diaries work. 

Michelle and Yinka – Paper Doll recording session, Premises Studios, April 2016

Sometime later in the evening when our conversation gets round to that fact, she says, in a quite matter-of-fact, yet philosophical way: ‘nothing before its time’.

It’s a reflection of how zen she’s become in recent months, wearing years of life’s pain on her sleeve, but somehow mostly transcending it. 

Like the rest of us, Michelle has her down days, but in the main she’s on the up and up.

Paper DollHighs and Lows

Anyone following her on social media will be familiar with her life’s highs and lows: from growing up in Peckham, South East London to the struggles of single parenthood, to personal fears and insecurities, to insight into the hard work, and – it has to be said – glamour of working across the globe.

A lot of that informs the life stories going into her second solo recording, Paper Doll, scheduled for an August 2016 release.

Studio Time

The studio she booked out is on the topmost floor, and Second Reception Man was right: I’d have got hopelessly lost if I’d attempted to come up on my own.

The room has a cosy, warm glow.  Most of the illumination comes from a couple of spotlights embedded in the ceiling, with backlit buttons, switches and faders on the mixing desk adding to what already feels like the laid-back ambience of a Jazz club.

Michelle John – Paper Doll recording session, Premises Studios, April 2016

Michelle is standing over the desk, in deep conversation with the mixing engineer.  She catches me out of the corner of her eye, comes over, gives me an exceedingly warm, familiar hug before heading back to the desk.

In Control

It’s quite obvious from watching her work that she’s one of those creative types who is absolutely clear on how she wants her narrative conveyed through her craft.

She’s also completely unfazed by the sheer physical dominance of a studio setup, with the myriad options that high-end studio equipment, people and possibilities present. 

The telling of her story is paramount, and absolutely everything in the room is nothing more than a tool for her to tell it the way she needs it told.

She’s in complete control.  As in: in control of everything – a solid steel fist under a sweet-looking velvet glove…

The sound engineer may know about the technical stuff: the faders and buttons, and the musicians their instruments, but there’s no doubt who’s in charge around here.

‘Studio Hat’

Michelle puts her hat on.  It’s some kind of trendy, mini bowler thing. 

Someone says it’s her ‘studio hat’ and she laughs in response, but a couple of seconds later I completely get what they mean – donning the hat seems to make her already businesslike focus dial up a few more notches, as the music playback begins.

She turns round, looks at me and does that apologetic thing many creatives do when they’re about to share a work in progress: ‘these are just guide vocals, Yinka..’

Faces

I sink into a deep leather sofa and take in my surroundings: on backing vocals in the recording room on the other side of the glass are a few faces I recognise

Left to right: Faye Simpson, Wayne Ellington, Michelle John, Samantha Smith and Christina Matovu, Paper Doll recording session, The Premises Studios, April 2016

Wayne Ellington (great vocalist in his own right and Michelle‘s former colleague from their Noel Robinson & Nu Image days), Faye Simpson (from another seminal 90s group, Nu Colours), Samantha Smith (whom I don’t know) and – from the new generation of vocally fantastic artists – Christina Matovu.

Pain in the Project

I take in the songs on playback and it doesn’t take long to spot a running theme here: there’s a lot of pain in this project.

But there’s also strength and several shades of hope: from tangible reassuring hope, to hope borne of a longed-for resolution and freedom from current situations.

And there’s hope that springs from the intangible optimism powered by the decision of personal determination: the choice to make a better life.

Michelle John’s Life

Paper Doll is the true story of Michelle John‘s life in song, an unflinching narrative of relationship reality and the challenges it can sometimes bring.

From the struggles, joys and aspirations of single motherhood on ‘To Raise A Man‘ to the feeling of helplessness and being trapped on ‘I’m Alone‘, to the despair of the aftermath of a strained relationship on ‘How Can I Trust You Again‘, and the beginnings of renewed hope on ‘I Found Me

Moving On

And while these song titles broadly suggest powerlessness, the opposite actually holds true: sometimes you can only move on in life when you truly acknowledge the scars of hurt life has dealt you, and become completely comfortable talking about what you’ve learned, as opposed to the damange they’ve inflicted – there’s a freedom that comes with that level of openness…

Suggesting Paper Doll is some kind of self-pity project is to miss the point entirely: this is Michelle John in her own words: honest and deep, painfully vulnerable, her life writ large from her personal perspective, and – most importantly – she’s finding the power in her pain.

