Reel Urban News Exclusive
Just 39 years old, VaShawn Mitchell has already reached higher ground in the world of gospel music. The singer, songwriter and producer has earned six Stellar Awards and was Grammy-nominated for Best Gospel Performance and Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album.
Born and raised in Harvey, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, Mitchell has just released a new CD, Secret Place: Live in South Africa. In an exclusive interview with Reel Urban News, Mitchell says the album is a spiritual as well as a musical journey.
“South Africa has really become my secret place. The place where I go to spend time with God, write songs and keep that relationship when I’m not so busy being busy.”
Accompanied by an international cast of singers and musicians, Mitchell immersed himself in the country’s culture. “It was really important to me not just to go to South Africa and do something and just leave. I wanted to embrace the people and culture.”
“I invited a few of the local artists who I have relationships with to not only sing background but Pastor Benjamin Dube, one of the biggest artists in South Africa, is featured on one of the songs. Tasha Cobb came and sang, BeBe Winans sang with us. The band and singers are both from the United States and South Africa – making a great sound that I believe will bless the world.”
Secret Place was recorded live on Feb. 27, 2016 in Johannesburg at Mosaiek Teatro, a 3,000-seat concert hall that has hosted symphony orchestras. The aura of worship that was created is undeniable. Mitchell says he was compelled to record in Joburg after spending so much time there. “I traveled to South Africa eight times in one year. That’s a long flight, over 20 hours.”
Mitchell’s relationship with the African American church goes back decades. At age 20, Mitchell was appointed Minister of Music at Chicago’s Sweet Holy Spirit Church. Today Mitchell is recognized as a creative musical force in the Contemporary Praise & Worship genre. Mitchell feels that worship in South Africa reached new and exhilarating heights in Mosaiek Teatro that night.
“The worship, the praise and the experience were like no other. I began to embrace it. I began to learn about the culture, the artists and pastors there. It was just like a second home for me just to go and record there. The place was packed but the energy was even more amazing.”
Mitchell’s thoughts are never far from the pain suffered by black South Africans during the era of apartheid, which roiled the region from 1948 until the 1990s. “We understand apartheid was not long ago and there are still some releases only God can release. It’s not about is it better or worse, it’s about the experience and the release of the worship and where the experience comes from.”
While Mitchell fully understands how much South Africans suffered during that brutal time, the singer’s music and message focus on the positive, global impact that emanates from the region. “I go to South Africa now because it’s so advanced. You see African Americans, you see Africans, you see people who are productive and moving forward. Great men and women of God.”
Our exclusive on camera interview with VaShawn Mitchell coming to ReelUrbanNews.com.