Drew Kelleher tracked down electro team NEGUSSIE AND ERIKSON in Stockholm.

Negussie and Erikson
Negussie and Erikson

"I saw your light in your eyes from my electric window," sings Negussie and Erikson. You possibly recognise the window as a metaphor for the telly but whose eyes are they singing about?

When I asked singer, songwriter Edward Negussie this I was surprised to hear he'd been referring to a starving Ethiopian woman. Perhaps not so surprising considering the connection he has with that troubled country. As the son of an Ethiopian father he said he was deeply moved when he saw the plight of the starving refugees. "The song 'My Electric Window' is about human value, about a woman we'd seen on television. I went to Ethiopia five or six years ago for the first time in my grown-up life, visited my relatives in southern Ethiopia and when I met these people I saw that although they were poor in relation to us, they really had something." Edward explained that what they had was their faith in Christ.

"There is a stronger Christian tradition in Ethiopia than there is in Sweden," he said. "There are plenty of churches there, probably more than in Sweden." Part of the reason for that strong tradition is the country's juxtaposition with the traditional land of Israel. "For a start they are closer geographically than Sweden is to the lands of the Bible, you can really see that when you are there," he said. This point is illustrated in the lyrics. They speak of the rural peasant life and its close relationship with a harsh land. The woman's son was dying, and her only cow..."I was put off my TV dinner" is the viewer's response. And again, there is an "everlasting hope" in a land where "no thing was supposed to grow." If Edward Negussie is a rather swarthy type of Swede then his partner Kenneth Erikson is perhaps more of a stereotype with Fjord-blue eyes and paler skin. Their stereotype work together began as the duo Dynamis.

"It has been a few years since that disbanded but we have always had a Christian basis says Edward. Their latest venture delivers the sound of electric and brass being fused seamlessly into a variety of music ranging from solid rock to the more ethereal "Electric Window". From the 11-strong line-up some of their colleagues take the
Negussie & Erikson opportunity to share their views.

On "Garden Games", says Edward, "Our friend Danne Dalini was expressing a longing for a more childlike belief in God...for that more simple and purer believing. "Kind of...when you look back, when you were younger, it wasn't so complicated. "Now it is too complicated, now that you're standing outside looking back." Presently both Negussie and Erikson have other "projects" to occupy their mind - that is they have both become fathers, however this is surely not the last of their productive acts. Says Edward, "We are going to do something but we don't know just what as yet. We may just write or do something as a group. "When we recorded "Electric Window" we weren't so involved in the lyrics as we want to be now."

Kim Hill: Nashville's latest CCM star talks about life

Tony Cummings reports on KIM HILL and why she has taken America's contemporary Christian music world by storm

Every year now the mainstream of American contemporary Christian music throws up at least one album so devastating in creative impact that it dwarfs just about every other release. In 1989 it was Kim Hill's 'Talk About Life'. It has caught the hearts and minds of Christian America, produced three Christian radio hits: a throbbing, haunting "Inside Of You" ("Do your feet know how to dance/ inside of you/does heaven ever really have a chance/ inside of you") a part-composed reflection that "Charm Is Deceitful" and an equally haunting "Testimony".

The big success of Kim's two albums has also produced comments like 'Kim Hill is the new Amy' which, though fatuous are understandable in view of Ms Hill and Ms Grant having the same record management (Blanton & Harrell), record company (Reunion Records) and record producer (Brown Bannister). In fact Kim is no Amy clone but a singer of such breathtaking originality and freshness that US critics are now turning journalistic cartwheels trying to describe the illusive timbre of a voice and style which seems to take its comparisons with everyone from Tracey Chapman to Suzanne Vega to Carly Simon.