Tell Your Story Yourself

The session still has a while to go, but there’s a break and we resume our conversation – I share my thoughts on how personal the songs are, and wonder about her thoughts around making so much of this public.

Her reply is telling: ‘when so many people have told a version of what your story is, you might as well tell it yourself’.

No Bitterness

She says this without suggestion of much bitterness.  However there’s a quiet determination that suggests there are a few records that need setting straight.

I decide not to push for more details on Paper Doll‘s narrative, even though I’m curious to find out more about the cast of characters in these true-life stories.

But: the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t really serve much purpose beyond satisfying a crude tabloid need… Besides, the title says it all: the protagonist in this story is the doll, not the other characters in her life.

I have a feeling that – as personal as some of the incidents being recounted are – they are all too familiar for all too many people, both within and outside the church.

And even if it’s for that reason alone, Michelle John‘s Paper Doll is one to look forward to...

Studio selfie: (left to right – Faye Simpson, Wayne Ellington, Michelle John, Samantha Smith and Christina Matovu) The Premises Studios, April 2016

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Enjoyed this?  Check out more in the UKGospel Legacy Series

Legacy Series: Lain – Brother Soul

The ‘Legacy’ series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of UKGospel.com, ensuring the history and evolution of the UK Gospel music scene remains recorded and publicly accessible

  • Original publication date: 15 July 2005
  • Written and edited by: Yinka Awojobi

About ‘Behind the Beat’

‘Behind the Beat’ was an ongoing set of stories where UK Gospel artists presented a track-by-track exposition of their projects, typically albums and EPs (as opposed to the more prevalent singles format), sharing their thinking behind creating the projects.

This approach allowed for a more complete exploration of these recordings in their entirety, without the potential distraction of focusing on the more visible – or popular – singles from the CD.

Brother Soul

2005 has been somewhat quiet in terms of huge, big-noise, sit-up-and-pay-attention album releases.

We still have about five months to go, but there really hasn’t been anything MAJOR, like we had with the buzz about Siani and Raymond & Co in 2004…

However there’s a quiet revolution in the making.  And this one already has a groundswell of serious proportions. 

You may not recognise the name Lain, but you more than likely would remember the group Nu Colours from the 90s, of which he was a member. 

His debut album, Brother Soul, holds the distiction of being the first album to have sold out, and in record time, on UKG Shop**. 

And there’s good reason for that.  It is one of 2005’s best releases, as Lain puts top-drawer British Soul back on the map…

And what better way to learn more about the man and the music than to read about the album in Lain‘s own words…? 

Kick back, relax and find out about one of this year’s genuine, high-quality sleeper hits. 

This album will make you think, reflect and – if you’re open to it – act on the positive dictates of our faith.  

Enjoy…

Yinka Awojobi
Content Development


‘Behind the Beat’: A UK Gospel.com Report

Yinka: Congratulations on an excellent album. Gotta say it’s one of 2005’s strongest by far. 

I know we explore your history in detail on the UKGSpin! BioChannel* show, but I’d like to touch on a few points that we didn’t cover in the audio interview, particularly as far as the album goes.

It’s different from the usual ‘Black’ Gospel album in that it’s quite introspective, but despite that, it’s accessible and has range and depth…

  • LAIN: It was written over quite a long period of time.  I’ve been through many experiences, and shared these with the people I’d been working with. 
  • And I didn’t write it as a ‘black gospel’ album.  I wrote it as a man of faith writing about every aspect of his life and beliefs.

Yinka: and in many ways it also has elements of the kind of uplifting message that ‘Battle‘ had.

