Tag Archives: Artist

Great ‘Mainstream’ Songs from Christian Artists (Part 4)

This is the fourth instalment in the series looking at UK Gospel artists and their exploration of the world of ‘mainstream’ music.

You already know the back story: we’re still navigating the long-running discussion around how best to respond to Christian artists creating music that isn’t evangelical by default.

It’s an interesting, if somewhat ironic, state of affairs because – given the chance – the same highly critical audience might grow to appreciate what’s on offer.  But hey, that’s another blog for another day.

Meantime here are another 3 artists to check out: The Kingdom Choir, Gavin Holligan and Riccy Mitchell

The Kingdom Choir

Before that one song at Harry and Meghan’s wedding changed everything (the couple reportedly rejected 10 versions of ‘Stand by Me’ before we got the one we heard), The Kingdom Choir had been consistently doing what many exemplar UK choirs do: hit the road, do the rounds and make good music.

2018 brought them global attention (they returned from accompanying Harry and Meghan on their tour for this year’s Invictus Games in Australia barely 24 hours ago).

Anyway, long story short: The Kingdom Choir’s  album, ‘Stand By Me’ is out now.

Showcase: Stand By Me

Gavin Holligan

After signing a lucrative deal with premiership team West Ham FC, shortly followed by a debut appearance at Anfield against Liverpool FC, no one would ever imagine that a professional footballer would ever turn his back on the world of sport and find his way onto the big stage performing with Stevie Wonder, Jocelyn Brown, Aswad and Floetry, but that’s what Gavin Holligan did!

(Text taken from Gavin Holligan’s website)

Showcase: More Than One

For my money Gavin Holligan has written one of the best, racially and culturally relevant songs to come out of the UK this year.

Riccy Mitchell

Ricardo Mitchell is one of the many, many, many underrated artists that deserves wayyyy more exposure than he currently has.

I’m sure there are a whole bucketload of reasons why that is, but I’m playing my part to help rectify the situation. 🙂

According to his Facebook page he’s an artist ‘Having a bunch of fun telling stories on songs…’

Showcase: As Time Moves Along

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Great ‘Mainstream’ Songs from Christian Artists

The debate around whether Christian artists should create exclusively evangelical (or at least overtly Christian) content is unlikely to be resolved this side of heaven.

In the meantime I thought it’ll be interesting to launch this new series examining what actually happens when people who profess the Christian faith actually record music that – to coin a phrase – doesn’t ‘have Jesus in every line…’

No Answers

I don’t claim to have any answers – if anything I find I’ve ended up with more questions as I ponder this issue.

But one thought I keep returning to is this:

If we Christians were a bit more accommodating of our creatives who – by the very nature of what they do – bare more of their thoughts and souls than the rest of us are naturally inclined to, then perhaps many of them won’t opt to ‘go secular’.

If we’re being honest it’s fair to say we’re constantly pushing (perhaps the word should be ‘stifling’) our artists by being tacitly prescriptive and cornering them into a ‘either/or’ choice regarding the flavour of their art.

Quite often – arguably more often than we’d probably care to admit – life is grey.

Surely it makes more sense to let the gifted use their gift to articulate this experience…?

Just a thought.

Anyway: on with the series.

This time: Samm Henshaw, Jake Isaac and Happi

Samm Henshaw

From Samm’s wikipedia page:

Samm essentially found his love for music and learned to play instruments in his church pastored by his father, where he developed his abilities further.

Alongside gospel artists Helen Baylor, Fred Hammond, Israel Houghton and Alvin Slaughter, Henshaw is said to have spent his childhood devouring mainstream pop music, from Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to Usher and N*Sync.

Henshaw pinpoints his biggest vocal inspirations as D’Angelo, Paolo Nutini, Lauryn Hill as well finding songwriting inspiration in Grammy award winner Frank Ocean.

