Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1097

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BRINGING YOU THE STORIES BEHIND MUSIC + ESSENTIAL NEWS, REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS

Feature

Zoe Records: Divine Inspiration

Isaac Odeniran Founder and Director at Zoe Records
Isaac Odeniran Founder and Director at Zoe Records Dennis Parkes @bluesandsoul.com Dawn Thomas Wallace @bluesandsoul.com Lil' Redhead Somi @bluesandsoul.com Professor Wilbur Belton @bluesandsoul.com Lil' Redhead Somi @bluesandsoul.com Dennis Parkes @bluesandsoul.com Dawn Thomas Wallace @bluesandsoul.com Professor Wilbur Belton @bluesandsoul.com

Founded in 1999 by British-born Isaac Odeniran as an imprint of his Abundant Life Recording And Entertainment Company Limited, over the last 21 years London-based independent Zoe Records has earned a prestigious reputation as "the premier British Black Gospel Music label" with an impressive catalogue of releases that range from such top-drawer American artists as 13-times Grammy Award-winning Shirley Caesar, renowned "father of modern gospel music" Andrae Crouch and one-time R&B star Coko (formerly of international chart-toppers SWV) to UK trailblazers like Dove Award nominee JayEss and enduring British gospel songstress Dawn Thomas Wallace. Meanwhile, other notable ventures of the company include music publishing and promotions, films, and community projects.

...Cue the above-mentioned Mr Odeniran hooking up for the first time with "Blues & Soul" Assistant Editor Pete Lewis to discuss the history and ongoing activities of his company while simultaneously highlighting the label's four primary album releases of 2020 to date.

The first of which - "You Are Welcome" - marks the debut release from London singer/songwriter Dennis Parkes. Which, produced by former London Community Gospel Choir member Nicky Brown, encompasses 12 tracks of soulful worship ranging from covers of Charles Jenkins' "Our God Is Awesome" and Tim Hughes' "Here I Am To Worship" to the yearning string-accompanied serenity of its self-penned, sax-and-piano-accompanied title-track.

Second, of said albums meanwhile - "Live In Luxembourg" - represents the highly-anticipated first release on Zoe Records from long-established UK gospel icon Dawn Thomas Wallace. Which, recorded before a live audience at Luxembourg's Oasis Church Of God, features Dawn giving her unique take on such gospel classics as Andrae Crouch's "We Are Not Ashamed" and Mary Mary's "The Sound". All of which results in an impressive label debut for the songstress whose impact on the gospel scene first began in the 1980s while singing with The Trumpets Of Zion, whose powerful voices led to them being voted Best UK Female Gospel Group in both 1983 and 1984.

Meanwhile, the third album on our list showcases the US talent of Washington, DC-based Professor Wilbur Benton & Company's second "Live In London" LP, recorded at the label's Fri: D3m Festival back in 2017. A celebrated composer, arranger and musician as well as uncle to Grammy-nominated US gospel star Tye Tribbett, Professor Belton is widely regarded as one of today's most gifted music ministers, having already received a Stellar Award nomination as well as having organised mass choirs which have opened for such gospel legends as the aforementioned Shirley Caesar, Reverend Timothy Wright and Jeff Majors.

Following which the fourth album on Zoe Records' list of prominent 2020 albums comes from Essex teenage gospel singer Lil' Redhead Somi. Who, having recorded her debut LP "Rich Girl" at the tender age of nine, at 14 years old in 2016 released its "Deluxe Edition" which she in turn follows up this month with her third LP for the label titled simply "Remixes And Videos".

PETE: Let's start by discussing your background

ISAAC: "I was born in the UK, and with me being of Nigerian origin I kind of divided my time growing up in both London and Nigeria. Then in terms of musical influences, while I've always loved African music and gospel music from America, with there being a lot of disco, funk and pop music around in the early-Eighties I did also spend a lot of time during my teens listening to artists like Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, Madonna... But then from the mid-Eighties/early-Nineties right up to today I guess the music I've spent most of my money buying is predominantly US black gospel. Though with there being a lot of gospel music in Nigeria too, I do listen to a lot of that online also."

PETE: Zoe Records has been frequently referred to as "the premier British Black Gospel record-label". What in your eyes makes it so special and unique?

ISAAC: "Well, I don't know of any UK gospel label that releases and promotes gospel music like we do. I mean, we've got this huge catalogue of American acts whereby we release music from the likes of Shirley Caesar, Coko and Andre Crouch; while at the same time we've released music on pretty much anybody who's done anything musical gospel-wise in the U.K…. Plus not only do we release music but we also do live showcases, we do live events, live concerts at places like Hackney Empire and Birmingham Conference & Events Centre as well as at smaller venues... So yeah, I think it's fair to say what we do is champion gospel music like nobody else in the UK does!”

You can read more from B&S Assitant Editor Pete Lewis' fascinating exclusive interview with Isaac Odeniran, Founder/Director of UK Gospel Music label Zoe Records, including how the label came to be founded, the rundown on 4 recent Zoe releases from label stars Dawn Thomas Wallace, Professor Wilbur Belton, Dennis Parkes and Odeniran's highly talented daughter, Lil' Redhead Somi. Plus, we find out where the Zoe name comes from and what it means! All in the latest issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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The following current albums are out now through Zoe Records: “You Are Welcome” by Dennis Parkes; “Live In Luxembourg” by Dawn Thomas Wallace; “Live In London” by Professor Wilbur Belton & Company; and “Remixes And Videos” by Lil’ Redhead Somi

ESSENTIAL LINKS:

TWITTER: ZoeRecordsUK

INSTAGRAM zoerecordsuk

FACEBOOK facebook.com/zoerecorduk

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Words PETE LEWIS

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