Tag Archives: gospel

Artist Profiles: Soweto Gospel Choir

Soweto Gospel Choir

Soweto Gospel Choir is a vocal ensemble, performing in 8 different languages. its performances are an inspirational program of tribal, traditional and popular African gospel.

Under the direction of the notable choirmaster David Mulovhedzi, the Soweto Gospel Choir, draws on the best talent from the many churches and communities in and around Soweto. Since the Choir began touring internationally in early 2003 they have performed to nightly standing ovations, sold-out houses and rave reviews.

As well as traditional African Gospel, the ensemble also performs “Amazing Grace,” “Paradise Road,” and music by Otis Redding and the soul-styled reggae of Jimmy Cliff. The ensemble also features traditional dancers and drummers and a dynamic four-piece band.

In October 2004 the Choir completed a highly successful five week tour of the United Kingdom. In August they returned to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where they performed their new show Blessed to packed houses and rave reviews. A highlight for the Choir was the opportunity to onstage with Anastasia, Queen, Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens and Annie Lennox, to an audience of 26,000 at Nelson Mandela’s Aids Fundraising concert in Cape Town in December 2003, which was broadcast around the globe on MTV.

The Soweto Gospel Choir commenced its first tour to the United States in January 2005 to great acclaim. This followed a two month tour of Germany and Spain.

Discography:

Voices from Heaven (Shanachie Records, 2005)
Blessed (Shanachie Records, 2006)
African Spirit (Shanachie Records, 2007)
Grace (Shanachie Records, 2010)
Freedom (Shanachie Records, 2018)

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Soweto Gospel Choir to Celebrate Nelson Mandela’s Centennial July 18th with A Song From Their Upcoming Album Freedom

On September 14, 2018 Soweto Gospel Choir will release its sixth Shanachie Entertainment recording, Freedom, a collection of freedom songs from South Africa and beyond, marking the Centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth.

Soweto Gospel Choir Music Director Diniloxolo Ndlakuse said, “The significance of Nelson Mandela’s 100th commemoration to South Africans is, firstly and foremost a reminder of the role played by Nelson Mandela in moving South Africa from a position of being an undemocratic, oppressive society to one of a peaceful co-existence for all racial groups. Mandela represents love, peace, forgiveness and strength to the choir. He is a symbol of inspiration to the Choir.”

Soweto Gospel Choir sings in six of South Africa’s eleven official languages on Freedom but mostly in Zulu or Sotho, as well as English. The Choir’s first single is “Umbombela,” which means “train song,” is a composition that speaks of the travails experienced by black South Africans during the apartheid era, when migrant workers were forced to travel long distances away from their families in order to meet the harsh economic and political demands made by the government.

On October 4, 2018 Soweto Gospel Choir will start a US tour.

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Clarence Fountain, founder of Blind Boys of Alabama, Dies at 88

Clarence Fountain died Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 in a hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was 88 years old.

Clarence Fountain was a founding member of the GRAMMY-winning gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama, and was seen as a pillar of inspiration in the music industry,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “He lent his distinctive vocals to the ensemble’s extensive catalog of recordings for more than 70 years and helped drive the group to mainstream success in 1948 with “I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine.” With the Blind Boys, he earned four GRAMMY Awards in the Best Traditional Gospel Soul Album category and the group was honored with the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 for their remarkable contributions to gospel music. Clarence will be dearly missed, and our thoughts go out to his loved ones during this difficult time.”

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Artist Profiles: Toshi Reagon

Toshi Reagon

Born in Atlanta and raised in Washington DC, Toshi Reagon cites her musical abilities from her family. Both parents belonged to SNCC’s (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) The Freedom Singers a folk group that sprung from the Civil Rights movement and toured the country to teach people about civil rights through song. Bernice Johnson Reagon is not only Toshi’s mom but the founder of the world renowned a capella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock (she retired in 2004 after 30 years with the group).

Toshi and her mom have collaborated on many projects together including co-producing many of Sweet Honey’s recordings. In 2009 they worked on ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’, a musical-theater work based on a tale by Gustave Flaubert. The piece is directed by Robert Wilson with music and libretto by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Toshi wrote the instrumental arrangements and serves as the production’s musical director.