Showcase: ‘These Hands’

Samm Henshaw Spotify profile

Happi

From Happi’s website:

Happi is one of the new and vibrant talents emerging out of the UK scene.

Hailing from the heart of North London, Happi has successfully merged his afro/urban background, trendy pop sounds and a positive message to create his own musical identity.

Showcase:The Introduction

Happi Spotify Profile

Jake Isaac

From Jake’s Facebook ‘About’ page

Born and raised in south London, UK, Jake began playing drums at the age of 3 and during his school years taught himself to play piano and bass guitar.

By the age of 16 he had completed his grade 8 drums at Trinity College London, and had begun teaching the instrument.

At 19, whilst studying marketing at university, Jake had begun to make a living as a part-time session musician playing drums and bass on various jazz and rock records for a variety of international artists, including the Grammy-award winning Duffy.

Marketing manager by day, songwriter and session musician by night, Jake began working with artists such as Cynthia Erivo, Gabrielle, and boy band Blue.

Showcase: ‘Carry You Home ft J.P. Cooper’

Jake Isaac Spotify profile

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Things you probably missed in 2017 that you need to catch up with – NOW

Podcasts, music and reality TV winners – here’s some good stuff you might have missed in 2017

We’re halfway through 2018 and in this always-on, news-by-the-second age we live in, harking back to anything that took place more than 24 hours ago can almost feel a little weird.

However: the one thing I still hear almost more than anything else when it comes to activity in the UK Gospel scene is how nothing seems to be happening.

I know, right..?

Anyway, what that does mean is that it gives me the perfect excuse for a quick 2017 retrospective: highlighting good stuff that might have either passed you by, or – if you caught it first time around (well done, you) – is still worth revisiting.

Podcasts

The Lift Show is produced and hosted by Roger Moore’s GL360 Media.

The GL brand has been many things over the years (events promotions outfit, magazine, record label), and in every one of those cases the Birmingham-based team has delivered to an impressive standard.

This typically 2-hour podcast covers everything from topical issues (Black superheroes and domestic violence) to rather more provocative fare (‘Why I’ve Stopped Listening to Kirk Franklin’).

Hook up with GL360:

Reality TV – Vade

Sing – Ultimate Acapella was Sky TV’s foray into Saturday night shiny floor entertainment a la X Factor and The Voice.

It followed the standard competition format, its key selling point being that the featured talent were acapella groups of varying stripes: classic, beatbox, contemporary and, of course, Gospel.

What was even better (especially with a genre like acapella) was that there was no place for the acts to hide; whatever talent was (or wasn’t) on offer became very obvious, very quickly.

It was won by Vadé, who by complete coincidence I had seen live in the play Here I Stand, based on the life Martin Luther just a few weeks before.

Their live sound is flawless, so much so that multiple times during the production I found myself checking to make sure they weren’t miming to a soundtrack. They weren’t.

The prize for winning S:UA was a recording contract with Decca Records and ‘Cry your Heart Out’, their debut album for the label was released in December.

Check it out below.

Artists

Joshua Luke Smith

Joshua Luke Smith recently signed to Residence Music, an American label set up to support Christian artists that make music not specifically focused on the Christian marketplace.

But you know how the story goes: almost every overnight success has been years in the making.

He’s a solid artist with an impressive depth and measure to his body of work, a creative whose output is not only weighty but thoroughly considered.

If this is the first time you’re coming across him take your time to enjoy the experience – you’ll be greatly rewarded.

Inder-Paul Sandhu

I was particularly pleased with the emergence of the next artist: we’ve been particularly under-served when it comes to artists of Asian origin in the Gospel scene.

I’ve no doubt there are plenty of good people doing plenty of good work out there, we just don’t get to hear about them.

I’d been aware of Inder-Paul Sandhu for a while but didn’t fully follow up on his incredible work rate and output. The funny thing was every glimpse I caught of what he was about was quality.

He, like Joshua Luke Smith, is one of the most complete artists I’ve come across in a while: fantastically self-aware with a moving back story, and on a journey to share his personal powerful mission of faith.

