MOBOs 2007 - Where's the Soul?

[reprinted courtesy of Echoes Magazine]

There is no Soul Award at this year's MOBOs.

In fact, the MOBOs has NEVER given a Soul Award in its entire history.

Yet Soul artists today sell millions of albums and perform to ‘sold-out' signs all over the world - frequently eclipsing other cornerstone black music styles such as Gospel, Jazz and Reggae, all of which are recognised at the MOBOs.

For the past two years, Echoes magazine, Britain's most respected and now longest running black music publication, has campaigned for the MOBOs to include a Soul category in its list of prizes. At the 2007 Awards, the soul artists themselves have finally decided to make themselves heard.


Why Now?

[reprinted courtesy of Echoes Magazine]

There is no Soul Award at this year's MOBOs.

In fact, the MOBOs has NEVER given a Soul Award in its entire history.

Yet Soul artists today sell millions of albums and perform to ‘sold-out' signs all over the world - frequently eclipsing other cornerstone black music styles such as Gospel, Jazz and Reggae, all of which are recognised at the MOBOs.

For the past two years, Echoes magazine, Britain's most respected and now longest running black music publication, has campaigned for the MOBOs to include a Soul category in its list of prizes. At the 2007 Awards, the soul artists themselves have finally decided to make themselves heard.


Why Now?

British Soul artists such as Beverley Knight, Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and Corinne Bailey Rae are currently amongst the most successful on the planet in any musical genre.

Beverley Knight's 2007 release, Music City Soul, a Top 10 album, was designed to sound like a Sixties Soul session. Beverley herself says: "Of course there should be a Soul Award at the MOBOs. It's ridiculous that there isn't one."

Amy Winehouse's Back To Black is the biggest selling album in the UK this year, period.

Joss Stone first made headlines as the white teenager from Devon who could sound convincingly like a 30-something Soul singer from the US. The band on her first album, and her vocal coach, were all seventies Soul stars. Joss's most recent album, Introducing Joss Stone, was produced by hip Soul producer Raphael Saddiq. She always describes herself as a Soul singer.

Corinne Bailey Rae's brand of singer-songwriter Soul has made her one of the biggest selling debut artists in recent years, both here and in America.

She says:

"I'm very honoured to have been awarded two MOBO Awards myself last year. However I truly believe that the MOBOs  should preach the gospel for all Music Of Black Origin and as such it seems very strange not to have a category for soul music.

"When you have artists such as Jill Scott, Joss Stone, Beverley Knight, Raphael Saadiq, Rahsaan Patterson, Omar, Frank McComb and Angie Stone all successfully creating modern soul music I'd suggest that soul is very much alive and well, and continues to be a massive influence. 

"Without soul music I know I wouldn't be making the music I make - my music comes from the soul, and is soul. That's why I support Echoes' campaign to get a specialist soul award at the MOBOs. It's as important today as it's ever been."

Meanwhile, in America, the home of Soul, the music is currently thriving.

September alone sees new major label album releases from

multiple Grammy winner Jill Scott, Soul legend Chaka Khan, Angie Stone, who leads the re-launch of the famous Stax label, and potentially huge new stars Ledisi [through Verve Records] and Keite Young, [signed to Hidden Beach, the same label as Jill Scott].

 

Alicia Keys' third album will follow in early November.

D'Angelo has almost finished his long awaited third album.

Erykah Badu has nearly completed her fourth.

The US indie label Soul scene, making full use of internet [including myspace and facebook] outlets, is flourishing.

Artists such as Eric Roberson, Anthony David, Rahsaan Patterson, Martha Redbone and Frank McComb are now so established that they often out-perform artists signed to major labels.

Britain's indie Soul artists do pretty well too: for example, Omar is currently touring on his sixth album Sing [If You Want It]; Incognito consistently release at least one album a year and tour to sell-out audiences; Ola Onabule has just released a superb sixth solo album and will tour throughout Europe and in America to support it.

Why Does It Matter?

Because Soul is not just music with a history, but also enjoys a very healthy and innovative present.

New Soul music is bought by a wide range of people - from discerning teenagers into Amy Winehouse and Eric Roberson, through long-time Soul-heads who put Donnie Johnson and Jill Scott albums on their shelves next to Marvin and Aretha, to casual pop buyers who made Corinne Bailey Rae and Beverley Knight into chart toppers.

Because, contrary to the impression often given by the MOBOs,  there is more to current popular black music than hip-hop and R&B/pop.

Because although Soul music and R&B/pop may share a boundary, they are distinct styles of music, each deserving of recognition. Usher, Ciara, Christine Aguilera and Beyoncé clearly do not make the same kind of music as Jill Scott, Angie Stone, D'Angelo and Anthony Hamilton.

Because despite the achievements of the artists referred to, the term ‘Soul' is too frequently, and wrongly, ascribed only to music of the past, when new Soul music - much of it made by young British Soul artists - is plainly enjoying one of its most creative and successful periods.

Because the MOBOs, as an awards show based in the UK, could send a message out to the rest of the world that one of the most important music styles of black origin is not just alive and well, but, in some recent, celebrated cases, being taken to new heights by British artists.

Because the MOBOs really should know better.

 
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