Tony Cummings quizzed producer and songwriter Akin Ogboye about the various artists project ACOUSTIC GOSPEL VOL 1.
One of the surprise best sellers at Cross Rhythms Direct and an album which has produced an impressive three "turntable hits" for Cross Rhythms radio is the various artists album 'Acoustic Gospel Vol 1'. Released by independent label Rockhill Music, 'Acoustic Gospel is more-or-less a showcase for British-based gospel acts. One is forced to say "more-or-less" as one of the outstanding tracks on 'AG1' is "Every Night" by Neil Wilson. Bristol's Neil is well known to rock buffs as the frontman of gone-but-not-forgotten steve. But elsewhere 'AG1' is crammed with excellent urban gospel acts. I asked Akin Ogboye, who with Emmanuel Edwards (a former Universal Records producer) produced 'Acoustic Gospel' and started Rockhill Music, to give me some background about some of the artists on the album.
"All the artists surprised us," said Akin. "We identified them from performances we'd seen from them over the years but we were determined to have them co-write the songs. Some of them really blew our minds! And this is what 'AG' is about - uncovering those gifts and repackaging them for the world! Rachel MacFarlane was phenomenal: she recorded 'You Are Holy' in one take! We asked her to do a second take just in case - we just had to keep her in the studio a little longer because she came from Birmingham but she really didn't need a second take. Truly phenomenal.
"A new artist but full of promise is Wayeta Pilgrim. She co-wrote 'Not Today' and we came up with that idea because she was unwell on the day of the recording hence the line: 'Even if your body's telling you give up the fight/Say not today!' You couldn't tell she was ill from listening to the song could you? DMSquared is a young rapper based in north London who joined Bukola on 'What Women Want'. You'll be hearing a lot more from them.
"We came across the singer Mercy while she was doing backing vocals for Muyiwa and used her previous projects as a backing vocalist. We never knew she could write until she did 'God And Me'. Anthonia Boyo is nine years old and attends the church where some of the proceeds from the album will be going - House On The Rock. She co-wrote the song and wasn't afraid to hit those high notes. We are in the process of offering her a recording contract. Wouldn't you?! Then there's Meridian Flo and the Hill City Mass Choir who were both great. And Natalie Phillips who's already making a name for herself on the UK gospel scene."
All profits from sales of 'Acoustic Gospel vol 1' will be donated to charity. The organisations that will benefit from the album are Oxfam, Save The Children, House On The Rock Pentecostal Church Community Project, Lauriston Primary School and the Harrington Hill Primary School. A choir from the Lauriston and Harrington Hill schools even sang on the song "Start All Over" with Anthonia Boyo. Akin spoke about that particular recording session. Wasn't it hard making a quality recording with children? Said Akin, "It was actually a lot easier than dealing with some of the adults! They were so innocent and enthusiastic and so into it! Every one of them wanted a lead part. The recording really brought home to us the essence of what we were doing. Here we were encouraging those kids - many of them from deprived homes - telling them they had a gift that the world wanted to hear. The headmistress came to the recording and we could feel the hairs on the back of our necks standing as the kids recorded. Truly moving. Apparently they rehearsed twice and then we recorded. We had a couple of overdubs and they were done."
"The album was recorded over 2006 - basically from January to November - a few weeks before release! We were planning to complete the album by May but sometimes God takes you through a different route. But we're not complaining. We got a better album from it! My two favourite songs from the album were the last to be written and recorded! The recording process itself was such an eye-opener because you have all these artists you've never worked with before - you know they have great potential but you don't know what you are going to get and then someone like Rachel McFarlane comes along and records her song over my lunch break. She came in, recorded the song and blew our minds. The experience with Rachel in particular demonstrated to me clearly that whether you are in a studio in Clapham or Copenhagen, surrounded by hundreds of equipment or not, what is required of you is worship. And Rachel worshipped. That's what's on the CD; true worship."
Akin has been a songwriter for a number of years and has worked with mainstream acts such as Liberty X. But gospel music remains his passion. "The vision of 'AG' is really quite simple: bringing artists who would not otherwise work on the same project and presenting them to an audience who would not otherwise have heard them. It's also taking artists from where they are (a bundle of potential without opportunity) and taking them closer to where God intended for them to be. Apart from its charitable purpose, 'AG1' really is about presenting gospel in a fresh way and challenging people's perception of what gospel music is. It's about giving the listener something which is meaningful but also quite fun. Gospel is the message not the music and boy did we have fun producing 'AG1'!
"The plan is to continue to find and expose new UK talent and continuing to find opportunities for them - on record and TV - to show the world that gospel is where the party's at! Our search for artists to appear on 'Acoustic Gospel Vol 2' has already begun so please anyone out there with a different voice, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.