Her rich musical heritage led her to become saturated in many traditional styles of music feeding her desire to explore a range of music that was not as accessible from blues to Kiss. Admittedly Toshi says that she attempts to: ‘take whatever I’m really into and try to learn it and put it into music.’

Toshi is a recipient of 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) award for Music Composition.

Discography

Justice (Flying Fish Records, 1990)
The Rejected Stone (1994)
Kindness (Smithsonian Folkways, 1997)
The Righteous Ones (Razor and Tie, 1999)
Africans in America Soundtrack (Ryko, 2001)
Toshi (Razor and Tie, 2002)
I Be Your Water (2004)
Have You Heard (Righteous Babe Records, 2005)
Until We’re Done (2008)
Lava: We Become (2009)
There and Back Again (2010)

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Searing and Exuberant Robert Randolph

Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Got Soul (Sony Masterworks, 2017)

Robert Randolph puts his latest recording with The Family Band called Got Soul this way, “The music takes me back into the roots of who I am, where I came from. It’s got an upbeat, positive church/gospel/rock/bluesy vibe to it. I’m like a rock and roll preacher on Got Soul.”

Yeah, “rock and roll preacher” just about sums the indefatigable sparkle Mr. Randolph & The Family Band lays down on the Grammy nominated Got Soul. In the way of previous recordings like Unclassified (2003), Colorblind (2009), We Walk This Road (2010), Born Again (2013) and Lickety Split (2013), Mr. Randolph and company have listeners veering off onto a wild musical ride where the colors of soul, funk and gospel run deep and vibrant. Searing and warmly exuberant, Got Soul proves irresistible as it embraces elements of rock and roll, blues and jazz to create a flattering mix.

Songwriter, vocalist and pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph is joined on Got Soul by a whole host of kick ass musicians like electric guitarist Johnny Gale, Hammond B3 organist Raymond Angry, electric bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Marcus Randolph, percussionist Bashiri Johnson, Hammond B3 Organist Shedrick Mitchell and backing vocalists Lenesha Randolph, Candice Anderson and Stevie Ladson. Guest vocalists Anthony Hamilton, Cory Henry and Darius Rucker lend their talents to make the soul stew even richer.

Opening with the fiery title track “Got Soul,” Mr. Randolph & The Family Band pulls out all the stops and dishes out a track that will have the most reluctant listeners jumping up and grooving to the music. Ramping up the goodness with “She Got Soul” with Anthony Hamilton on vocals, Randolph and company stokes the fire with some smoking guitar licks, sassy vocals and an irrepressible joyfulness. Darius Rucker takes his turn with vocals on “Love Do What It Do” backed by an intoxicating mix of pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, electric bass and Hammond B3 organ, not to mention some seriously fine backing vocals.

If that weren’t enough, Got Soul boasts the deliciously funk inspired “Shake It” edged by some sizzling brass lines laid down by saxophonist Jeff Coffin and trumpeter RaShawn Ross. The pedal steel guitar opening of Isaac Hays and David Porter classic “I Thank You” should not be missed and it just gets better with addition of organ and vocals provided by Cory Henry. Equally delightful are offering like “Be the Change,” “Heaven’s Calling” and the funk groove of “Find a Way.” “Travelin’ Cheeba Man is a raucous personal favorite. “Lovesick” and closing track “Gonna Be All Right” are just as delicious.

If you can listen to Got Soul without dancing, tapping a toe, raising arms skyward or at the very least nodding your head, seek professional medical or spiritual attention immediately.

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Artist Profiles: The Blind Boys of Alabama

The Blind Boys of Alabama

Formed in the late 1930s, The Blind Boys of Alabama predate Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Al Green. While a huge gospel sensation back in the 1940s and ’50s The Blind Boys moved into the mainstream in 2001 with the help of Goldsmith producer John Chelew and engineer Jimmy Hoyson. That year, the band released the Grammy-winning Spirit of the Century, the first of three consecutive Grammy awards. Self-financed by Goldsmith, Spirit of the Century was the group’s first album for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label and it was also the great Blind Boys album that Goldsmith had been hearing in his head for years.