While most people probably won’t recognise you as an artist, almost everyone remembers Wookie‘s ‘Battle‘ as this HUGE Top Ten Garage tune from 2000, but won’t realise you were the voice AND pen behind the song…

  • It often happens that way, that you love a song and find out years later who it was by
  • I was talking to a friend recently about a song I did with Nu Colours and he didn’t know that I had done the track he used to rave to!

And l imagine even fewer people realised ‘Battle’ was a Christian song in the first place…

  • I remember when these major labels were trying to sign the single, and about 3 weeks into their bidding one of the guys rang up in total amazement saying ‘that … tune it’s like … a gospel tune!!
  • A lot of people raved first, then listened later.  I found that to be a common trend.

Anyway there’s more on that in the audio interview*, so I’ll leave it there. 

Let’s do this. I give you the track name and you tell me the story behind it…

TRACK: PEACEFUL WATERS (One of my favourites)

  • STORY: written with a friend of mine Mike McEvoy, this song is about an ever-shrinking world of hustle and bustle, where everything is instant
  • Importance is placed on things that are meaningless…

TRACK: BOTTLE

  • STORY: When I first started visiting London I was amazed at seeing so many homeless people on the streets. It seemed to be normal to everyone walking past them
  • It kind of stuck out in my mind… 

TRACK: IF ONLY

  • STORY: As a young guy you think you know it all, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I guess you live and learn 

TRACK: EVERY MORNING (Another one of my favourites)

TRACK: 3RD NIGHT (LOVE this one too!)

  • STORY: When Mike Storey played the melody to me on his piano, the story of the resurrection came to me
  • There was something special about the melody, and whereas Mike thought it was quite sultry, he was a little surprised by the song I came up with, but he did like what I’d done

TRACK: RAINBOW

  • STORY: With Rainbow I was trying to be a little more creative, more poetic with all of those metaphors
  • In the bible it talks about the tree planted by the water, and the vine and the branches, sowing seeds on good ground, stony ground, etc. 
  • This is my version of events pertaining to me

TRACK: BELIEVE

  • STORY: This is my version of a track I did on another project I’m working on called MARSK. 

TRACK: ONE MORE TRY

  • STORY: Any one who has had a loved one pass away will know that life is short, and so we should do and say those important things while we can, before it’s too late.

TRACK: FREE

  • STORY: Both myself and Gerard Saunders were working with a trainee sound engineer who seemed to constantly find trouble wherever he went. 
  • On this occasion he had to go before the magistrates court – I just wrote from his point of view, trying to get away from his situation…

TRACK: ONLY LOVE

TRACK: WHAT I’M FEELING

  • STORY: Dobie (Tony Campbell) is the original Soul II Soul beat master. This is the live version of our collaboration

TRACK: ANGRY 

  • STORY: I felt quite strongly about what happened in Iraq, war first questions later
  • How we react in anger isn’t the same as when we take a moment to calm down and think rationally about how to respond to a given situation

TRACK: GOOD DAY

  • STORY: This is just a feel good track. If you tell yourself you’re gonna have a good day, you will…

TRACK: ONE MORE TRY

  • STORY: Anyone who has had a love one pass away will know first hand that life is very short, and so we should do and say those important things while we can, before it’s too late.

TRACK: BREAK MY HEART

  • STORY: Very similar theme to One More Try, but this is specifically aimed at finding love and the bravery behind putting ones self out there.
  • There’s a risk of heartbreak, but if nothing is said, you could lose out on the love of your life. Just sayin!!

BROTHER SOUL comes recommended.  Highly recommended. 

The project will still sound quite fresh quite a few years from now, and is another example of why UK gospel music has a tremendous future. 

Get yourself a copy in UKG Shop**, and check out LAIN’s website.  All the relevant links are below…

  • Notes
  • *UKGSpin! was an experimental audio project (think of it as UKGospel.com’s in-house radio station), that I never really launched
  • It was supposed to have themed channels, dedicated to specific genres
  • As you can probably guess, the BioChannel was the Biography channel, dedicated to profile interviews in a format that we would now consider podcasts
  • You can listen to the UKGSpin! promo here
  • **UKGShop was the online store, retailing CDs and DVDs

EXPLORE MORE

More Behind the Beat

  • Tryumf: Ghetto Scripture (coming soon)
  • Muyiwa: Declaring His Power (coming soon)

Legacy Series: Focus on Kingdom Choir

This series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of UKGospel.com, ensuring the history and evolution of the UK Gospel music scene is recorded and publicly accessible

  • Original publication date: 26 June 2005
  • Written and edited by: Yinka Awojobi

I realised recently that UKGospel.com hadn’t done a decent piece on any UK choir in an age.  It wasn’t a deliberate thing, but we were leaning quite heavily towards the ‘Urban’ side of things.

