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Friday, April 9, 2010

COMMENTARY: TALENT HARD TO FIND AT SUNDAY BEST NIGERIA AUDITIONS



BET took the search for Sunday Best to Africa for its Easter Sunday premiere. After watching the Nigerian auditions, while I appreciate seeing the global influence of gospel music, I seriously doubt the winner will come from the Motherland.

Droves of singing hopefuls displayed lots of spirit, but gospel talent was scarce. Many of the voices were suitable for corporate worship rather than potential professional gospel acts.

After a long day of grueling deliberation, hard-to-impress judges Donnie McClurkin, Kim Burrell and UK-based Christian artist Muyiwa Olarewaju only selected 7 singers. (Just one of them will be chosen to compete in the U.S. Tune in to Sunday best airing on Bet on Sundays at 8 pm to see who it’ll be!)

The sole judge on the panel from Nigeria, Olarewaju was the most rigid of the 3 and clearly was looking for someone to make his country proud. Nearly every person to try-out was not good enough to represent Nigeria on a world stage in his doubtful opinion. However, one vocalist, the very last singer of the day, contestant # 0087 sang "The Lord's Prayer" was an answer to his.

"Just hearing you is like water to my soul!," exclaimed Olarewaju, who performed on Celebration of Gospel with his group, Riversongz two years ago.
One of the highlights of the show was when Burrell attempted to make Olarewaju's point to female singer with an average voice. Burrell came from behind the judges’ desk and faced off with the singer to demonstrate she was out of her league. Instead of being intimidated, all of a sudden the contestant became emboldened and confidently held her own. Very few people in the world would have had the nerve to go to-to-toe with Burrell so I commend her for that. She made it through.

Overall, the premiere was eventful and entertaining, but in an American Idol sort of way. There were a few comedians in the bunch including a Kirk Franklin impersonator. The joyous drumming and dancing made me wish I was there. It was cool watching Kirk interact with the locals. Yet, I’m looking forward to seeing the fierce competition I’ve grown accustomed to at the stateside auditions.

As much as there is an undeniable kinship between African Americans and West Africans, Gospel Music is an African American invention and we own it. Don’t get me wrong. There is gospel talent in and from The Continent (i.e., international Jazz/Gospel recording artist Jonathan Butler). Nigerian-born inspirational/gospel artist TolumiDe is a good example. My exclusive interview with TolumiDe will correspond with the May release of her album.

Check out TolumiDe to get a taste of another quality African vocalist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZc5pKKToLE&feature=related

Also to see the contrast in talent, watch the video report for an introduction to New Orleans auditioner, Krishira Perrier.
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Maxwell Makes Chart History Again With Hit "Fistful of Tears"

Set to Perform the #1 Song on Dancing with the Stars and Tonight Show in April; Erkyah Badu Added to Just-announced second night at Madison Square Garden in Concert with Jill Scott on June 26


Platinum-selling soul star Maxwell is still making news nearly a year after the release of his hit album 'BLACKsummers'night.'

*The singer and songwriter scores a three-peat this week with "Fistful of Tears," his third consecutive #1 on Billboard's Urban Adult airplay charts, making him the first male artist to achieve this feat according to the magazine.

*Maxwell will perform the history-making single on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" on April 20th and NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno on April 22nd, as he preps for the most talked about tour of the summer, his major arena dates with Jill Scott. The tour starts May 21 in Cleveland, Oh.

*It's just been announced that Maxwell will be joined by Erkyah Badu for his second Madison Square Garden performance on June 26. The first night, June 25, featuring Jill Scott, is sold out. The remainder of Maxwell's current summer arena tour dates will feature Jill Scott.

