ALBUM: Gary Hines
DURING THE 1990s, American choir Sounds of Blackness (SOB) played a major role in taking gospel music to the masses, as well as celebrating black culture through their music.
Founded in 1969, Gary Hines joined the group in 1971 and assumed leadership, changing the group's name from Macalester College Black Voices to Sounds of Blackness.
Although the group were celebrities in their home town of Minneapolis, they found it hard to get a record deal because of their name.
However, in 1991 the group were signed to Perspective Records, a label launched as a joint venture by legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and A & M Records.
Music lovers throughout the world could not resist Sounds of Blackness' inspirational songs, and their hits included The Pressure, I Believe, I'm Going All The Way, Testify, and the club classic Optimistic.
They also enjoyed great album success, and although the Grammy award-winning (they have three) choir have seemed quiet since those heady days of the 1990s, they have remained busy touring the world and recording music.
SOB recently released a self-titled album - their tenth - along with their uplifting single Fly Away, featuring lead vocals from Jamecia Bennett, the daughter of Ann Nesby, a former lead singer in the choir.
SOB have been regular visitors to this country ever since they started having chart success. In fact, they were here in May for a soul festival. Hines shared that he loves Britain. “Sounds of Blackness and I love the people and energy of the UK, and your great appreciation of African-American music,” he said.
The choir's new album has been released on Malaco Records. It is their first album for the label, which is renowned for releasing traditional gospel music.
SOB's pairing with the label seemed a strange mix, but Hines insists this is not the case. “Malaco has always been about bringing black music to all people. That is also at the core of what Sounds of Blackness does, so it is a perfect match,” he said.
Hines is a great believer in music's communicative power. “Music is God's perfect form of communication, because what comes from the heart reaches the heart, what comes from the soul reaches the soul, and what comes from the spirit reaches the spirit."
Hines names Dorinda Clarke Cole, Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary and Yolanda Adams amongst his favourite artists, and loves the diversity of the 21st century gospel scene - something Sounds of Blackness laid the foundation for.
He said: “Today's gospel scene is vibrant, dynamic and diverse - praise, contemporary, traditional, jazz, hip hop, inspirational and more. Crossover is good and is increasing. However, maintaining identity is also important.”
Faith underpins everything Hines does. “Faith in God is of the utmost importance in my life,” he said. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”