On racism and Christianity

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Sigh.

  

It pains me to write this. However 2017 has revealed to me in a crystal clear way that despite claims of progress, despite allegedly living in a “post-racial” society, despite Jesus’ injunctions to “love your neighbour” “love your enemies” “esteem others better than yourselves”; despite all of this, racism is still something which lives and thrives in the hearts of many Christians.

 

I don’t know why I’m surprised, it’s not like the bible didn’t warn us. We’re told that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?”. Jesus himself asked the very poignant question, “When the son of man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” and in Matthew 24 when talking about signs of the end times, He said that “the love of many will wax cold”. It shouldn’t be a surprise and yet it is still shocking and hurtful and painful that people who take God’s name and claim to represent Him on earth look down at other races as being inferior to themselves.

 

The thing is a lot of these people may not even have fully accepted or realised how racist they are,  but it comes out in various ways. They will show it with their feet: by choosing to flee from their churches or cities or communities when there they start to become multicultural. Or by their callous lack of empathy to the plight of innocent people being killed by State representatives (Police) in the USA and instead finding excuses and justifications for their deaths, or using the diversion of “black on black crime” to avoid the issue. Or they might show it by choosing to belittle black women or men when they point out the obvious racism they have faced or experienced. They might show it when they claim that talking about the injustices these people are experiencing is the cause of the racial tension and if only black people would shut up about racism, it would all go away. Rather than lifting their fingers to fight against injustice they’d rather close their eyes, ears and hearts to the sufferings of others.

 

Frankly, I’m done with it all. I shall no longer engage with the Christian racist trolls on these issues. People who foolishly ignore reason and parrot insensitive lies. Solomon is popularly known as being the wisest man ever and he dropped some gems of wisdom which are pertinent. 

 

Proverbs 23:9 Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of your words.

Proverbs 26:4-5 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

Ecclestiasties 11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes: but know you, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 

 

The scripture in Ecclestiaces is especially pertinent. The bible essentially says as a human being with agency, you are completely free to do whatever you want but remember God will bring it into judgement.  

 

The great singer and songwriter Babbie Mason wrote this song which perfectly captures my feelings on this topic. It’s called “Black and Blue” and is worth listening to. You can get it on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and all other major outlets but it is the perfect song to convey my feelings on this subject. It says: 

 

Black and Blue
I'm taught to be proud,
Still I'm not allowed
To speak and know I'm being heard.
It seems rather strange
Some things never change;
Some lessons they never get learned.

I've come a long ways
Since back in the days
In Dixie, when cotton was king.
The heartache remains
From the storms I've been through
And right now I'm black and blue.

I stayed on my knees
I cried and I grieved
It's hard to forgive and forget.
But memories don't die
And I'm still asking why
Would people treat people like that.

God looks at my skin
I'm lovely to Him;
He made me and said it was good.
But people still judge,
It's so sad but it's true;
God knows why I'm black and blue.

I've nothing to gain by shifting the blame
I'm saying, at last, let the past be the past;
While there is strength in my bones,
I will still journey on.
But I'm not naive, I still do believe that
The last will be first, the servant be served
We're all bound to reap what we sow.
When love finally wins,
Someday hatred will lose
'Till then I'll be black and blue.

One day love will win,
Someday hatred will lose;
Then I still will be black,
But I'll no longer be blue.

 

The play on words of “black and blue” is brilliant because on one hand it’s talking about being black and sad (blue) but on the other hand it’s also referencing racism and black people being beaten till they were “black and blue”. It’s a journey from the past till present and most importantly, to the glorious future promised. For me that is ultimately it! I truly believe that one day love WILL win and hatred will lose and then I won’t be blue anymore. The Bible is clear that God will bring every work into judgment and so people will reap what they’ve sown and so that is my consolation. If you’re harbouring racism or hatred in your heart, surrender it to Jesus and let Him change you and put His love there instead so that you can treat others with love and esteem them like Christ commands. 

The 3 T's of gospel piano playing

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Damien Sneed takes us through the various styles of gospel in an awesome clip. But how did he learn to play all that??


As someone starting out wanting to learn gospel, I found it hard to know what to practice. What did I need to know? How much did I need to know of it? Where did I need to start? Who should I listen to?

Well, in this blog, I want to address the mountain of information out there and cut through some of the noise. How do you actually learn how to play gospel piano? Through my experience, there are 3 T's which are crucial to success. I'll go into more detail in subsequent posts, but here's the basics!

