British Black Gospel, Part 6: MOBO Best Gospel Act 2012 - the nominees

Steve Alexander Smith is the writer of British Black Gospel, a book which traces the roots of Gospel in Britain. Exclusively for, Smith will be provding an overview of the world leading US Gospel market, and how it compares historically and economically to its British counterpart - taking us from the origins of British black gospel up to the present day. You can find out more about the British Black Gospel book on Amazon

The race is on. The five gospel artists on the nominations list have earned their place through sheer hard work, dedication, determination and faith, and stand level, shoulder to shoulder on the starting line. Each person has their eyes fixed firmly on the prize. The music they express comes from their hearts, minds and soul.

Geographical locations of the nominees reflect the broad and widespread appreciation and development of the gospel genre across the British landscape. At the end of this race, one person or one group will finally raise the 2012 MOBO Award for the gospel niche sector. All nominees can remain proud, and embrace their role as ambassadors of a rapidly emerging and vibrant sound. Here's the rundown:

Ni-Cola has been described by her peers as one of the hardest working women in British Gospel music, the ‘"little lady with the big voice" has released one EP, several singles and two albums - her latest being Love Out Loud. While singing is her core activity and ministry, it is the basis behind a wider role that engages her with mentorship schemes centered on disenfranchised youth within the inner city. Gospel music must be in the Manchester water supply as in November 2008, Tyndale Thomas became the first and to date the only British recipient of an MBE for gospel. Singing is etched and embedded within the DNA of Ni-Cola, who is the first cousin of fellow MOBO Award nominee Misha B. Vote now!

El Mafrex lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is of Nigerian origin. He is a multi-talented musician who started playing a musical instrument at the tender age of just seven. His love and appreciation of many different styles of music as resulted in a multi-genre sound. In September 2012, El Mafrex became the first black man to win the Scottish New Music Award (Artiste of the Year & Urban Recording of the Year) for 'Jehovah' - which has had 500,000 views on YouTube in the space of just six months. Vote now!

Ram1: Bob Marley and the Wailers were one of many groups to popularise and raise the profile of reggae in Britain. Around the same time (the 1970s), progressive gospel groups that fused the genre with reggae faced a wall of rejection and were subject to much controversy in black pentecostal churches in England up until the mid 1990s. Ram1, a.k.a. Ramone Williams, is based in Nottingham and expresses his faith and addresses youth crime via the medium of reggae gospel. He is one of a number of emerging artists who have embraced and adopted a wide variety of reggae styles. In a mirror image of its secular counterparts, gospel reggae tracks are given airplay by specialist DJs - and soundsystem teams blast out the message at high profile street events such as the Notting Hill Carnival. Vote now!

Rachel Kerr lives in London, but the people of the Midlands or more specifically Walsall will make claims on one of their own that was born and bred in Birmingham. Nominated for a MOBO Award in 2011, she is in the line-up once again in 2012. Since then, her growth, development and maturity as an artist as progressed exponentially. Kerr’s vocal brilliance and delivery is appreciated by both the gospel and a rapidly growing mainstream fan base. Vote now!

V9 Collective's music can be best described as a fusion of old school funk and new school soul, with an injection of sweet gospel vocals. Founder, writer, producer and bassist Sam Lynch is the man that provides the backbone sound to a group that delivers gospel harmonies with a mellow groove. V9 Collective stay busy on London's live circuit. The legendary London Community Gospel Choir has called on their services to support them during high profile gigs at the Jazz Cafe. The experienced vocal female line-up consists of Vernetta Lynch, Tula Lynch, Ruth Waldron and Semele Meade. Vote now!


Steve Alexander Smith