Up to that point The Blind Boys had spent more than 40 years working mostly in the traditional gospel circuit, since forming at The Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939. Secular audiences caught a glimpse of the group at the World’s Fair in Knoxville in 1982 and again in 1983 when they appeared in the hit musical drama The Gospel At Colonus, an Obie Award-winning Off-Broadway and Broadway production. This modern classic also featured Morgan Freeman and was seen nationwide in the United States on PBS’s Great Performances.

The Boys caught the attention of more mainstream listeners through their 1992 album Deep River, produced by Booker T. Jones and featuring a transcendent version of Bob Dylan’s I Believe In You. The Blind Boys continued working with contemporary sounds in 1995’s live album, I Brought Him with Me and 1997’s funked-up Holding On, but it was Spirit of the Century that proved to be the turning point.

That album ignited what has proven one of the busiest and commercially successful periods of The Blind Boys’ career a period in which the group has reinvented itself while rewriting the definition of traditional Southern gospel. Their first of four albums for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label, all recorded at the historic Capitol Records studios in Hollywood, Spirit featured a stunning version of Amazing Grace set to the tune of The House of the Rising Sun as well as carefully-selected covers of songs by The Rolling Stones Ben Harper and Tom Waits.

Spirit of the Century was a triumph, a blend of gospel, blues, soul and folk that won the 2001 Grammy for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album. Featuring such top musicians such as bluesman John Hammond and multi-instrumentalist David Lindley. The disc became the best-selling album of The Blind Boys’ career and turned these septuagenarians into folk heroes in hipster circles landing them the opening slot on Peter Gabriel’s 2002 worldwide arena tour.

The Blind Boys’ version of Tom Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole” featured on Spirit of the Century also became the theme song for the acclaimed HBO TV series The Wire. On the big screen The Blind Boys performed their version of Soldier also from Spirit in the 2002 Cuba Gooding Jr./Beyonce Knowles film The Fighting Temptations.

Further acclaim and another Grammy win for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album followed with 2002’s Higher Ground which included songs penned by Jimmy Cliff, Prince, Ben Harper (who added vocals and guitar), Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield. Featuring the backing of Robert Randolph and the Family Band Higher Ground also found The Blind Boys singing the 23rd Psalm to George Clinton’s You and Your Folks. Their version of Harper’s “I Shall Not Walk Alone” was featured in an episode of the ABC prime time hit Lost. That same year The Blind Boys were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and presented with the Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association for Best Traditional Gospel Album.

In 2003 The Blind Boys scored their third consecutive Grammy win for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for Go Tell It on the Mountain a star-studded Christmas album. Already considered a holiday classic Go Tell It On the Mountain featured Mavis Staples, Tom Waits, Michael Franti of Spearhead, Chrissie Hynde, Solomon Burke, George Clinton, Aaron Neville, Robert Randolph and more. (A concert version of this album featuring many of the guests from the CD was also featured on PBS as a 2004 Christmas special and a DVD of that concert was released by Eagle Rock Entertainment in February 2005.)

The Christmas album also gave the Blind Boys an opportunity to give something to others in need. With two original founding members of the band Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter suffering from type two diabetes, The Blind Boys donated a portion of the proceeds from the sales of Go Tell It on the Mountain to the American Diabetes Association for whom they became spokesmen in 2003.

Interest in The Blind Boys of Alabama from other musicians has been at an all time high with the group augmenting its own award-winning albums with guest appearances from a distinguished and diverse group including Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Ibrahim Ferrer (Buena Vista Social Club), Solomon Burke, Asleep at the Wheel and Jools Holland, formerly of Squeeze. They were also tapped by Walt Disney Productions to sing a Phil Collins tune in the animated feature film Brother Bear.

In 2004, a session with Ben Harper spilled into a full-fledged album and another hit: There Will Be a Light. Once again delivering The Blind Boys heaps of acclaim the disc found the group joined by Harper’s own band The Innocent Criminals and combined traditionals with songs penned by Harper.

2004 also found The Blind Boys reprising their role in a new 20th anniversary version of The Gospel at Colonus which starred Charles S. Dutton and The Soul Stirrers during its late October/early November run at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem.

