Category Archives: UKGospel Legacy

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

Sometimes kicking back is absolutely the right thing to do…

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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.

Explore More

Legacy Series: Tryumf – Fast Facts

The ‘Legacy’ series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of, 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. 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…


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’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


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

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


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

‘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..’.


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.


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..’


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


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, 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.  


Yinka Awojobi
Content Development

‘Behind the Beat’: A UK 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…


  • 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… 


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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.


  • 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…



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


  • 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


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


  • 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.


  • 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’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


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, 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 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…


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.


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.


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.



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!


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…?


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.



  • 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.


  • 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.



  • 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.


  • 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!


  • 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.


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.


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…


Legacy Series: Mr Damention – Blue Hearts and Golden Treasures

This series is part of the content migration programme from earlier versions of, 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 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.


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…

EXPLORE MORE version 3: We’re Live!

After about 5 or 6 years of:

  • Starting and stopping
  • Copying and pasting
  • Writing and editing
  • Doubting and being confident
  • HTMLing and Adobe Flashing

Today, the BRAND NEW version 3 website is LIVE!!!! YAAAAAAAY!!!

So, what next..?

Well, the project has been going for almost 2 decades. As you can imagine so many things have changed in that space of time:

  • We’ve gone from static HTML pages to community forums embedded in websites
  • Forum conversations migrated from the websites to social networking (RIP MySpace)
  • Then everything again morphed into what they called Web 2.0,
  • All of a sudden not only could we read about the UK Gospel music scene, we could actually watch and listen to the music we were all getting excited about
  • I went CRAZY on Soundclick and did over ONE HUNDRED mixes to promote singles, EPs and albums on the store, UKGShop (RIP).
  • The mixes are still there – have a listen

The Beginning of the End – Flash

In 2010 Steve Jobs wrote his infamous Thoughts on Flash open letter, spelling the beginning of end for the technology that had allowed people like me with no HTML programming knowledge to design websites.

The two early versions of, version 1 and 1.5 (don’t ask) had been designed in Moonfruit – it’s drag and drop interface was perfect for visual designers like me version 1

While it’s taken the better part of 10 years for Flash to fully die (Adobe announced in 2017 that it will stop supporting Flash by 2020, and Google’s Chrome browser officially stopped supporting it on January 2021), I still have so many great stories in Moonfruit that I’ll be transferring over here.

UKGospel Legacy project

A New Dawn

  • The scene has had an incredible run over the last 5-6 years: recording technology has never been cheaper, release cycles have never been more frequent, the diversity has never been this varied or vibrant.
  • There’s still so much to say, but this was supposed to be a very short post on the UKGospel Instagram feed that’s somehow ended up being a stream of consciousness piece
  • I’ll end by saying this: it’s a sparkling new dawn for, but there’s even more good news: there are more platforms than ever before supporting this incredible, diverse, pulsating, creative and passionate scene. I list some of them in another post (see below)

Rebrand Journey

Who remembers that Nokia phone??? 🙂

I’ll be using this series to share the journey: everything from transferring some of those classic stories from the scene to the evolution of the visual identity (I suppose you can call it a rebrand)


We’re living in the age of video so keep an eye out for the occasional behind-the-scenes video update (like this one)

So much more to say, but I’d better stop now. I still have to write this ‘Ladies of UKGospel’ post and I have less than 6 hours to do it – and I haven’t even started it yet!

Explore More

Legacy Series: Muyiwa on BET’s ‘Celebration of Gospel’

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

  • Original publication date: 28 January 2009
  • Written and edited by: Yinka Awojobi


Why Muyiwa Olarewaju’s appearance on BET’s flagship gospel show is hugely significant for UK Gospel.

Muyiwa & Riversongz are the first international act to feature on BET’s influential Gospel music TV showcase. It was time to find out how that all came to pass…

You probably know the bible states that God exalts the humble. Muyiwa Olarewaju is the archetypal humble guy, in the most sincere sense of the word.


In my view genuine humility is hard to pull off.  When any talent presents obvious evidence of itself, the talented individual in question can almost come across as the very thing they are trying to avoid: at best unable to accept a simple compliment and worst, ever-so-subtly arrogant.  

