Karl Allison went to investigate reggae gospel pioneers Ben Okafor, Rupie Edwards, Ann Swinton, Liquid Light, David Smith, The Channels and Dave Armstrong.
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Despite these concerns, Ann Swinton is going to keep on using her music to spread the gospel. "It's about trying to touch lives who perhaps wouldn't normally be touched by the church. We see praise and worship choruses as modern, but there's a lot of people out there who can't relate to that. But if you stick on a good reggae tune and do a bit of DJing or toasting, then their ears will prick up. My hope is that when people begin to listen it will change their lives. I think reggae is a special type of music. As soon as reggae comes on, the whole vibe changes. For me, it's ideal to have such a special vehicle in which to carry the gospel."
Ann has just got involved in prison ministry, performing 'inside' virtually every week. But you don't have to get arrested to see her live. She's willing to plug her DAT machine into any PA and just go for it.
Liquid Light is an 11 - piece gospel reggae band who've been together since 1986. That same year they cut an impressive album entitled 'There's A Change In My Life', and they've been gigging solidly ever since. They were rewarded for their efforts in 1992 when they won the DMi award for Outstanding Work In Gospel Reggae.
The band is based at the Temple Of Truth Pentecostal Church in Walthamstow. It was there I spoke to Rev Noel Dyer, the pastor of the church, who was a founder member of Liquid Light, but who now manages the band and writes many of the songs. "Our music is difficult to classify.
It's not really roots reggae and it's not really lover's music. It covers a whole spectrum. Sometimes we fuse soul and reggae together, and sometimes our reggae is very pure. I firmly believe that every person has a right to express the gospel how they feel it."
This "is evident the moment you walk in the church. The PA, mixing desk, drum kit, keyboards and guitar amps have a look of permanent residency about them. Worship at this church must be quite an experience. "We try to integrate all types of music into the service. Some choruses call for a very heavy reggae beat. Some may call for country, some for soul, so we just do it that way. You have to play it how you feel it. But if you're only using music to attract people to church, then that's not deep enough. You need more than an attraction to keep people in church because they'll find great music wherever they go. We use the music as a functional thing, and the true attraction must be the Lord Jesus Christ."
You will not be surprised that this church is growing! Interestingly, they have church on Saturdays: "We're not Seventh Day Adventists, we just keep the Sabbath."
I asked the Reverend if reggae music is an easy style to use in evangelism and worship. "Yes it is, but I find reggae musicians very lazy. Most of them just want to copy a sound that's already been successful and want to stick to two or three chord patterns. I believe that we'll really get the creativity in reggae music when the Church takes this music up. We can write properly structured songs if we put our minds to it and give the best we possibly can in worship to the Lord."
Liquid Light have recently added four backing vocalists and a horn section to their line up and are prepared to go out and mix it in the real world. "We want to get into the clubs. We feel that for too long gospel music has been afraid to go where the sinners are. Liquid Light is prepared to go any place and publicise the gospel through our music."
David Smith is a mature man who's recently cut his first reggae track. "God Is" is a mellow groove in the style of Ken Boothe or John Holt. "I normally do a mixture of soul and blues and a bit of jazz. This is the first reggae I've realised, but there's been such a good reaction to it that I'll definitely be doing more."
David grew up in Jamaica and had a good grounding in the Christian faith from his mother who was an evangelist. He was not involved in gospel music, however, until he came to England in 1986, and then some changes in thinking were required.
"My record company said gospel music should be something to dance to, but in my upbringing it wasn't so. We looked on gospel as a sacred music, church-like, and we didn't think we could do anything else with it. But I changed my way of thinking. I'm no longer just trying to please the Pentecostal Christians but trying to make music that's interesting to whoever hears it. I've changed the style but I've stayed within the Bible!"
David is currently recording tracks for an album and has just started gigging the clubs. "I can't just stay in the church with this! I've gotta go elsewhere. This music opens many doors. If God can inspire me with the kind of music that can go into all these places then, once my music is there, effectively I'm there preaching."
And finally from David, a plea. "I would be very pleased if I could find a promoter to get my record into the places it should be." Well, I know this bloke in Dalston Lane market...