Last fall, Maxwell entered the history books at Billboard when "Pretty Wings" and "Bad Habits," the first two singles from 'BLACKsummers'night,' monopolized the top two slots on the Adult R&B radio airplay chart.
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BET "SUNDAY BEST" WINNER Y'ANNA CRAWLEY ISSURE ABOUT SHURE RISING GOSPEL STAR ENDORSES SHURE PRO AUDIO


CD TO DEBUT THIS JULY

BET's (Black Entertainment Television) "Sunday Best" winner Y'Anna Crawley has signed on as an endorser with Shure Pro Audio. The volcanic gospel vocalist leaped to fame during the 2009 second season of BET's hit television talent competition where she wowed viewers with her electrifying performances of songs such as Bill Withers' "Grandma's Hands" and the Rev. James Cleveland's "No Ways Tired."



"What can I say about Shure? The sound is consistently crystal clear, the quality of the product is the BEST, and it prevents me from having to work as hard vocally," Crawley says. "I've been requesting this product in my rider for years so to finally be partnering with them officially is great. Shure. Yes, that's my sound product of choice without question."



"Y'Anna Crawley's powerful, soulful voice is a fresh light in Gospel music," says Ryan Smith, Regional Manager, Artist Relations Nashville. "Shure is pleased to welcome her into our family of endorsers."



The dynamic vocalist is currently in the studio with Buster & Shavoni (the duo that has produced R&B flavored gospel hits for Kirk Franklin, Yolanada Adams, and Trin-i-tee 5:7) working on her debut solo CD which is scheduled for a July 13, 2010 release. The single "Grandma's Hands"hits radio May 4, 2010.


Crawley's project will be released iD Interactive Inc./Universal Music Group in partnership with BET.



For over 80 years, Shure has been a forerunner in the innovation and manufacturing of professional sound equipment. Artists such as Wyclef Jean, Toby Keith, Natalie Cole, and Third Day are among Shure's celebrity endorsers.
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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM THE AMBASSADOR



Dear Friends and Supporters:

First I want to thank everyone for your understanding, mercy and grace while my family and I worked on rebuilding our marriage and reconciliation. From the very beginning, I have wanted to communicate with you. However following the advice of the church leadership, and others to whom I entrusted my restoration, I remained silent.

Back in late April 2009, the Lord exposed me and consequently delivered me from being entangled in a season of willful disobedience, deception and darkness. I was involved in a non-sexual but very inappropriate relationship with a woman other than my wife, thereby betraying my Lord, my wife, family, Epiphany Fellowship (the church I love and was instrumental in founding) my co-laborers and ministry supporters like you.

It has often been suggested that no genuine Christian can willfully sin habitually for a prolonged period (1 John 3:6). And that those who do sin cannot do so without some sense of great conviction and internal disturbance. My life is a personal witness to this statement, as I for several months battled great depression, gradual and graphic spiritual deterioration. However, it indeed was God’s mercy that exposed me, breaking sin’s enslaving grip on me. It was also His mercy which used that to lead me to experience what David did when Nathan revealed that the “gig was up” and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

Like David, I instantly knew that, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). I was crushed by an enormous weight of guilt, shame, fear and sorrow, and I knew that the journey back to “ground zero” would be insanely difficult. Even to this day, I wrestle with that shame from time to time, but I also know there is one place I can turn—the gospel! I have to continually contradict my feelings and believe the rest of 2 Samuel 12:13, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”

After nearly a year of retreat, rehabilitation and intense family focus, God’s grace has me reset on a trajectory toward spiritual wholeness. Like Paul the great apostle I admit, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…” “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). God’s grace is teaching me that I am not supposed to attempt to “work” my way back to some supposed level of super-spirituality and then come out feeling “qualified.” But I am to recognize that I am never “sufficient in myself,” but “our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). As someone once said “He doesn’t call the qualified, but rather qualifies the called.” I am deeply comforted by this gospel truth and equally dependant on its reality. Without this comforting and affirming word, I might never have come back to the service of our Lord.

So I say now, what I believed then—I sinned greatly against the Lord Jesus, my wife and family, the other woman and her family, my church, and all my ministry co-laborers and supporters. I ask you to forgive me for being a prime example of the spiritual leaders I have often “put on blast” in the past, and further reinforcing the notion that the church is full of hypocrites. Forgive me for how my actions have caused many to be confused and insecure about the faith, and brought disruption to the peace of homes, churches, and ministries. May God give you the grace and the ability to forgive me, “as I have received the Lord’s forgiveness” (Colossians 3:13). By God’s grace, many that I have offended have forgiven me, most notably, my wife and kids. Pray that the Lord will continue to permit us to build on this foundation that will give the Lord Jesus Christ the greatest glory.