Or maybe I’m just projecting my own frustrations here… 🙂

Caught Out

When Muyiwa says he’s just as caught out by his astounding rise as everyone else, I believe him.  Even the cliche, ‘it’s all God’ stock response we all revert to doesn’t sound so corny coming from him…

Anyway, the annual BET ‘Celebration Of Gospel’ 2009 is aired in the UK on the 8th Feb 2009. Muyiwa and Riversongz are the first international act (not just a UK one) to feature on this massive show. 

When I heard about it, I knew it deserved more than just an entry in the News section.  

So I fired off a few quick questions to the man.  I’m sure I’m going to do more with him (there’s also a rather decent ‘Behind The Beat’ feature he did a while back on Version 1 which I need to transfer here), but for now: have a read of this and be inspired. 

I certainly was….

How did you get the gig?

Good question!  Interesting, it was something that some of the artists on the bill at the event asked us and all we could say was: God… It truly was!

There were no agents, record companies, managers that made it happen. It was just God.  Of course once the inquiry was out by BET, then booking agents, etc, got involved.  It should be an encouragement to the guys here in the UK who are quietly beavering away…   

The bible puts it this way: ‘…Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding…’

What was the experience like?

Where do I start!?  I could talk all night about it!  We have all been talking about it since 8th December 2008!  What was happening really didn’t register before we got there.  

When we landed in Los Angeles’ LAX Airport there was a limo that was bigger than anything I have ever seen or been in before.  Driven by an ex Navy Seal… We felt safe!

Then we get to the hotel and I had a meeting with the Head of International programming who told us that apart from our performance, they will be making a 30-minute documentary on us! This was great.

Then we get to the rehearsals, and you see all these artists where the only reason I had seen or been near them before would have been my radio show… Then finding out that we were the first ever ‘International act ‘ on the show, as they put it…

There is so much to tell but BET certainly treated us like – to answer your question in one word after my long story – Amazing!!!!!

How much do you think the UK sound is appreciated over there?

I really can’t speak for other times but from this one experience at the Orpheum Theatre, it would appear America has been waiting for the ‘UK sound!’ 

Every time we rehearsed the place came to a standstill, it was like: ‘who are these guys???’

Then it’s followed by rapturous applause. UK def gained a few fans!!! LOL!

What would your advice be to other artists looking to achieve (and even exceed) this kind of level?

So much to say to them:

  1. This level can be easily exceeded if you hold on!
  2. Apart from ‘Jesus is Lord’, the other mantra that Muyiwa & Riversongz have is ‘RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS! RELATIONSHIPS! RELATIONSHIPS and RELATIONSHIPS!!!!!’   It’s not money you need, it’s RELATIONSHIPS!!!!!
  3. Like Russell Simmons said in his book: just ‘DO YOU’. 

America and the rest of the world is not waiting for a copy of what they do, we didn’t get onto the show because we were trying to do the American thang.

We were doing the Jesus UK thing… Innit, though!

Having been selected for BET’s Celebration Of Gospel, what do you think is the challenge for the UK in sustaining a presence at that level?

I think there are many obstacles. 

  • For many in the UK it’s a struggle to get a record done.  Then when you scrape and fast and pray and do everything to get it done, you have no resources to promote.
  • Artists don’t attain the COG level only because they worked hard, but the distribution of the albums is wide reaching, the promotion (TV, radio, online, etc) is very strong… The list goes on…
  • All these things require resources.  For us the challenge now is tying up the right relationships to make the necessary thing work, but we are looking to God to open doors… 

We already have more invites to USA in the month of January than we did all 2008.

What’s next for Muyiwa?

I definitely need to keep the radio show and in-flight entertainment shows going [Muyiwa presents an In-flight show called ‘Sounds Of Africa’ for Lufthansa Airlines, produced by’s George Luke].  

COG inspired all of us a great deal to go back and continue to strive to be the best we can. 

