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06/09/2012 Young Praise Music Shepherds Ask:Where's The Sheep
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|Young Praise Music Shepherds Ask:Where's The Sheep|
|06-09-2012 04:42 | 0 comment(s)|
| By PUNCH LIWANAG|
May 17, 2012, 4:12pm
Retrieved from: http://mb.com.ph/node/359763/young-prai
MANILA, Philippines – In the current pop music landscape, you'll be hard pressed to hear anything else besides OPM pop-ballads, remakes and the occasional pop-rock music. There's foreign pop from the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, of course, but that's a given. However, every now and then, something different comes along and teases the ears in all the right ways. All the more intriguing is when this "something" comes from the most unlikely of music styles.
Different and good, that's the only way to describe the sound and music of contemporary praise artists Where's The Sheep?, the contemporary praise music duo comprised of vocalist Mike Shimamoto and guitarist Hero Mauricio that has recently released its debut album.
What's in a name?
Talking about their unique monicker, the duo explained, "In our youth Life In The Spirit Seminar community, newbies are called 'Lambs.'"
Mauricio added, "We went through being lambs too, but as time passed, we eventually became seniors, or shepherds if you will, taking care of the lambs."
Shimamoto further explained, "We got that from our community and it was a running joke whenever we'd have new members. When Hero and I started playing together more and more, we thought it would be a neat and un-typical name to call ourselves and, at the same time, would have a real and deep meaning for what we do."
Both supplemented that "Where's The Sheep?" is a question posed to everyone. "We're looking for the sheep or lambs not only from our community but the larger church, as in everybody, including you."
Mike (21) and Hero (20) first met when they both joined the music ministry of their yLSS community in Merville, Paranaque. It was here, during their early teens, that both were exposed to praise music. While Mike naturally gravitated toward singing, Hero had affinity with instruments, trying out the drums, the piano and eventually the guitar. The two met regularly for Saturday prayer meetings, where the budding musicians had a lot of opportunity to jam along with other like-minded youngsters.
Though the duo will say that while they grew up with praise music, they did not necessarily restrict themselves but have, in fact, listened to music of all types. "We don't limit ourselves, there's a lot of good music out there and it informs our own style – OPM, jazz, alternative rock—but at our core, it's praise music. It's who we are." Hero for one believes that "all of us will have shifted to a couple of genres by the time we reach 20, although praise, Christian, worship and gospel music remain intact in our music vocabulary."
Both state that when listening to praise music, "one must be open-hearted" and should "let the melody and message flow right thru. You'll know when you're open-hearted when the music triggers not just your memories and imagination, but also your emotions."
"There's no complicated mindset in approaching this music anyway," intones Mike, "as long as it makes you think, makes you realize something while listening to the words and you feel the music, that's all there is." He further adds, "I believe when you sing, it's like praying twice. Sometimes when I sing I can barely stop myself from crying, not because of pain, but it's as if I'm lifting something up that's not even mine."
Hero believes the same, likening praise music to prayer first and foremost. "I play the guitar as accompaniment, and support the people singing and worshipping, setting the mood and the place for them to easily pray. Being just a vessel, I feel for them and lift them up to God. When I play, skill is just a side-priority; being able to incorporate prayer in guitar-playing would be what I focus on."
Praise to pop and back
The idea for a praise album has already been simmering as a concept for the A&R department of Vicor Music and Viva Records. The idea to find a genuine praise music artist was there but the record label was waiting for the right moment and talent to embody the genre. It was middle of 2011 when a label executive chanced upon the duo in a prayer meeting and recommended that the two send a demo. The rest, as they say, is history.
The duo's album "Where's The Sheep? Praise, Worship and Inspirational Songs" is labeled as contemporary praise music. The songs in the set are in the same vein as those popularized by Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay and other songs associated with the genre. Mike and Hero's sound is built on the same musical DNA and fortified with the subject matter of God and worship.
Talking about the songs, Hero enthuses that they've covered Chris Tomlin's "Indescribable," a popular song in the genre, in their debut album and describes the song as "this simple but ironically-described way of saying, 'He's awesome!'" He also adds that songs like "God Gave Me You" and "Through It All" are "songs of prayer and how God accepts you for who you are."
The duo also has its share of original songs in the album like the piano and acoustic guitar driven track "I Am Home" that recalls Switchfoot, which Mike describes as "a lifestory assessed to be worth living, thanks to Him whom we go back home to." Then there's the catchy, mid-tempo Tagalog track "Buksan," with its soaring choruses and unmistakable pop-alternative flavor that makes it totally accessible to a wide audience, pop and praise music listeners alike.
As for people's reaction to them, Hero notes, "Depends on how open they are to the music. They'll surely be people who'll dislike it, but there are also those waiting to be touched, and waiting to hear that it's okay to just shout 'Lord, you are awesome' in public."
Looking for the sheep
With the release of the album, "Where's The Sheep?," Mike and Hero will definitely be able to reach a wider audience. Both agree that the traditional paths of commercializing the album will be met with a lot of discernment on their part. Mike points out that, "It should be, first and foremost, about His greater glory."
But as shepherds on a mission, Mike and Hero are excited at the prospect of hopefully leading others to a path of prayer. "Our best hope is that we'll be a bridge that people can use to get to the music, and eventually to Him," says Mike. "There could be hundreds out there listening at any given time, but if we could only reach one, and turn that one towards Him, then we've done our job."
Thinking about what his partner said, Hero adds that the gist of their message is: "We're looking for you," adding that, "what Mike said is right, we're just an introduction and hopefully an inspiration to other rising artists to say we play for Him and we're not ashamed of it. Any evangelism accomplished in the process would be all because of God himself."
"Where's The Sheep?" would eventually like to make the introduction: "Hey bro, meet Jesus, He died for you."
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