‘South Wind’ blows from Chevelle Franklyn
This year is shaping up to be a big one for the local gospel industry – in terms of album releases from major artistes. In addition to Kevin Downswell hitting the road again for his successful Realignment Tour later this summer, to coincide with the release of his upcoming album, another of Jamaica’s internationally renowned gospel music artistes, Chevelle Franklyn is gearing up for the spring release of Go In Your Strength, the lead single from her upcoming worship album called South Wind.
Recorded in South Africa, South Wind is a dream come true for the gospel singer, who has been visiting the country for the last 15 years.
She finds the country pleasantly distracting, describing it as an inspiring, creative space, where she has been consistently welcomed with open arms. “When I got the chance to go to South Africa, the welcome was unbelievable. It was overwhelming,” she told The Gleaner.
The surprising warm welcome is likely because of Jamaica’s historically friendly relationship with South Africa, with roots in the tumult of apartheid. According to Chevelle, another big plus is that they love Jamaican music and culture.
She continued: “What you have to understand, Jamaicans are very dear to South Africa, because while the apartheid was going on, it was illegal for them to make any songs about liberation and freedom. So it was the songs of Jamaica that helped to get them through the toughest times,” she said. With liberation and freedom being overarching themes of reggae music, the work of men like Bob Marley, Burning Spear, and Peter Tosh became South African soundtracks and anthems.
Right Place, Time and People
Chevelle has visited other African countries, from which she reports similar reverence or recognition for Jamaicans. “I say this without apology. Out of all the other Caribbean islands, we have been the favourite to the continent of Africa. Everywhere you go, from you mention Jamaica, everybody is, ‘Yeah, mon!’ They love the music. I think the music has got to them,” she reasoned.
Chevelle’s inspiration is less harrowed than giving a voice to the oppressed, or those fighting for freedom and civil liberties. On that first visit to the country, the singer found herself ‘favoured’ by God to take on a musical project. “I met this pastor, and he was telling me that God had given him some songs, and he has been waiting on God to send him somebody to help him give birth to the songs. It so happened that God favoured me to be that person. When I ended up getting together with the musicians and singers, I was blown away by the level of musicianship. It was the perfect place to be,” she described.
She ended up producing a gospel album for the pastor that featured South Africa’s top gospel acts. Upon completion, she decided that one day, she would return to work on an album for herself. Since then, she has been visiting South Africa, often making the trip at least once a year – using those trips to build relationships within the South African music community.
So last year, she returned, ready to record two songs, to position herself for new releases. “It just so happened that I ended up doing an entire album. Everything was just flowing. The creative space is just phenomenal, because there are so many things to do in-between time. There’s the lion park to go and see, there are different safaris to go on. You see giraffes, elephants, all these animals – and it just releases happy hormones,” she shared.
It should reflect on the album, which Chevelle has affirmed is her best work yet. “I can’t wait for the world to hear it! It’s actually a dream come true for me, because I’ve wanted to do this for so many years. So I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right set of people,” she said.