Whilst we were at the COG and the 30 minute documentary was being made about us, BET got me to present a few bits, and one thing led to another, so it looks like there may be some TV work coming but don’t tell anyone…lol!!!

What’s next for Muyiwa & Riversongz?

To think when ‘Declaring His Love’ was number 1 on HMV’s charts for 5 months we thought we had arrived – only to be shown another level…. Bring it on!!!!!!

  • We will be doing a great deal of travelling! USA, Europe and Africa… 
  • We’re also in the middle of writing the next album ‘Declaring His Name’. We are doing some appearances in China, Pakistan, and India with local worship leaders…
  • We also have a one day event for worship leaders, pastors and all who are interested and involved in music in church: ‘What If…’

We should be launching it soon and the event is later in the year.  You can hit us up on and find out more… 

Explore More


  •  A seasoned radio presenter, Muyiwa  hosts the the flagship show  “Gospel Tonight” and “Worship Tonight” on Premier Radio as well as presenting  “Sounds Of Africa” on Lufthansa Airlines.
  • Since releasing his three albums ‘Restoration’, ‘Declaring His Power’ and ‘Declaring His Love’, Muyiwa’s voice has become instantly recognisable and one that he hopes will unite people of all races, cultures and denominations. 

GreenJade – Celebrating the Scars of Our Heroes

It was 11 years this week that the legendary UK Gospel Hip-Hop group GreenJade unofficially disbanded

It’s almost impossible to overstate their impact on the UK Gospel Street Music scene.

  • GreenJade - Sitting on pavement

A decade ago Hip-Hop and Gospel music were very strange bedfellows to many Christians.

Some people weren’t merely apathetic to the mixing of scripture and Street Beats – they found it difficult to separate mainstream Hip-Hop’s hedonistic reputation from the Christian passion the artists brought to the art form, many of whom delivered at levels highly comparable to what you found on your radio at the time.

Like many of their contemporaries, GreenJade had to endure a combination of misunderstanding at best, and – when things got extreme (and personal) – accusations of being downright satanic.

And that’s not an exaggeration. Nostalgia often dulls the mind to the tearing sharpness of moments we remember with fondness.


This aspect of our history has always fascinated me, so when I got the call from @Wizdom to do a shoot with the guys I couldn’t resist the chance to record a significant piece that history.

We found ourselves in Central and East London on a summer’s afternoon, and over a few hours, took a few pictures and had a few laughs.

This was one of a few photo shoots I did with the guys (I think we ended up doing two or three over the years).

Weird Persecution

If you think I’m laying it on a bit thick when I talk about the weird persecution a lot of artists of that era received, watch Wizdom’s video below to hear the stories of their experiences first-hand.

If you’re a UK Gospel Street Music artist of any stripe:

Behold: these are the shoulders of the giants you’re standing on…


#UKGospelLegacy – Victizzle: Jam Yourself

About 13 years ago Victizzle almost singlehandedly changed the sound of Gospel Music coming out of the streets of London…

Limited choice

It’s almost difficult to believe these days, but at one time – and it feels like it wasn’t that long ago – your UK Gospel music options were limited to the classic choir vibe, a little Soul and some RnB (and let’s not forget back then even the crooners were getting it in the neck from some Church music purists)

Into church by the back door

Spoken Word was a willing partner in the journey bringing Hip-Hop into church by the back door, even though the Hip-Hop pioneers were singled out for a special kind of wrath from the faithful.

Sound of the streets

All the while, kids around the country related more to the sounds they heard on the streets, but were dissatisfied with the lyrical content carried over those beats.


They started to experiment with these sounds, infusing them with Christian themes on lifestyle, evangelism and the challenges of day to day living.


For Victor ‘Victizzle’ Akata things really took off with ‘Jam Yourself’ the ‘Enhanced CD’ (remember those..?) 🙂

It perfectly captured the spirit of the time in terms of fierce Christian pride, a go-get-it attitude that’s now so commonplace in the scene, and references to old-school technology (who remembers ‘Limewire’?) 

Jam Yourself

Impressively, the video to ‘Jam Yourself’ was shot and co-edited by Victizzle while he was in college