Vashawn Mitchell returns with a personal invitation for all to go on a musical journey to his Secret Place. Over the course of his 18 year career, punctuated with much critical and commercial acclaim, Mitchell has solidified himself as a creative musical force in Contemporary Praise & Worship. He’s responsible for fan favorites like “My Worship Is For Real” (Believe In Your Dreams), “Turning Around For Me” (Created 4 This), “God My God” (Unstoppable), “Don’t Last“ (Promises) and the mega-hit “Nobody Greater” (Triumphant). Additionally, Vashawn’s continued contributions to gospel music go well beyond his own recording career as a singer/songwriter and extend to producer and visionary, having played a key role in the major label debut and sophomore releases of new gospel stars Anthony Brown and Tasha Cobbs. Mitchell is also a sought after musical director and teacher with a heart for equipping the next. generation of worshippers. 

It is with this passion to pay it forward that Vashawn developed and hosted “The Call ZA” in Johannesburg South Africa in February 2016. Mitchell described “The Call ZA” as “a conference for worshippers to come together and receive information, inspiration and impartation to fortify their God-given assignment.” Attendees from all over Africa flocked to South Africa to be a part of this inaugural event. 

Mitchell hasn’t abandoned his gifts as a recording artist and worship leader. To close out the conference, on February 27, 2016 in a packed Mosaiek Teatro, Vashawn recorded what would become Secret Place: Live In South Africa. Why South Africa? After numerous trips to the region, Mitchell became overwhelmed by the worship experiences he encountered there. “When God gave me the vision for Secret Place, it was clear there was no other place for this sound to be recorded,” Vashawn recounts of his decision to record in South Africa. 

In order to capture the authenticity of the South African worship experience, Mitchell enlisted the help of some of the region’s worship leaders and artists to join him in the recording of the project. For Vashawn, “It was important to not just go and record but to make the recording a collaboration among BOTH American and South African artists.” South Africa’s own Mahalia Buchanan and Shaun P not only opened up the recording with their award winning songs but they also joined Mitchell’s American musicians to contribute background vocals for the entire recording. 

Secret Place: Live in South Africa isn’t your usual Gospel or Praise & Worship offering where an assortment of songs are compiled for their individual strengths. This project is an effective capture of a live worship experience that can be enjoyed as a complete body of work or as individual songs. 

The album opens with the ethereal “Give All I Have,” followed by a heart-warming rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” by Vashawn’s 11 year old nephew Tyler Mitchell. In keeping with Mitchell’s desire for the project to be a collaborative exchange of worship and sounds, the “Chant” literally transports you to South Africa with it’s haunting use of South African harmony and melody. Secret Place: Live in South Africa then begins to pick up speed with the fun “Oh The Love.”

Next, the aptly titled first single “Joy” is one of the project’s finest moments. Originally recorded by Atlanta’s Grace Midtown Church house band Housefires, Mitchell masterfully adds that special touch that truly makes it his own while maintaining its mass appeal and ecumenical sound. Vashawn describes the tune’s sentiment best; “Happiness is external and temporary because it depends on outer circumstances that change. Joy on the other hand is internal and experiencing it brings you to a place of strength and power.“ The song’s fitting reprise will have its infectious hook ringing down deep in your soul. 

Vashawn and team then breathe new life into one of his favorite worship songs, a cover of Kari Jobe’s “Holy Spirit” that gives the popular tune an unexpected freshness. While “Son of God” stands out as an anthem of sorts, the next track is one you won’t soon forget. Tasha Cobbs lends her voice to “Jesus Reigns.” As evidenced by the song’s reprise, audiences everywhere are sure to love it as much as those who were in attendance at the recording. 

“Brand New” is destined to be a favorite with it’s catchy R&B meets modern worship groove. It’s a perfect set up for the album’s title track “Secret Place.” Although much of Vashawn Mitchell’s success can be attributed to his ability to craft songs with a universal appeal, he is able to effectively fuse traditional and multi-cultural sounds in a unique way. “Good God,” with it’s heavy Afro-Carribean flavor is a perfect example of this fusion. It is said of artists that when you have a hit, you have to sing it everywhere you go. There was no way for Vashawn not to bless the crowd with the song that catapulted him and his ministry to the world stage. Joined by gospel music royalty BeBe Winans, “Nobody Greater” is given brand new life. Winans sings with a passion and grit that is both refreshing and unique.

Mitchell then returns to his gospel roots with “God Will Take Care of Me” which is perfectly suited for your “recovery” after you’ve danced to the revamped “Nobody Greater” and it’s subsequent “Bump.” To close out the album, Vashawn recruited Rev. Benjamin Dube, one of South Africa’s top selling artists, to lend his voice to the super fun Zulu worship song “Siyakudumisa.” You are guaranteed to be singing this gem long after the song has ended. Each of Mitchell’s recordings have had a theme or overarching message intended for the listener and Secret Place: Live in South Africa is no exception. When asked what he wanted listeners to take away from this recording, Vashawn responded “There’s no take away but a stay! I want this particular body of music to serve as a tool for those who listen to develop and maintain their personal relationship with God and pursue greater depth in their growing relationship with Him!  I pray listeners to this music will allow it to empower, inspire and encourage them through their lives.” Secret Place: Live in South Africa does just that.

By: Torrence Glenn