Noel Robinson is one of the foremost musicians and worship leaders to come out of Britain’s African-Caribbean Pentecostal church. He honed his musical talents whilst a member of the Church of God of Prophecy, and was their National Music Director. He learned about being a jobbing musician whilst playing for Bishop John Francis and the Inspirational Choir in the early 80s, and subsequently became a house band member on the groundbreaking gospel music TV show, People Get Ready. In recent years, Noel has become a musician and worship leader in his own right, performing throughout the world and, during the past five years, he has expanded his ministry further via his Renewal conferences, and has travelled across the UK, hosting worship events with leading practitioners. On June 24, Noel Robinson is set to release Devoted – his first album in seven years. It will feature a number of guest artists, including Tim Hughes, Guvna B and Fay Simpson. Noel Robinson spoke to Keep The Faith about his album, his ministry and his hopes for the future.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): You’re getting ready to release your new album, Devoted. What’s the inspiration behind this release?
NOEL ROBINSON (NR): The inspiration is my journey of life, and how the presence of God has impacted every area of it; that it was God in valley, who carried me to the top of the hill.
KTF: Israel Houghton co-wrote one of the songs on Devoted. He was also a guest at the London Renewal event. What’s going on with you and Israel, lol?
NR: Israel co-wrote ‘Let the people say’. I met him at a restaurant in London some years ago – I was actually there to meet someone else. He knew of my work, and we started connecting and wrote two songs. Both were used on an album, but one, ‘Somebody please’, became the song used to raise money for Haiti, and was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios. I have led worship at his Deeper Conference in Houston, also playing guitar for him in the UK at various conferences.
KTF: Who else is guesting on the Devoted album, and what impact are you hoping the Album will have on listen
NR: I have Tim Hughes from Worship Central, who wrote ‘Here I am to worship’, singing on ‘You are holy’. I have known Tim for many years, and I have been a great supporter of Worship Central and Soul Survivor movements, so it’s a real privilege to have him. Jamaican artist, Chevelle Franklyn, is guesting on the reggae-infused ‘We cry Hosanna’. Chevelle is probably the number one artist coming out of Jamaica, and being able to do a song that is birthed out of the musical heritage of Jamaica – where my parents are from – is a real blessing. Guvna B, rapping on ‘Unity‘ – an incredible young man, whom I had the privilege of helping to create his MOBO Award-winning album, which was an honour. I have been nominated for three MOBOs, so it’s great that he could do it, and also with songstress, Marion Powell, lending her powerful voice. Gospel legend, Faye Simpson – of Nu Colours Fame – guesting on ‘One hope, one faith’; I grew up with Faye, so it is an amazing thing to connect with her ministry again.
My expectations are that folk will enjoy listening and joining in the journey of this Album; be inspired to worship, and experience the presence of God wherever they are.
It’s a difficult one, because the Album really is my journey of the last seven years, having to deal with rejection, shame, sickness and pain. These were some real, tough places I had to travel through. It was whilst in those places that I always tried to find a place to worship. I am hoping that someone, who is going through, will be able to relate to some songs, and find their place of worship and not run away from the presence of God. It was in His presence that healing took place; it was in His presence that deliverance took place; it was in His presence that content was deposited. It has to be God who, as you go through your circumstances, still wants to use you to deliver messages of hope and revival.
KTF: You’re an artist who learnt your craft in the Black Church, and you now minister and work with artists and churches of different races and cultures. How did that come about?
NR: I believe that the music is part of the equation, but content is the real key. What message you are carrying gives you access to destiny and to people. I have always put serving others as primary. If I can give to others – regardless of age, colour or even culture – then I am doing what Jesus did. We can give away what we do easily, but to give away who you are, really connects you to people.