1. Theory

Learn your theory! This post will teach you pretty much everything you need to know: 

The LGM Basic Theory Collection

http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,42768.0.html

This website (learngospelmusic.com) is an INVALUABLE...I repeat, INVALUABLE resource. I learnt so much from this website it's unreal. There are some really great people on there with amazing resources - the post above is from T-Block, a regular poster in the forums.

Key theory to learn:

  • Intervals
  • Major Scale
  • Harmonic Minor
  • Melodic Minor
  • Natural Minor
  • Modes
  • Scale Degrees & Number System
  • Circle of 5ths
  • Scale Degree Chords
  • Basic Progressions
  • Arpeggios
  • Tritones and Tritone Substitutions

2. Transcription

Learn as many gospel songs as you can!

Here are links to the chords to some of the most important gospel standards (I might make this list into a separate post):

The standards:

Bread Of Heaven - Fred Hammond - http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,1868.msg135865.html#msg135865

Now Behold The Lamb - Kirk Franklin - http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,6264.msg26198.html#msg26198

We're Blessed - Fred Hammond -http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,5952.msg24907.html#msg24907

Like The Dew - Judith Christie McAllister -http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,4463.msg106416.html#msg106416

Falling In Love With Jesus - Kirk Whalum -http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,5141.msg21397.html#msg21397

Total Praise - Richard Smallwood -http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,3769.0.html

I Will Bless The Lord - Byron Cage -http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,18199.0.html

Breathe - Byron Cage - http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,18166.0.html

Stand - Donnie McClurkin - http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,7987.0.html

Create In Me A Clean Heart - http://www.learngospelmusic.com/forums/index.php/topic,50009.0.html

And many more...

3. Technique

Don't just learn chords & scales. Learn HOW to play them. The correct fingering. The best way to move from chord to chord.

Here's an example of a great video:

Other tips for accelerated learning:

Gospel DVDs:

Purchase these DVDs! They are gold. Amazing resources!

Play in church. Pick a song & play it in a real life service. Accelerates your playing like nobody's business!

Hope this helped - part 2 is coming real soon! Let me know in the comments if this made sense and if it gave you a kickstart!

 

Artist spotlight: His Will

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Hey guys, it's been a while! Today we're back with our latest Artist Spotlight and this time we're featuring a very exciting group of young people from the West Midlands area. They are called "His Will" and God willing you will be seeing them on our youtube channel soon! 

 

Hey guys, lovely to have you on the blog today! Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

 

We feel we are a friendly group of friends that sing contemporary style music. We mainly sing our songs acapella but we wouldn’t necessarily say that we are an acappella group. At the moment we have a group of 5 members. We say at the moment because over the years the number has fluctuated between 3 and 7 and with members at uni not being able to be as active as they would like we find it hard to pinpoint the actual number.

 

Why did you choose your name? What does it mean?

So our name is pretty self explanatory we are mainly here to do the will of God. His Will. And disclaimer we actually didn’t choose the name ourselves it was chosen by a woman from one of our churches. We went around for a while without a name funny enough because we just didn’t know what to call ourselves and she just laid it on us. It’s all explained in our song “His Will” where it pretty much explains us doing the work of God.

 

Wow, that is great. How long have you guys been making music?

We have been doing music for quite a while. All of us have been singing since a very young age but as a group we have been together about 4 years.

 

4 years is actually a long time! How did you get started? 

 

For some reason Adrian tells this story a lot differently than everyone else. He would say that we evolved from being the “Adrian’s group” but it really didn’t. Ok so Danielle wanted to sing the song “Potter’s hand” with Alvin and after they sung it they thought it would have been even better with a 3rd harmony. So they brought Delainie in to make a trio. Adrian thought he would be a really good addition to the group after that so he became the bass singer. This is how the group was first born really in about 2013.

 

Wow, I love hearing group origin stories, they're always so cool and yours is no exception! It actually reminds me a bit of the story of my all time favourite Acapella group Take 6. They have influenced me and my music in so many ways! So talking about influences, who would you say is your favourite Christian/gospel influencer/artist?

 

At the moment we all have DEFINITE differing opinions but our artists are as follows: Joyous celebration, Isaac Cates, Todd Dulaney, J Moss and Bill Gaither.

 

You've listed some real powerhouses of gospel singing and songwriting there! Who would you say is your biggest influence?

 

Our styles are all so different its actually mad to try and pinpoint 1 influence. So we won’t. That’s our rebellious side shining through here haha but we will only name a couple. Resound are a big influence on us. Their blend is crazy!  We would also have to say SCRIPTURE SAYS!!!!! Well they’re just……they’re just! We just love them! They’re almost as weird and crazy as us to be honest and their harmonies are just……..(speechless there’s no words at the moment). They’re our sister group. But we admire and appreciate their acappella vibe its so refreshing and different.