Nothing wrong with that, but there’s more to the United Kingdom than Hip-hop, RnB, Soul and such. 

Our legacy has been built on the arrangements, focus and discipline of the corporate vocal genre, and Kingdom Choir is one of those groups that best illustrates the fact that while the Urban genre continues to grow solidly, the choir tradition is still pretty much a thriving format.  

I fired off a few questions at founder Karen Gibson (centre in photo) to talk packaging, the choral genre and BMC (Black Majority Churches) involvement in the Christian and wider mainstream…

KINGDOM CHOIR HAS BEEN AROUND FOR QUITE A BIT, EVEN THOUGH THE NAME  MIGHT BE UNFAMILIAR TO MANY.  WHAT’S THE BACKGROUND…?

We first started singing as a group on a radio programme called ‘The Gospel Train‘ (most of us had sung together before this in the London-wide COGOP (Church Of God Of Prophesy) choir called The District Choir). 

  • We would either sing with the programme’s host choir of the week, or we would be the sole host choir. 
  • One day we were asked to sing for the BBC’s Songs of Praise‘s 35th Birthday programme.  The producer, Diane Reid, asked me for the name of the choir, but we didn’t have one!
  • She tactfully suggested that we get one in time for the programme – so we did! Our mission is to worship and honour God through our singing, and to see lives and hearts turned towards Him.

AND HOW ABOUT YOU? WHAT’S YOUR BACKGROUND…?

My musical training is classical, having been started on the piano, then the oboe. My sister (who played piano, clarinet and saxophone) and I started a gospel wind quintet called Windsong

  • That group went on to form the basis of what would become my first gospel singing experience – New Dawn, an acapella group of 6 young ladies singing in 4 and 5 part harmony.  
  • From there, I got involved with the District Choir through Noel Robinson who was the director at that time.

YOU RELEASED YOUR DEBUT ALBUM, ‘SMILE’ LAST YEAR. WHAT WAS THE STORY THERE…?

Many have asked why it has taken us so long after being together for 10 years – I was regularly  confronted with the obligatory “…so, when’s the album coming out, then…?”.  

I was usually stuck for an answer because really, I was waiting for the right time – God’s time.  I really believe that nothing happens before it should.

IT’S VERY WELL PACKAGED. I REALISE THIS IS A RATHER OBVIOUS QUESTION, BUT AS MORE ARTISTS COME INTO THE MARKETPLACE IT BECOMES IMPORTANT TO SIGNPOST THE ESSENTIALS. 

WHY WOULD YOU SAY THE PACKAGING ASPECT IMPORTANT…?

Packaging is important when marketing to a generation of aesthetically moved individuals. 

If something doesn’t look good, people won’t purchase it.  Good packaging gives the impression that the item you are purchasing is one of quality – it’s a halo effect – people make up their mind about a product within 10 seconds and with a CD, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to listen to it – its about what they see first!

Plus, KC is a choir, which is pursuing excellence – and that is not just about singing!

AND THE PROCEEDS OF THE ALBUM ARE GOING TO A CHARITY? WHAT ARE THE DETAILS ON THAT…?

Christian Aid, via Ken Fuller, their BMCs Liaison Co-ordinator, approached us. He had heard the choir before and liked our sound.

  • I liked the idea of contributing to something that I thought would be worthwhile. Christian Aid are doing great things in the developing world that more of us should be aware of – taking part in their staff conference last year was a revelation. 
  • The choir has a heart of worship so it was something new to write about issues of social injustice, but I think it is reflected well in songs like ‘Guardian Angel‘ and ‘Infinitely Perfect‘.