This has been an extremely painful time and now I accept the fact that although God’s grace is based on the merit of Christ and not my own performance, favor with man (Luke 2:52) must be gained through consistency over time. All I ask is for the opportunity to get started!

I have spent the past ten months in concentrated prayer, counseling, reading, studying, and fellowshipping with saints, and I am committed to diligently continuing on this course. Unfortunately, the sin has taken a toll and has created some unpleasant consequences. Among many, the one that particularly grieves me is the separation from my church. With regard to the Epiphany Fellowship, I will not be permitted by the leadership to continue in covenant fellowship. This decision brings me much grief. However I trust the Lord Jesus Christ to heal my heart and that of my family and the covenant community.

After all this I have so much more tenderness toward the “fallen,” and an appreciation for the glory of a gospel that is so easily preached but not as easily applied. Lord permitting, I plan to proclaim the gospel with even greater passion than ever before and herald its liberating truth wherever the Lord will allow. The plan is also to musically represent the Lord Jesus so that the “fall of Ambassador” will not end with a period, but rather, with a comma. As you may or may not know Cross Movement the group had retired but as a soloist I was planning to continue as long as the Lord Jesus would provide grace. The release of my third solo album The Chop Chop actually fulfilled my contractual obligation with Cross Movement Records, so now as The Ambassador I’m trusting the Lord for new direction and for what lies ahead.

My experiences during this time of seclusion and obscurity have indeed been very challenging. And, I’m still not clear on all the things that the Lord has been doing. But I plan to leverage every lesson learned and every insight gleaned for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Since the very beginning, I have been under the care of a restoration team led by Pastors Byron Craig of Macedonia Baptist Church (Norristown, PA) and Zach Ritvalski of Sweet Union Baptist Church (Philadelphia, PA). They have given me the “green light” to move forward in serving the Lord Jesus Christ publically. My wife has also given her blessings and support to this decision. Therefore The UpLift! Group and I are actively seeking God’s direction for new opportunities to honor the name of Jesus Christ.

The nature of my call to be an aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15), a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), and his ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20), compels me to reengage my generation and “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you (me) out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). This experience has taught me many things but one that will always stand out and I hope to become the embodiment of is God’s grace and mercy is more than sufficient.

William “The Ambassador” Branch
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FLOW RECORDS IS SET TO RELEASE JUANITA BYNUM’S MORE PASSION

April 5, 2010 – Flow Records proudly presents Juanita Bynum’s new CD, More Passion. The highly anticipated follow-up to the chart topping release, A Piece of My Passion features the unmistakable production skills of Myron Williams and intertwines them with the melodic voice of Juanita Bynum. Set for a May 2010 release, More Passion will continue the beautiful journey, A Piece of My Passion started.



Flow Records has done it again with a deeply moving release that gives listeners the opportunity to go deeper with Juanita Bynum as she rediscovers her true passion. Her prolific ability to evangelize through music and provide hope to broken spirits and damaged hearts is what makes, More Passion the calm in the midst of personal storms.



More Passion’s producer, nationally renowned songwriter, producer and singer, Myron Williams has added his musical genius to some of today’s biggest gospel artists, but he is best known for his phenomenal work on Flow Record projects such as Gospel Goes Classical, Made to Worship, and Piece of My Passion. With several industry accolades, and chart topping CD’s, he is one of the most sought after producers in the industry.



More Passion is poised to set the stage for a summer of uplifting praise, and a movement of personal victory that will touch the hearts of listeners and usher in healing. The Gospel/Christian community will hail Flow Record’s and Juanita Bynum’s latest project a true sentiment of God’s love, and compassion.



For more information about Flow Records or to receive a copy of More Passion for review, contact GIC Public Relations.
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