For my money he should have a much higher profile than he actually does on the scene – and I can’t quite work out why he doesn’t.

Still, the scene’s loss is the mainstream’s gain, as he’s starting to gain decent traction outside of Gospel circles.

If you’re a Hip-Hop fan on the lookout for your favourite new artist, one that knows his old school but brings it with new school flair, excellently held together with compelling stories of real life, living and faith, Inder-Paul should certainly be on your list of people to check out.

Janine Dyer

Janine has been doing her thing for as long as I’ve been doing UKGospel.com. The main difference between the two of us is that she’s barely changed while the march of grey hair continues across my head.

She popped back into the spotlight in 2016 during season 5 of The Voice, and followed that appearance with the GKid-produced ‘Rhythm of Life’ last year.

If you missed it, fix that mistake now.

ZoeGrace

If their YouTube viewing numbers are anything to go by ZoeGrace is arguably one of UK Gospel’s best kept (and biggest) secrets

With a steady video output that offers a combination of obligatory covers of popular hits (their version of Stormzy’s ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ now has 1.5 million YouTube views at the time of writing and their cover of J Moss’ ‘Sweet Jesus’ has 10 million+) running alongside original material, there’s enough here for you to check out, especially if you’ve never heard of these 19 year old twin girls.

ZoeGrace – Sweet Jesus (J Moss cover)

Still Shadey

I met Still Shadey when I was on a panel for one of AStepFWD’s music conferences.

He left a very distinct impression because one thing he categorically promised in our post-session conversation was that I’ll be hearing much more of him.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard that, typically from artists who more often than not totally underestimate the level of work it takes to make that kind of a splash in an industry as fragmented as this.

Needless to say he was good to his word, and when I finally came across his music and catalogue (not to mention his breathtaking work rate) I was (and still am) very impressed.

His ‘Light in the Shade’ release is very strong but my 2017 favourite was ‘Walk with a Bop’

Melvillous

I’m a huge, huge, huge Melvillous fan. The guy just can’t put a foot wrong in my book.

Ever since I came across him on the extremely clever ‘The Check Up’ I’ve been completely enthralled by his stunningly perfect combination of streetwise sounds, wit and disarmingly transparent journey of faith.

I kept returning to his ‘Local’ EP time and again last year (that’s saying something in light of the near-limitless options we all have with access to music these days).

If you’re in the market for best-in-class, best-of-the-best Street music (Gospel or otherwise), put this guy on your ‘must check out’ list.

Industry

Over the decade and a bit I’ve been doing this few things have been as consistent as the complaint from artists regarding the lack of quality support, tools, knowledge and information to help them navigate the music industry.

Ironically it’s also the same reason why the scene is never really short of seminars, conferences and open conversations in any given year.

For my money IAIMA is one of the very best resources to pitch its tent in this space in a decade.

I strongly believe that any artist starting their journey in this digital age has **zero excuse** for not making decent headway on the basics like branding, promotion, marketing and social media (deep knowledge and easy to use tools are only a search engine away).

Having said that: few things beat hearing first hand from people who have walked a path you’re about to embark on share their experiences, and – more importantly – divulge essential tips and pitfalls to avoid for the journey.

That’s where IAIMA comes in. Set up my music industry veterans Loretta Andrews and Bianca Rose, there’s lots to learn here.

So, there you have it, it’s three months late and I had to reduce the number of really good things that I wanted to bring you so I could get this out.

This is only a very small part of the really good things that went on across the UK Gospel scene last year.

And, yes, there’s no doubt some of this activity is hard to find but it’s sometimes worth it to uncover some really good musical gems.

And by way of helping you in your quest to find more great UK Gospel music content here are, in no particular order, a few other places you might want to check out for the good stuff:

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5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out (Part 2)

You Can Do it

This series celebrates a sometimes contentious area of Christian music: the ‘non-evangelical’ output.