 

Aww I love that! They're were equally gushing about you so it's great to see the mutual respect and admiration. Speaking of Scripture Says, they are phenomenal songwriters as well. Are you guys into that as well? How many songs have you written? 

 

We actually have quite a few songs written to be honest. Our problem mainly is that we don’t get anything down recorded or even sing them all. We would say that we officially have 4 songs though because they’re the ones we have actually sung.

 

I see, so you have loads in the bag/pipeline but only 4 you've performed. Great stuff! What about instrumentation, do you play any instruments? If so which ones? If not, which would you choose?

 

We're all at different stages with this! 

Richard – doesn’t play an instrument but would like to learn the bass. Adrian – Plays saxophone and violin and would like to learn the guitar. Serene – Plays violin and would like to learn piano or guitar.

Danielle - Plays piano and would like to learn the bass and the ukulele. Alvin -  Plays saxophone and piano and would like to learn the musical saw and trumpet.

 

Well that's a lot of talent there! It's got me longing for the day His Will lay down their voices and pickup those instruments and blow us away! I notice Adrian and Serene want to learn the guitar, it's the best instrument - go for it! (Not that I'm biased or anything!) 

Ok so moving on, if there was 1 artist you could work with, who would it be and why?

 

That’s so tough because there are so many artists that we would love to work with both as a group and individually but the main ones would need to be: Lalah Hathaway, Fred Hammond, Jason Nelson, Jonathan McReynolds.

 

You just named my favourite male vocalist and favourite female vocalist, can we just take a minute :D Good choices there indeed, I'd love to work with any of them but especially Lalah and Jonathan! Tell us 1 quirky thing about you guys as a group?

1 quirky thing about us is that we are actually quite weird and we admit it lol. But we think that being weird is part of our personalities. We are all definitely different weird and funny in completely different ways but we all work together.

 

Most of the year is gone now lol, but I'll ask anyway. What does 2017 hold for you?

 

2017 is a very steady year for us we are planning to do some recording to actually try and get some of our original music down somewhere. But that’s mainly our plan.

 

That's great, we really need more of a recording culture in the UK gospel scene ESPECIALLY in the SDA church which has so much talent. Good to see you're doing your bit for the culture! Aside from music, what would you say is your biggest passion?

 

Food! Say no more. We know that might sound so weird but we all really love food. We love cooking, we love going out to eat. We love dessert. Omdz dessert yaaasss heavenly desserts makes us very thankful. If we are ever in a bad mood all we need is either a waffle or a really good burger.

 

LOL! Where do you guys put the food? Y'all do a good job of hiding it away! Ok so let's move on to some questions about you as a group. Quickfire, ready, fire, aim! Numero uno: Who's the loudest in the group?

 

Serene. Without a shadow of a doubt. If you know her you know her.

 

LOL! I thought she was pretty quiet myself tbh #justsayin (ok maybe I'm trying too hard?) Anyway, who's the biggest joker?

 

We are all funny we like to think anyway but Alvin is really funny. We’re undecided about whether we say this in a good or bad way though. There are some days that we question and wonder about him.

 

Lol! Who is the deepest thinker?

The deepest thinker is definitely Alvin he questions everything. He’s just different.

 

Wow don't have it Alvin! Who is the most creative?

The most creative of the group are definitely Danielle and Alvin. It’s like they’ll say they want to show us something they’re working on or a mess about and then all of a sudden its like bam! You’re actually floored.

 

What's your proudest moment as a group been so far?

 

We would have to say our proudest moment was opening for the group Committed. We opened with the song 'The Lord’s prayer' by Isaac Cates and it’s one of the hardest songs we have sung as a group. Adrian hates starting songs but he did really well. It was the first time that we have done a full set instead of just 1 or 2 songs. It was such hard work and the feedback that we got after the concert was so encouraging and positive.

 

Yeah we were at that concert and y'all were off the chain! Amazing (glory up) Where do you see your ministry in 5 years time?

 

We would want to be on our 2nd world tour. No that’s a joke aha we aren’t ready for that sort of thing any time soon. We would want to have released an album, maybe 2 hopefully. At the moment God has been leading and a lot of people have been asking when certain things are going to happen with us but we are still following God’s direction.

 

You know what, that's a great place to end this. Your name is His Will and it's great to see that in your ministry you're serious about following His will and His direction. Is there anything else you'd like to share?

