Transit is not what you would expect from a gospel album.
Instead of clapping and choirs, Pastor Samuel “Farenite” Selkridge supplies contemporary music with dance hall, soca, reggae, EDM, afro beats, and fusion elements.
Selkridge, 32, said the album has some obviously religious songs like One God Mi Rate, and Boldface. However, there are others to which the audience will have to listen deeper. For example, he said, on the surface the song Irreplaceable sounds like a love song “for a female,” but really it is about love for God.
A co-pastor with his wife Gillian Selkridge at Heaven Touches Earth International Ministries in Chaguanas, he paraphrased the Bible in many of his songs. He said it was done in a way that, if someone is not familiar with the scriptures, they will not realise they are receiving a biblical message.
He is also particularly proud of Still Standing which was released as a single in August 2019. He said looking back at rough times, many people realise it is not humanly possible to get through it by themselves. The song is about acknowledging that God walked with them during that difficult period, and that they are able to keep standing by the power and grace of God.
Selkridge told Sunday Newsday Transit is his first original album, although he has released a few EPs and song compilations over the years. “The thinking behind the name is that I have an understanding of music and its ability to transport persons from one mood or mind frame to another, whether it’s the words, the beat, and that kind of thing...
“This is the first time I put resources and energy into a project with a particular mind set. All the others are just songs I did or sang over and put them on a CD so people could have it for purchase.”
This time he wrote all 16 songs on the album. Some are new while others are remixes of his older songs. Two are collaborations with artistes Supers, and Neesha Woodz from Barbados who wrote the verses they sing.
Selkridge said he was supposed to do the album in 2017 but could not because of a lack of finances, lack of confidence, and because of his spiritual condition at the time.
The turnaround started in August 2018 when he produced the Transit Riddim and realised the impact it was having on people. He and three other gospel artistes had songs on the riddim and got airplay on secular radio stations.
“People were connecting with the songs on a different level. When people hear ‘gospel artiste’ or ‘inspirational artiste’ they have a preconceived notion. They think the music will sound a particular way, especially when they realised I was a gospel artiste and even a pastor. But I wasn’t boxed in. I was unorthodox.”
He said the message in his Transit Riddim song, No Time, is potent. He explained it is about people trying to derail others from their purpose, to stop them from being positive and from uplifting themselves, either through “bad mind,” or negative words or deeds. No Time encouraged people to let that negativity slide off their backs, to have no time for that, and instead continue to pursue the purpose for which they were put on earth.
“It wasn’t done in the cliche religious, Christian way. There was even a comment on my YouTube channel (FareniteFireMusic), that said it sounded like a (Jamaican dancehall artiste) Popcaan song. It could stand up to a secular artiste’s song.”
He also performed No Time at a fundraiser and said the reaction of the audience was positive. It even won Music Video of the Year at the 2019 Gospel Music Awards of TT.
When he realised the song and the riddim were popular with the wider public as well as the gospel crowd, it boosted his confidence so he decided to seriously pursue the album. Also at that time his finances, the availability of producers, and everything else fell into place for it to happen.
Transit was released on November 8, 2019 online and is available in digital stores such as Amazon and iTunes. Selkridge also produced physical CDs for sale in TT, as well as a seven-minute “videomentary” for the album.
Rather than having an official launch, in the videomentary he broke down the thinking behind six songs on the album and sponsored it on YouTube in order to reach more people.
Selkridge said he started to get serious about gospel music in 2010. He did not realise that he had any musical ability but he liked words from as far back as he could remember. He was always fascinated with rhyming and wrote poetry while attending St George's College. He said he would see fellow students beating on tables and freestyling. He challenged one of the boys and lost horribly. “He beat me real bad. It was a shame. Everybody laughed at me and from that day I made a decision: that would never happen again. So I developed my skill with words on a beat and so I moved from poetry to making up songs.”
After that he performed secular but uplifting, non-Christian songs all over Trinidad with his brother, local artiste Izac King. “In 2009, I rededicated my heart to the Lord, got back into a solid relationship with Jesus, and then in 2010 I released the song Never Giving Up.”
Since then he has been releasing music and intends to release more singles from Transit this year. He is also looking forward to the 2020 Gospel Music Awards of TT as he expects to be a finalist in several categories.