As they reached new levels of respect, acclaim and commercial success in recent years one thing has remained: The group’s mission to do God’s work in new and inspiring ways. In doing so they’re not only expanding the very definitions of gospel and soul but also furthering a legacy that is unmatched by any other traditional artist that has remained true to the gospel path.

While the sound of traditional soul gospel is still unmistakably at its core, Atom Bomb, the group’s 25 album, includes The Blind Boys’ most adventurous forays into pop music yet featuring loops, raps and blues riffs.

Recent discography:

Spirit of the Century (Real World Records, 2001)
You’ll Never Walk Alone / True Convictions (2001)
Higher Ground (Real World Records, 2002)
Amazing Grace (2003)
Go Tell it On the Mountain (Real World Records, 2003)
There Will Be a Light, with Ben Harper (Virgin Records, 2004)
Live at the Apollo, with Ben Harper (2005)
Atom Bomb (Real World Records, 2005)
Just a Closer Walk with Thee,(2006)
Down in New Orleans (TimeLife, 2008)
Enlightenment (The Great American Music Co., 2009)
Duets (Saguaro Road Records, 2009)
Faith Moves Mountains (2010)
Take the High Road (Saguaro Road Records, 2011)
I’ll Find a Way (Sony Masterworks, 2013)
Talkin’ Christmas!, with Taj Mahal (Sony Masterworks, 2014)
Almost Home (BBOA Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: The Campbell Brothers

The Campbell Brothers

The Campbell Brothers, from Rush, New York, perform Sacred Steel: African-American gospel music with electric steel guitar and vocals. This tradition is just now emerging from the House of God Keith Dominion Church where for over decades it has been an integral part of worship and a vital if little known American tradition. As the music moves from sanctuary to concert hall, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music and Symphony Space, secular audiences are now able to appreciate a performance both religious and rocking.

Pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell (2004 National Heritage Fellowship recipient) and his lap steel-playing brother Darick are two of the finest in this tradition. Rounding out the band which has been playing together for over two decades is a high-energy rhythm section featuring brother Phil Campbell on electric guitar, his son Carlton on drums and bassist Malcom Kirby. Classic gutsy gospel vocals by Katie Jackson and/or Denise Brown bring the ensemble to a high level of energy.

Discography:

Pass Me Not (Arhoolie Records, 1997)
Sacred Steel On Tour! (Arhoolie Records, 2001)
Sacred Steel for the Holidays (Arhoolie Records, 2001)
Can You Feel It? (Ropeadope Records, 2005)
Beyond The 4 Walls (APO Records, 2013)

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Artist profiles: Take 6

Take 6

Take 6 took roots in 1980 as an a cappella gospel group formed by Claude McKnight at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. Mark Kibble heard the group rehearsing and his voice was added to the four singers. They went through personnel changes as members graduated.

Warner/Reprise Nashville signed them in 1987 and they officially became Take 6. Following their landmark debut Take 6 in 1988 and So Much to Say in 1990, Mervyn Warren left to pursue a career as a producer and Joey Kibble, Mark’s younger brother was invited to join the sextet.

Every Take 6 album has been certified platinum or gold. The group’s album Brothers was a gospel, jazz, R&B-inflected statement of faith in the power of God. In fact, a constant for Take 6 is their spiritual foundations coupled with their richly layered and uniquely fashioned harmonies. After the release of Brothers, bass singer Alvin Chea reflected “Maybe audiences will first listen to the harmonies but then they’ll tune into the lyrics and message which is what we want to share?”

The year 1998 was marked with “Reinventing A Cappella Music…again” and the release of So Cool. A Christmas album followed in 2002, Beautiful World.

The sextet has won numerous awards, including several Grammys and Doves (Gospel Music Awards), and a Soul Train Music Award.