YOU SAY ‘Many of us are ignorant of issues in the developing world and what various doing to tackle them…’ WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT…?

Well, let’s start off with the album project. Its aim was two-fold – to introduce gospel music to Christian Aid supporters, but also to raise the profile of Christian Aid in the BMC churches.  That says something, doesn’t it? 

  • How many of us can really say that we know about the work that Christian Aid are doing?  It is as wide as it is diverse – performing at one of their week-end conferences was a complete revelation. 
  • And what of other organisations or movements which carry out work for or conduct protests on behalf of developing nations. There are so many – the Trade Justice Movement, the Make Poverty History campaign, Fairtrade, Cafedirect… 
  • As a choir, we have had opportunities to minister at some of these rallies, and I have to say, that sadly we see very little representation of the BMCs at an individual level.   We may see some at an official level, but I think that this is not enough. 
  • We need to see more of the ordinary folks out there showing concern and support.  I suspect that some of us may be a bit more clued up with all the media attention given to the G8 summit that is coming up and all the activity surrounding it, including LIVE 8 but what will happen after?  Might it all just subside from the forefront of our minds…?

WHAT DO YOU THINK WE CAN DO TO BE MORE AWARE OR ENGAGE IN THE PROCESS…?

Corporately, I feel that the church definitely needs to get involved and start raising awareness of the issues that are affecting people across the globe – sometimes in the very countries that we come from! 

  • No doubt there are some who know what’s happening ‘out there’, but I feel that there needs to be engagement between the BMCs and politics in general. 
  • We need to start talking about issues and engaging peoples’ minds. And it’s got to be more than just sending a barrel of clothes in times of what we think of as ‘need’. 
  • And what about the kids? I am sure that these things get discussed at schools and colleges, as it was in my day, and then they come to church and there is silence – it’s like we’re in another world. 
  • But we don’t have to wait for the church, on an individual level we can start getting ourselves clued up – the news on TV and in papers for a start. There’s so many sites on the internet – we don’t really have any excuse to stay ignorant.

I HEAR THAT, AND I’M SOOOOO GLAD YOU MADE THE POINT.  HERE’S TO HOPING MORE OF US ENGAGE IN MORE MAINSTREAM CHRISTIAN INITIATIVES…

IT WAS AN INTERESTING MOVE, DECIDING TO TIE YOUR ALBUM RELEASE IN WITH A CHARITY CAMPAIGN.  HOW DID IT ALL GO…?

  • It was great! The album launch was unique in that Christian Aid gave a presentation in the daytime along with Integrity Music Europe
  • In the evening one of their spokesmen was interviewed by Isaiah-Raymond Dyer (the MC for the evening) to promote Christian Aid’s aims and objectives.
  • The recording process itself was exciting, challenging, thrilling, daunting – all at the same time! This really was a growing process for me and the choir, and each stage of that process came with it’s own peculiar ups and downs
  • To be honest, I am glad for all of it, because I feel that we have grown by it.

AND WHAT HAVE YOU ALL BEEN UP TO SINCE THEN?

  • Well, since the album launch we have become the recipients of the GEM AwardsBest Choir of the Year
  • We’ve also had a busy year ministering – we’ve run workshops, ministered at churches such as Kensington Temple, sung at clubs such as the 606 Club, at famous church venues such as St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, been involved with more charity work such as the Trade Justice Movement
  • We’ve had a break and it’s all just about to start up again.  We’ll be one of 150 musicians, actors and comics performing in each pod of the London Eye, we’ll be ministering at the Broadway Theatre Catford with Carmen Wiltshire and later on in the year we are due to go to Italy as part of a gospel festival being held there.

OVER THE YEARS WE’VE SEEN POPULAR EMPHASIS SHIFT FROM THE CORPORATE VOCAL SOUND TO A MORE ‘STREET’ STYLE, IF ONLY IN TERMS OF THE NUMBER OF RELEASES HITTING THE STREETS.  