Over the years we’ve sadly lost far too many hugely talented creatives to the wrong side of the unwritten (but oddly pervasive) law that suggests every sphere of Christian creative activity has to have an evangelical aspect to it.

I’m sure you know the one: it postulates all Christian songs need ‘Jesus in every line’.

Continue reading 5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out (Part 2)

5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out (Part 1)

Be a Good One

There’s no way to sugar coat this.

Over the years the UK Gospel scene has sadly lost a huge amount of incredibly talented people to the blight of an unwritten rule:

‘Christian artists should only write about explicitly Christian experiences’.

(And of course you can replace ‘write’ with practically any creative endeavour whatsoever and get the same result.  It’s a deeply-held, strongly felt conviction in many quarters).

That’s all well and good, but the fact of the matter is that the totality of our human experience is, by its very definition, our Christian experience.

Exclusively ‘Christian’

When faced with the choice between either producing exclusively ‘Christian’ content (and being continually embraced by the church at large) or having a much broader creative palette that may not be as explicit on faith issues, many of our artists have had to make the hard (and often very sad) choice of opting for the latter.

I don’t know why it’s that way. It just is. Sad but true.

Fuel to the Fire

But rather than add fuel to this eons-old fire and end up with yet another (unnecessary and unending) argument, I’m going to be part of the solution with this series.

I’ll point you in the direction of some really good music that’s worthy of your time, created by people who may or may not still be ‘in church’. 

Not Prescriptive or Evangelical

These are songs that often aren’t necessarily prescriptive or even evangelical, but nevertheless have their world view informed by Christian tenets.

You’ll probably never hear ‘repent and be saved’ in these songs but the principle of ‘help your fellow man regardless of his social or ethnic background’ (for example) is pretty much straight out of the Luke 10:25 play book (that’s the story of the Good Samaritan, by the way).

Give Me Your Suggestions!

While this is a blog series based on my suggestions please send me any songs you think qualify and I’ll see if I can include them in later posts.

A Friendly Word of Warning

Now that you know where I’m coming from let’s get this show on the road.

However, a friendly a word of caution: I’m not suggesting one style of music or creative writing is more relevant, superior or meaningful than another.

In fact, from where I’m standing we need music that covers the entire spectrum of life and living.

I welcome all comments, but let’s keep it civil and open. Ultimately there’s always the option for us to agree to disagree.

Got that? Thanks.

5 Inspirational UK ‘Gospel’ Tracks You Have to Check Out

1. Artist: Monique
Track: Colourful
Find at: Facebook.com/MoniqueMusicUK

I’ve been a huge fan of Birmingham-based Monique’s writing for years (I strongly recommend you check her entire body of work).

In this song several things come together: beautifully written words (perfectly complimented by Tony Bean’s brilliant, sun-filled production) and the classic story of Christian conversion told in the most picturesque of ways.

If you don’t know this one already, you’re about to enjoy a really good song…

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

‘You’ve altered the colours of my mind/To a new dimension of time/It’s eternal beyond the sky/There is more than meets the eye/Who could ask for any more? Supernatural love’.

2. Artist: Caleb
Track: Free Someday
Find at: Facebook.com/caleb.ajitena

This is one of those lyrically ambitious endeavours that tries to distil (and resolve) all the world’s problems in a 4 minute+ song, and it largely succeeds. Free Someday’s optimistic, aspirational Gospel root is pretty much undeniable.

I like that Caleb has attempted to write a timeless classic in the vein of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ (and before you crucify me for these ambitious comparisons, have a listen yourself).

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

‘See our brothers and sisters/Going off to war/Not knowing what they’re fighting for/Listen, if you see the things I see/Then you’ll feel the same as me/Cause things have got to get better’

3. Artist: Victizzle
Track: I Dey Fine
Find at: @VictizzleMusic

I don’t know why one of our most talented producers isn’t as visible on the Gospel scene as he once was (I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of a back story here), but one of Victizzle’s most recent releases references hard work and determination to better one’s individual circumstance.

