The ŽAfter LifeŪ of Saj McKenley

Artist: Saj McKenley
Published: 2005-01-31

Markham, Ontario resident Saj McKenley, a former R&B artist, is preparing to release his second solo CD this year. His first album "Life" received five Covenant Award nominations in 2003. " 'Tis So Sweet" won for Urban Song of The Year. The Covenants are the Christian music industry's equivalent of the Junos.

His reaction, "It just blew me away with all the attention the album got."

When you listen to McKenley's voice it reminds you of a younger Stevie Wonder. It was therefore not surprising to hear him say he spent a lot of time listening to Wonder's music in his father's record store while he was growing up.

"I really loved the Motown sound and what Motown had to offer. I would have to say that Stevie Wonder was one of my favourites to listen to. "

McKenley also lists Sam Cooke and gospel singer Donnie McCLurkin as people whose music influenced him early in his career.

While a lot of emerging artists eagerly look towards that first big contract with a major record label, McKenley prefers being an independent artist and the control it offers him.

"It gives me more creative control. It gives me more artistic control. I can do more creative things on marketing and promotions whereas I might not get that kind of control with a larger label."

The production of his second CD, "After Life", is being handled by long time friend Yohan Gayle, of Elysha Productions. Their friendship began sixteen years ago when they performed together with the same R&B group.

McKenley writes his own lyrics, while most of the music is penned by Gayle.

"Shine" one of the tracks from this CD suggests another Covenant Award may be in McKenley's future. On this song McKenley reminds one of the soulful sounds of legendary Smokey Robinson.

He says he has been fortunate to have several radio stations in Toronto and Buffalo play some of his songs. This is something he says normally would be reserved for more seasoned artists.

McKenley was both surprised and elated by his first album's success since he is an independent artist.

Part of that success can be attributed to the audience he appeals to. He describes his music as being cross cultural. He grew up in a cultural melting pot in Scarborough. His church, Agincourt Pentecostal Church, is comprised of many ethnic groups.

"Because of that I think a lot of the music that I write and songs that I sing tend to be geared more to a multicultural audience."

What are the differences with being a Christian recording artist compared to only recording mainstream R&B music? He says now he can write songs that have "value and depth".

"I found it hard to write the songs that I wanted to write to get the message out there (about God)"

On Feburary 4th, McKenley will be appearing in the musical "The Kiln" presented by Shout 2005 at York University. It will come as no surprise that he has a singing role.

Writer: Joe Montague




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