I WAS WONDERING IF YOU THINK WE’LL SEE AN ACCELERATED AMOUNT CHOIR MATERIAL COMING OUT OF THE UNDOUBTEDLY VIBRANT ‘CHOIR SCENE’…

  • We have always had artistes with a contemporary sound recording and releasing more than those with a choir sound. This may be because there has been a perception that the strength of choirs is in the live experience.  It’s participatory.   It’s large.  It’s an ‘All together now…’ feeling. 
  • It may also be that the logistics of having to organise and administer larger groups of people have simply been more difficult than those of the often-smaller contemporary groups. Having said that, the combination of a vibrant and growing choir scene and easier access to recording technology makes the possibility of increased choir recordings very feasible…
  • I guess you mean that the ‘choir sound’ is not as popular as the ‘RnB sound’. I am not sure that the two are mutually exclusive, I have to say. I listen to various records and I can hear that they have used a choir for their backing vocals. 
  • I watch music videos and what do I see? I see a choir singing and swaying in the background (Kanye West and John Legend are prime examples).
  • On the flip side, there have been many gospel choirs that have incorporated the ‘street style’ into their music – Natalie Wilson and the S.O.P Chorale are a case in point.

THERE AREN’T AS MANY NEW CHOIRS COMING THROUGH THE RANKS THESE DAYS. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS…?

  • I don’t think I agree. It depends on what you mean by ‘through the ranks’. You know, culture is not static and any cultural phenomenon will change and develop according to the times and the movements of any particular place. 
  • Personally speaking, a lot of the work that I do involves choirs all over the place – the local church choir is alive and strong. 
  • There are quite a few youth choirs that have sprung up – there’s Young Bloods, the I Can Choir, UPC – which tells me that young people still want to sing and that it’s not all about the street sound.
  • There are also workshop choirs all over the place, some run by gospel ‘professionals’ and others that have been started as a result as one or more people having been to a gospel workshop. 
  • This is a development that I find quite amazing – that people who are not from the gospel tradition will start up a choir on their own, and some in the most remotest of places, from Southampton to Hull to Scotland! 
  • There are also so many schools that have gospel choirs now, and the kids are loving it. There is also a very vibrant choir scene in Europe in places such as Poland, Denmark and Germany where they are hungry for the gospel in both senses of the word. People just love to sing corporately!

‘HOW DO YOU SEE THE CHORAL FORMAT EVOLVING…?

  • Well first it started off with the church choir, didn’t it? Now we have so many other types of choir. The local church choir is still alive and strong.  
  • There are quite a few lively and committed youth choirs that have sprung up that don’t just perform in their church, but at some high profile events.  UPC, (a youth choir that I direct with other members of the Kingdom Choir) is a case in point – they will be supporting The Harlem Gospel Singers soon.
  • There are also so many schools, colleges and universities that have gospel choirs now. An interesting example is the Revelation Choirs of which there are many in various universities around the country.  
  • I am told in Germany that they have what are known as ‘White Gospel’ choirs where all the members are white. 
  • I think that as the Word of God and the sound of gospel spreads, we will see more choirs that may have all Chinese or all Indian members.
  • Just as any cultural phenomenon changes and mutates with the movements of society, gospel too has changed and developed, rather than staying static.
  • It’s a fantastic thought that whilst it has developed to suit its surroundings, culture, and people, the message remains the same.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN OVER THE NEXT DECADE OR SO?

I really don’t think that choirs are going to go away. There is something that is so inclusive and so liberating about them – I see this all the time – choirs and singing in a unit really does something for people.

AND IN THE MEANTIME, WHAT’S NEXT FOR KINGDOM CHOIR?

At the minute, we are planning a mini-tour and also will begin writing for our next album shortly.  Apart from this, we have a number of dates coming up that people can check on our website…

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Legacy Series: Mr Damention – Blue Hearts and Golden Treasures

This series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of UKGospel.com, ensuring the history and evolution of the UK Gospel music scene is recorded and publicly accessible

  • Original publication date: 2 March 2015
  • Written and edited by: Yinka Awojobi

New Release from Singer/Songwriter/Drummer/Producer is an Excellent Departure from the Gospel Norm…. 