It’s the latest in a long line of productions gaining traction under his new production collective, ‘London Boyz‘ (Remedee, Big J, Captain and Victizzle himself).

It’s a real shame Victizzle’s isn’t as active as before (if you’re reading this there’s a very high probability you know at least 2-3 really big Victizzle tunes).  I’d argue our scene is poorer for it.

Like I said: I’m sure there’s history here (I could probably find out if I really wanted but to be honest I don’t really need to).

However this what this series is about: asking uncomfortable questions to which I may not necessarily have any answers.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

‘Think you know/But you don’t know/I’m telling you that/I’m gonna blow/And if you don’t believe me/I’m gonna show/My mama never raised no fool’.

4. Artist: Rio Young
Track: Music ft Da Fellowship
Find at: Facebook.com/RioYoungOfficial

This is one of my all time favourite songs to come out of the UK, full stop.

Ironically I came across this via Da Fellowship’s EP (I think they only ever did this one) but in the intervening years Rio went on to put out a massive body of work.

The near-perfect groove on this hugely under-appreciated classic is from production duo Wez Er Nate (Wesley Muoria and Nathan Ledwidge at the height of their considerable production powers). I still play this on a pretty regular basis.

The song argues for music as a neutral entity, ostensibly abused by its end-user’s intention. Along the way, Rio references his mixed race background, racial tension, domestic violence, mental health and more. Totally inspirational tune.

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

‘Music is life/But how’s it used/I mourn for you, music/Cause you’re abused/They spit at you/Rap dirty bars over your tunes/Cause of the street life/Music you’re accused’

5. Artist: Icie
Track: Whips and Chains
Find at: Facebook.com/iciemusicofficial

Icie is one of UK Gospel’s modern-day troubadours.  His narrative requires you invest time to enter his world (which I suspect limits him having a truly deserved wider audience), but what a world it is: honest, meticulous, well-observed, challenging and refreshingly cliche-free.

Whips and Chains is an ode to post-Windrush achievement, also celebrating African and Black British enterprise in a 2000s UK environment where – for whatever reason – we seem more obsessed with pointing out all that’s wrong with the Black British experience, regardless of the stellar achievements of so many young people.

Case in point: most of the people name checked (and there are quite a few) are in their 20s and 30s, from Rachel Kerr to Reggie Yates to Craig David to Jordan Dunn and many, many more.

Sure, you can argue for socio-political parity in wider society,  but – as Icie points out – young Black Britain is actually pretty phenomenal right here, right now too…

NOTABLE LYRIC/LINE

Local MCs turn to global icons/Front cover kids from the same place that I’m from

So there you have it: series part 1.  Let me know your thoughts (and more importantly your suggestions) for Part 2 in the comments

I’ll try and include some of them in the next instalment.

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Rejoice and Sing Unto The Lord: A New ‘Power Praise’ is Coming Soon!

Howard Francis (left) and Mark Beswick

It’s the announcement countless fans of classic UK Gospel Praise & Worship music have been waiting, quite literally, years for.

Howard Francis made a large number of people very happy indeed (208 Likes and counting on Facebook at the time of my writing of this), as he confirmed both he and the equally-awesome Mark Beswick are (finally) giving in to massive demand and reconvening the ‘Power Praise’ worship project for another recording.

Chances are you know at least one Power Praise song, and (along with countless gatherings around the globe), sing them in your church: ‘Wave Your Hands’, ‘The King Is Coming’ ‘Rejoice, Rejoice’ and, of course, the ultimate Church congregational worship classic, ‘Sing Unto The Lord’.

Further details will be released in due course but as they’ve only just started the project it’s reasonable to peg it for a 2017 release.

It’s also a sure bet everyone’s expecting the whole gang to return for this one too, from Howard to Mark and of course Nicky Brown, to mention just three.

