Sounds of Blackness: The Evolution of Gospel

It’s been over 20 years since the group Sounds of Blackness hit the airwaves with their first album The Evolution of Gospel, and even longer since the group formed. SoulTrain had a chance to talk with the group’s conductor, producer, and principal songwriter Gary Hines about music, healing, and the new release Sounds of Blackness.

Avoid Being Pigeonholed into one Genre… We’ve always been very clear about who we are and what we do. So when we get the label of gospel, it’s not an offensive label at all; it’s certainly a big part of what we do, it’s just not completely accurate. But we just gently remind people that the easiest way to remember that is to say it’s all in the name. “Sounds of Blackness”–our name says it all. So from field hollers to hip hop, rock, reggae, and everything in between, that’s what we try to bring. Even over the years when people have made the suggestion that we should just do gospel, we just tell them, in love, that you can’t fully appreciate the glory hallelujah of the gospel without the pain of the blues and the spirituals. Gospel didn’t just appear, it evolved from something. It’s part of a cultural reality that has many genres. The twin of traditional gospel is the blues, without the blues, spirituals and work songs there is no gospel so someone’s got to tell the whole story and that’s what Sounds of Blackness tries to do.

Concept of New Album… We were working on songs for this for about a year from creation, composition, arrangement, and rehearsal, to recording, mixing, and mastering. All of it is done in- house, right here at Atomic K Studios in Minneapolis, from start to finish. We really wanted this to be a signature recording and we wanted it to be a self-titled CD, and it’s so funny because everyone seems to be so surprised that this is our first self-titled release since the name Sounds of Blackness is so familiar to everyone. But this is the first recording that we’re calling by our name.

Focusing on Domestic Violence… Right, that same “Funkytown” Cynthia! We’ve been partnering with domestic violence agencies–primarily IDVAAC, (The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community)–and over our past few projects we’ve contributed songs that they’ve used in their workshops and dealings with survivors and even former perpetrators. So “A Call To Healing” is about and for the struggle against domestic violence and about the whole notion and principle of healing in general, healing amongst people, etc. So that’s why we wanted it to have an international flavor and that’s where Nirmala came in so masterfully. She’s well renowned as a singer and a musician so between her and Cynthia, that just took it to another level.

Bring Optimistic in the Downturn… “Fly Again” is kind of our “Optimistic 2011”, so fast forward 20 years later it’s not Ann–who by the way I know would want me to send love to you all–but it’s her daughter who actually co-wrote and co-produced the song as well. So now, in the midst of economic downturn and wars and all kinds of layoffs, bankruptcy, foreclosures, you name it, we’re telling people that they can rise again if they hold on and keep the faith.

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—— By: Interview By Soul Train


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