Over the years, I found myself forming relationships across cultural and ethnic divides. I grew up in the Church of God of Prophecy, and we had no connections with any other churches. When I started playing for Bishop John Francis and the Inspirational Choir, I started to meet other Christians who were not ‘of the fold’. This has expanded today through my ministry into working with charismatic Catholics to Portuguese and Spanish communities. In fact, the music, worship and my Christian walk have been the connecting factor for all my relationships over the years. I have been fortunate to meet some incredibly gifted people, by having a heart to serve where God has placed me in the Kingdom of God. Sometimes that has meant changing many things about me to engage in relationships of great significance to my destiny. It has been about evolving into that place where God has chosen me to be.
KTF: What do you enjoy most about working with Christians from different races, cultures and denominations?
NR: I love seeing the passion, depth and expression of worship in the lives of believers. Jesus was a friend to sinners, but not much is talked about how diverse the disciples were – from fishermen to physicians – and Jesus got them working and building relationships with each other to form the Kingdom. It’s my greatest joy to be a part of something that transcends language, ethnicity, culture and denominations and that is centred in Jesus. The Church should be that kind of place.
KTF: How has doing so (working with different Christians) enriched your faith and appreciation for the Church?
NR: I believe that the Church is God’s agent in the earth. Yes, we divide ourselves by our clans and tribes; I have grown to appreciate the many different expressions found in this incredible movement of people, from the villages of India to the mega-churches of Africa and the US. It’s all about people; their stories of overcoming and finding God truly inspire me.
I am always asking what would happen if we could capture the vibrancy and passion of all the diversity of the Kingdom, put it all in one place, and let the world hear it. I believe it would be a place of commanded blessing.
KTF: Who are some of the high profile ministries you’ve worked with over the years, and what have you learnt from doing so?
NR: I have worked with Fred Hammond, CeCe Winans, Morris Cerullo, Jesse Duplantis, Reinhard Bonnke, Benny Hinn, Ron Kenoly… the list of names goes on and on, but I have learnt that God is able to take the smallest seed and turn it into something of effect for His Kingdom. If God can use me, He can use you to touch your world. Just be sold out to Him. Don’t become what you do, but always become what He wants you to become.
KTF: For the past five years, you’ve taken your Renewal Conferences around the country to train and provide a platform for worshippers. Will you be continuing with this, or has God given you a new vision?
NR: Yes, we are continuing to do that and to provide a platform and places of worship to affect the lives of all believers in the Kingdom. We have seen some 20,000 Christians impacted by the Renewal Encounters, both practically and spiritually I believe we are preparing the hearts of worshippers for a revival in this nation, seeing the supernatural operating in their everyday life, locality and church.
KTF: You have been a pioneer of UK Gospel. Would you still describe yourself as a gospel artist, and what are your hopes for music produced by Black Christian artists?
NR: Good question. Labels are there to define us to those who don’t know who we are. I was once a child, but now I am a man. If I am described as a child, even though I am a man, it’s a wrong definition; I am a worship leader who is Black. The musical style that I play is a fusion of all types and genre. To some, I am a gospel artist; to others a worship leader or musician/songwriter/producer – maybe I am all of these things, so I can win all men to Christ.
My advice is keep on giving life to the things God has placed within you. I am very excited about a generation who is still passionate about Jesus, and about people who are willing to use their abilities and giftings to proclaim His fame. I am hoping that people will show their support by purchasing the music and give platforms to the expression of worship that is locked up in our churches, so that churches will give opportunity to young artists to answer the call of God in their lives.
KTF: Your Facebook followers (including Keep The Faith) can’t help but notice that you are a man in love. How is married life treating you and your lovely wife?
NR: God is faithful. We are doing well and are pursuing together the purpose of God for our lives. To have a wife who supports is special to me, and I take care of her especially, and I celebrate her life achievements and ministry. Tanya has been very instrumental in helping me to believe and release the content that’s within me. Having someone to travel with has been fantastic, as we experience God’s faithfulness together.
KTF: Following the release of your Album, what are your plans for the rest of 2013?
NR: More albums – just trying get the content in me out; a book – possibly – but wanting to use what I have to release a generation into the fullness of who they are in whatever part of the world that God will use us into. Devoted will be released on iTunes on June 24, and is available in physical CD format on July 2.