Back in one of the early UKGospel.com Podcast episodes the team engaged in a heated debate.

It centred around the reasons why many Gospel artists had (and arguably still have) a very narrow expressive palette from which to sing about life experiences. It certainly isn’t because they lack the expertise.  Far from it.

Reverent

However chances are your favourite mainstream Christian radio station or TV show rarely offers anything other than reverent music: you know, the songs that mainly deal with the ‘vertical’, focusing God-ward.  

  • And in many respects, rightly so.  That’s as it should be.  
  • But where then do we – and in this context, our Gospel artists – go to sing about, explore or engage in discussion about ‘horizontal’ issues? The deep and everyday tales of life and living?  

I’m willing to bet that your answer –  whatever it might be – falls under the category  ‘outside of church life’.

Unspoken Rules

Whatever the reason might be and however it’s transpired, we’ve somehow ended up with one of the biggest unspoken rules in popular mainstream Christian music:

  • If you don’t bring your full artistic endeavour to bear addressing grand Christian themes (like deliverance and salvation), don’t bother showing up: there’s a strong possibility you won’t get much exposure –  if any at all.
  • Don’t get me wrong: I realise these are very broad brush strokes I’m painting: Hip-Hop and RnB have covered stories on life and living for years, and the occasional horizontal song does seep through from time to time.  

However the main point here is that much of it doesn’t find its way into our ‘mainstream’.

Losing Talent

  • Perhaps that’s also why the church continues to lose many a promising talent:
  • This unwritten rule makes it difficult to even acknowledge the existence of the greyer issues of faith, restricting the artist’s freedom to chronicle the everyday in a context that may not be overtly connected to faith.

Mr DaMention

Which brings me to the newest release from Dami Adeoye.  If you know him at all it’ll be under his nom de plume ‘Mr DaMention‘, a 24-going-on-25 year-old singer/songwriter/drummer/producer and one of London Gospel’s bright talents.

Blue Hearts  & Golden Treasures

Blue Hearts & Golden Treasures‘ is the latest release in a long line of individual Mr DaMention projects going back quite a few years (he’s worked with the likes of Karl Nova and Triple O, to mention just two other names you’re likely to be familiar with).

It’s telling that when I tweeted him to ask where I could find the new EP his first response was (and I quote): ‘these aren’t love songs to Jesus though’.  

Once again, our unspoken rule kicks in.

Still, this is an extremely strong set.  And like the man says: these ain’t love songs to Jesus, but something much closer to home.  

Blue Hearts & Golden Treasures deals with something more mundane but nevertheless quite universal: the exploration of the love between a boy and a girl.

Yes, folks.  These are love songs, plain and simple.  If that offends you in some way, look away now.

Here’s the shocker, though: Christians fall in love.  And if this our weird convention is to be believed, this process shouldn’t be creatively documented anywhere.  

Thankfully Blue Hearts & Golden Treasures shows what’s possible when this restriction is ignored.

This is a collection of lush RnB, a sensitively written and well-observed slice of life in the best of classic love story conventions: boy meets girl.  Boy likes girl.  Boy pledges love to girl.

Even the longing pain of waiting to hear back from the girl of your dreams is somehow made pleasurably wistful.

High-Flown Language

  • It’s all here: the wonderfully high-flown language and the hope of requited love  (‘The Pearl‘ and ‘More Than Friends‘ are delicious highlights), and the reckless joy of the early stages of falling in love (wonderfully demonstrated in ‘Wear My Love‘ – Nego True deserves special mention for the spoken word segment).
  • And since the original release of the EP, an excellent remix of ‘The Pearl‘ has swiftly followed, featuring Triple O (so you know it’s going to be quality).
  • Production is up the usual impressive DaMention standard, and the entire set is draped in a brilliant, mellow sonic atmosphere that works wonders for the subject matter.

In case you’re still in any doubt: I not only really like this project, I urge you to download it and give it a listen yourself.

The sooner we can encourage our artists to explore and express the entirety of life and living every which way they can, the sooner the entirety of Christian music becomes all the better, richer and more fulfilling for it…

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