And while we bide our time, waiting for new music to be served up, refresh your memory (or discover for the first time) ‘The King Is Coming’.

Click the link to play in Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/album/7gPCiH2UMAMfPquJ5D5Lvv

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3 Music Videos to Check Out Right Now (5 March 2016)

The weekend beginning 4th March 2016 has been good for new visuals.

Music videos out from the UK Gospel scene this weekend are sufficiently varied to sustain even the most abstracts of tastes: Contemporary African Praise & Worship, RnB/Soul and Hip-Hop from a 5 year old (yes, you read that right).

Continue reading 3 Music Videos to Check Out Right Now (5 March 2016)

UK Gospel Forward-Look: Exciting Trends for 2016

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The UK Gospel scene frequently has to endure unhelpful comments about the state of its health, typically in the shape of (mainly uninformed) comparisons between it and the more mature US market: nothing ever happens here. Apparently.

Yinka Awojobi makes the case for exciting developments and continued optimism in 2016.

Good Thing

I haven’t done one of these annual forward-looks in so long it’s actually taking serious effort to get back into the swing of things.

The main reason? I hadn’t felt much of a need.  And that’s a good thing, trust me.

Let me explain: these days, getting your UK Gospel music industry news is nowhere near as challenging as it used to be. There are lots of good places to get it from.

Continue reading UK Gospel Forward-Look: Exciting Trends for 2016

New Music – Natty Joshia: ‘Rollercoaster’

Click to download Rollercoaster from NoisetradeLondon might get all the attention, but if we’re going to be honest about this Birmingham can also lay a justifiable claim to at least co-owning the soul of UK Gospel music.

Just my two pence, but I know many who’ll agree with that 🙂

Natty Joshia‘s new release ‘Rollercoaster’ ft Shyan is out now, taken from his debut EP Rollercoaster, due March 26th 2015.

Here’s the official press release:

From sharing a stage with Mali Music to headlining with Guvna B, UK singer-songwriter musician Natty Joshia is fast becoming one of the UK’s most respected underground artist and is set to dominate the gospel chart with his new single, ‘Rollercoaster’ ft. Shyan Smith.

After continuously stealing critical acclaim coupled with the ability to transcend musical genres with tracks such as ‘Draw Me Close’ and ‘Question,’ Natty brings us Rollercoaster which is set for release on 19th February.

With a touch of neo soul, mash up of contemporary R&B, uplifting lyrics and extraordinary soulful vocals Rollercoaster reminds us that through the complexities of life and challenging times, God will always remain in control, some of you may think you’ve reached your limits, gone as far as you can, but God has the final say.

This is not your average ‘gospel’ track or your typical R&B jam, this is music that feeds your soul … .’Rollercoaster’

Now you get a chance to make up your own mind – listen to a snippet below:

How to Get It

Click image to download from NoiseTrade (opens in new window)
Click image to download from NoiseTrade (opens in new window)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download at Natty’s NoiseTrade page: http://noisetrade.com/nattyjoshia/roller-coaster

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New Wades Generation Release Superb Memorial Single

Sons, daughters, nieces and nephews of the Wades continue family musical legacy with new group ‘The Wades Next Generation’.

Their debut single in ‘Go Harder’ has just been released and is in memory of Derek Wade (part of the pioneering 80s/90s UK Gospel sibling group The Wades) who sadly died on 6th January 2014.

‘Go Harder’ features the vocal talents of Varren Wade, Ashley David, Jalissa, Jazz Montell and Coco Dupree. It was produced by Dean ‘Deanyboy’ Livermore (who also contributed to the vocals).

Watch the video

Buy the single

The Wades Next Generation - Go HarderBuy on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/go-harder-single/id949964144

Follow on Twitter

@TheWadesNextGen
@VarrenWade
@MrAshleyDavid
@JalissaMusic
@Jazz_Montell
@CocoDupreeMuzic
@DeanyBoyMusic