Yet Kim's voice is, in truth unique, a silky alto over which throbbing multitracks or strummed acoustic produces instant goose pimples in the listener. Kim Hill is unquestionably the most exciting new contemporary Christian star to emerge in the last five years yet remains an enigma. Her lyrics are light years from the pious platitudes of much CCM yet she had been embraced by America's Christian radio stations.
Her background (raised in the closeted security of a Christian home) smashes the sacred prejudices of rock culture radicals who insist that only running wild in the world produces art with a cutting edge. And though her record company bio proudly touts her Memphis born roots she grew up largely unaware of rockabilly and Stax preferring early Jesus rock and even barbershop harmony Southern Gospel quartets. But however her compelling bluesy style metamorphosed, what is true is that Kim is already being pursued by major secular companies and is a natural potential crossover act. But that's tomorrow...maybe.

Today Kim enjoys the enthusiastic acclaim of America's contemporary Christian music market "I realise there are bigger markets than that," remarks Kim, "But I'm grateful to God that He's given me success in this field and a chance to serve Him in music. I always wanted to be a singer. From the second grade all I could think of doing was being a professional singer. At high school I sang a lot."

Kim was born in Memphis in 1965. Her parents were committed Christians and Kim came to a deep faith herself while still a child. She caught the music bug early and by age seven was singing in talent shows, chapel services and by nine had learned to play acoustic guitar. Kim's desire to grow in God's word motivated Kim to take her first steps toward independence. At the age of 17, Kim left her hometown to attend an intensive year-long inductive Bible-study course in Chattanooga, Tennessee. "One of the purposes for the programme was to instil discipline; it was kind of like going into a Christian army. I'm so glad now that I never went home (a tempting idea when times got tough), because that year really changed my life."

Then during her tenure at Mississippi State University, Hill met "El Shaddai" writer John Thompson, who encouraged Kim to come to Nashville to start a career in Christian music. In Nashville, singing at a youth camp Kim was spotted by possibly the most brilliant production talent in contemporary Christian music. Brown Bannister. Remembers Kim, "He kind of took me under his creative wing. I was writing but my writing wasn't very prolific and the first thing Brown said was you need some great songs." She and Brown found them. Signed to Reunion Records the team began the gruelling process of searching for material.

"We listened to at least 100 songs for my first album and only picked nine. For the second album we must have heard two or three times as many." Recorded in the winter of '87 and '88 the debut album 'Kim Hill' was revelation. Despite being recorded on a smallish budget, doing night sessions it exudes class. One reviewer raved 'Kim Hill' is a gentle, probing reflection of our struggle to integrate timeless scripture into a 1980s world. Set to pop-based melodies with acoustic styling, the production is strong, yet sensitive."

From the opening track "Black Shirt" with its list of personal preferences (black shirts, blue Levis, drives in convertibles, dinner with her family) put in perspective as being unimportant compared with the blessings to be found in Christ to the raw-edged rocker "Refuge" ("I don't have a husband to run to/I don't have my family to run to/I really have to run to Him"). Kim paints a telling portrait of the tensions of adulthood for young Christians. One of the most telling songs was the exquisite ballad "Unspoken Love".

Recalls Kim: '"Unspoken Love' came through John Thompson. I met John when he had gone through a divorce and was very sad about missed opportunities of expressing love. That's what the song's all about. I fell in love with it when he played it to me but John didn't think the record company would let me record it because it doesn't mention God." 'Kim Hill' was a major Christian music success. It became the only debut album ever to achieve two number one Christian radio songs with "Faithful" and "Psalm One" while "Unspoken Love" reached the top five. The singer was nominated for a 1989 Dove Award in the 'New Artist Of The Year' category. She undertook her first overseas tour (of Australia with David Meece) and zig zagged across the States playing numerous concerts.

"The first year and a half I travelled with just an acoustic guitar player and I played a 12-string," Kim explains. "Live performance is very important to me, I try to communicate as intimately as I can with an audience, even when I'm playing with a band." Kim also has an unexpected comedy dimension in her on-stage act. "I imitate some of the people my parents listened to right before they became Christians. Some of the women in the '70s like Helen Reddy and Anne Murray, It's kinda fun". Kim is itching to play Europe and says she's trying to fix up the logistics of some concerts in Europe now," she reassures us. CR

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.