 

Really we just want to share our music. We have instagram and facebook under "hiswill music". These are our main sources. But watch this space for updates of our material we do have plans.

 

Thanks for joining us today and sharing your journey His Will. You can check them out on Facebook by following their page here: His Will or on Instagram page here: His Will. Till next time, blessings!

(L to R) Danielle, Serene, Alvin, Adrian and Richard. 

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(L to R) Richard, Danielle, Adrian and Serene

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(L to R) Richard and Danielle

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(L to R) Adrian and Serene

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Richard

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Danielle

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Serene

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Adrian

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The "Kirk Franklin" double-standard

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I grew up in a place called Lagos in Nigeria to a Christian family. Nevertheless, I didn't grow up listening to a lot of gospel music. In fact, I grew up listening to mostly hip-hop, some R&B and a bit of pop (I especially loved the King of Pop's dancing!). However despite my limited experience of gospel music, even back then, I knew (from observation) that there were a few certainties in life: 

 

1. Drums are evil/inappropriate for church use

2. Loud music is evil/soft music is holy

3.  Classical music is a foretaste of the angelic song in Heaven

4. Secular (or circular as some people call it) music is evil.  

5. Kirk Franklin and his music should be avoided by all good Christians. 

 

Looking back I find it funny that such an attitude was so prevalent in my experience in Nigeria. When I came to the UK and got baptised, I gave up the hip-hop, R&B & pop music, and I began to sample the delights of gospel music, primarily through the youth choir I was in. Interestingly I found a lot of the same attitudes, especially with regards to Kirk Franklin.  Although we often sang some Kirk Franklin songs, there was always a reluctance and an air of uncertainty when it came to mentioning his name in relationship to the songs we did.

 

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Why did Kirk Franklin prove to be such a controversial figure? People said his music was "worldly" and "secular". Perhaps it's because he sang songs calling for Revolutions, and songs which had hip-hop artists (Left-Eye), or because he said "booyakah". Or perhaps it was because his music videos looked like the hip-hop music videos, or because he did crossover songs with R Kelly, Mary J Blige and Bono? These things were often cited as evidence for why we should avoid his music, however the primary rationale given for this was the claim that his music was "worldly" and did not sound like gospel. 

This left me in a bit of a conundrum because the more I listened to Kirk's work, the more inspired I was and the more I loved his songwriting and his songs. I didn't love everything, but enough for him to quickly become and remain one of my favourite gospel artists. However I always felt a tinge of guilt or a bit of apprehension when I mentioned it because you could feel the judgment stirring up from people whenever his name came up. 

The more I listened to gospel and became involved in it, the more I became aware of a strange phenomenon. I'd meet or sometimes visit people who were very anti-Kirk and they'd play some of their favourite gospel music. To my absolute amazement, a lot of what I heard sounded surprisingly similar to the R&B I'd heard when growing up. The instruments used, the sound of the drums and the beats, the "wah-wah" and "muted guitar", the bassIines and the grooves, they were all used in ways similar to what I'd heard growing up. Time and time again, with artist after artist; from 'The Winans' to 'Commissioned' to 'Fred Hammond', my experience was replicated again and again: they all sounded like 90's R&B. Yet to my amazement, those who were quick to denounce Kirk for his alleged "worldliness" would be very content with bopping and singing along to these songs. Worldliness then was not the absolute standard I had been led to believe, except when it came to Kirk! That is the double standard. 

 

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It is very obvious to me that Kirk Franklin is definitely not perfect. How can he be, he's just a man! He still gets embroiled in different controversies (think of the recent 'I smile' lipstick-gate, his breakfast club interviews and his work with Kanye West). Nevertheless, we cannot write him off for any of the reasons I was given growing up. In many ways he has proved to be a positive role model to the next generation of gospel artists and uses his platform to mentor, encourage and speak some powerful words (see his blogs here: Great Divorce and here: Good is the enemy of great and check out his championing for other gospel musicians). On a personal level, he is one of the few gospel musicians of his era who is still happily married to the same woman which simply can't be taken for granted. You can tell that the older he has gotten, the wiser he has become and perhaps he would even regret some of his earlier antics in his youth.  Our ultimate role model is Christ and not man. 

Finally being able to see this double standard taught me much. It made it clear that using "worldliness" of the sound as a standard is very problematic. It's incredibly subjective, and consequently very inconsistent in it's application. If sounding worldly is the standard for judging music, then it needs to be consistently applied. If it falls down when applied consistently, we need a better standard.

This begs the obvious question, what is that standard? This is a really great question, and it's one we can talk about in one of the future blogs. Till then, stay blessed :)