The same nation that gave us Youth Alive and Hillsongs has now birthed a significant new youth event PLANETSHAKERS. Mike Rimmer spoke to two of the musicians heading up Australia's Planetshakers band.
The annual Planetshakers event in Adelaide, South Australia, is not only galvanizing thousands of young Australians to take Christian discipleship seriously, it is now making an international impact with the album 'Phenomena' getting US and UK release. In a record company office in Nashville, husband and wife team Henry and Alex Sealey, two of the praise and worship musicians touring the US under the Planetshakers name, spoke to me about their live album 'Phenomena' and the emergence of the Planetshhakers event.
Henry was previously involved with Youth Alive in Australia and worked with Cross Rhythms festival stalwart David Evans. Henry explained, "I first met David just after he'd moved to Adelaide, which was not long after I'd got saved. I played keyboards as well at the time and I started working together with David's band, while he lived in Adelaide, and toured with him a few times. We worked on a few albums together. I actually recorded and produced one of his albums, 'Come Away' from my home studio. I think David did have a great influence in my life, especially in the early years that I spent in music ministry, probably because he was really the only itinerant music evangelist in Australia. He's such an incredible talent, great singer, great songwriter."
To British ears, 'Phenomenon' might not sound that different from the Hillsong 'United Live' albums and earlier Youth Alive recordings. But then since Henry was involved in those other projects, should we be surprised that there are similarities? Henry explained what he was trying to do musically. "I wanted to firstly write songs that people will remember and that are so catchy they stick in people's heads. Secondly I wanted to create songs that are accessible to young people and churches so they can play them in their meetings. All this does put a different spin on the things that you write. I don't want our music just to be something that you put in the car CD player and that's the only place that it ever gets played. I want it to be something that young people can actually take home. That's why we do music books, song sheets and all that. So they can actually take it home and use it in their youth groups and have those songs and allow people to have an experience in their hometown, in their home environment. So sometimes that means I'm not necessarily writing the most cutting edge thing."
Henry explained the brief history of Planetshakers conference. "The whole idea was birthed out of a dream of our youth pastor at the time, Russell Evans and his wife Samantha. They are actually directors of the conference Planetshakers. It started in January 1997. It had about 250 young people from around Australia. The whole of the conference is about empowering young people to have an impact, in their city, in their nation and in the nations of the world. It's an annual conference that happens in January, in the school holidays because that's our summertime. So the young people around Australia are all on holidays and they come for the week. As well, we hold a one night event in each state in Australia throughout the year. This year we had to run it over two weeks because it was just too big! We had around 9,000 people come. Not only from Australia but from Europe, America, New Zealand, Asia.all over the world! God is doing something that's much bigger than we are. It's much bigger than our initial dreams of this thing. It's just a God thing. It's doubled every year basically."
Alex broke in and shared, "Praise and worship is the main emphasis and that is a part where we feel that God does something in the hearts and lives and spirits of the young people, to make them open and to hear what the speaker has to say. Therefore, that kind of feeds them and gives them something to eat spiritually. Then to take that out to their schools and work places." Henry adds, "We've got great preachers from all around the world and we have great times of praise and worship. But there are kids that stay on-site and there are youth groups that stay together in local trailer parks and things like that. So we want the whole thing to not just be another thing that they go to but something that is an event that changes their lives."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.