Take 6 has recorded and/or performed with Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Don Henley, James Taylor, Kenny Rogers, k.d. lang, Patti Austin, Johnny Mathis, Randy Travis, Modern Jazz Quartet, Queen Latifah, Yellowjackets, Branford Marsalis and BeBe & CeCe Winans among others. They have also appeared on film soundtracks to “Do the Right Thing, “Boyz ‘N the Hood, “Dick Tracy” and :Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Discography:

Take 6 (Warner Alliance, 1988)
So Much 2 Say (Warner Alliance, 1990)
He Is Christmas (Reprise, 1991)
Join the Band (Reprise, 1994)
Brothers (Reprise, 1996)
So Cool (Reprise, 1998)
We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Reprise, 1999)
Tonight: Live (Reprise,2000)
Beautiful World (Warner Bros., 2002)
Feels Good (Take 6, 2006)
The Standard (Heads Up, 2008)
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Heads Up, 2010)
One (Shanachie Records, 2012)
Believe (SoNo, 2016)

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Artist profiles: Ysaye Barnwell

Ysaye Barnwell

Ysaye Barnwell joined Sweet Honey In The Rock in 1979 and along with Bernice Johnson Reagon became one of the group’s main spokeswomen. Barnwell holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Speech Pathology, is a Doctor of Philosophy and Public Health and has been a professor at Howard University. She has worked on various projects as a composer and musical consultant including contributions to Sesame Street, the Dance Company of Pittsburgh and the Women’s Philharmonic of San Francisco.

Her workshop Singing In The African-American Tradition has been conducted all around the world and she is also an actress and an author.

Discography:

Good News (Flying Fish, 1981)
We All…Everyone Of Us (Flying Fish, 1983)
The Other Side (Flying Fish, 1985)
Breaths (Flying Fish, 1988)
Feel Something Drawing Me On (Flying Fish, 1985)
Live At Carnegie Hall (Flying Fish, 1988)
All For Freedom (Music For Little People, 1989)
In This Land (Earthbeat! 1992)
Still On The Journey (Earthbeat! 1993)
I Got Shoes (Music For Little People, 1994)
Sacred Ground (Earthbeat! 1996)
Selections (Flying Fish/Rounder 1997)
Twenty Five enhanced CD (Rykodisc, 1998)
Freedom Song soundtrack (Sony Classical, 2000)
Still the Same Me (Rounder Kids, 2000)
Alive in Australia (2003)
The Women Gather (Earthbeat, 2003)
Endings and Beginnings (2004)
Raise Your Voice (Earthbeat, 2005)
Are We A Nation? (2010)

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Artist Profiles: Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sweet Honey in the Rock

The all-female a cappella group Sweet Honey In The Rock began in 1973, a project put together by its founder Bernice Johnson Reagon. The name came from their first song, a parable that told of a land so rich that when the rocks were cracked open, honey flowed.

Combining the full range of the African-American vocal tradition, Sweet Honey’s repertoire incorporates original West African songs that were brought by slaves to the Americas, work songs, congregational spirituals, full-on gospel numbers, blues, jazz, freedom songs from the Civil Rights movement, love songs and rap.

Sweet Honey’s members come from a variety of backgrounds. Founder Bernice Johnson Reagon’s scholarly credentials include her appointment as Curator Emerita at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC. She has worked on several award-winning films and documentaries, including the series Eyes On The Prize, We Shall Overcome and Wade In The Water. She received a Presidential Medal in 1995 for her contribution to the humanities and is the author of several books on African-American History.

Over the years the lineup has changed.

Discography:

Sweet Honey In The Rock (Flying Fish, 1976)
B’lieve I’ll Run On… (Redwood, 1978)
Good News (Flying Fish, 1981)
We All…Everyone Of Us (Flying Fish, 1983)
The Other Side (Flying Fish, 1985)
Breaths (Flying Fish, 1988)
Feel Something Drawing Me On (Flying Fish, 1985)
Live At Carnegie Hall (Flying Fish, 1988)
All For Freedom (Music For Little People, 1989)
In This Land (Earthbeat! 1992)
Still On The Journey (Earthbeat! 1993)
I Got Shoes (Music For Little People, 1994)
Sacred Ground (Earthbeat! 1996)
Selections (Flying Fish/Rounder 1997)
Twenty Five enhanced CD (Rykodisc, 1998)
Freedom Song soundtrack (Sony Classical, 2000)
Still the Same Me (Rounder Kids, 2000)
Alive in Australia (2003)
The Women Gather (Earthbeat, 2003)
Endings and Beginnings (2004)
Raise Your Voice (Earthbeat, 2005)
Are We A Nation? (2010)
A Tribute — Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center (2013)
Silent Night (2014)
#LoveInEvolution (2016)

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