Monthly Archives: October 2017

The Soulful Gospel Music

Gospel music is relatively easier to grasp and is filled with feeling and emotions that one can easily relate to. The theme for all gospel songs is the same, they resound the relationship with God. Talking from personal experience, gospel music has always managed to calm my tensed nerves, all because it comes from the depths of the human heart.

Gospel music doesn’t restrict itself to a particular genre of music, thus, it can be expressed in any of the music styles, including blues, jazz, reggae, and even rumba.
Roots of Gospel Music
Gospel Music
Tracing back the roots of gospel music, it seems to fore-date the African tradition of oral communication. How is this remotely connected? Well, most African music was centered around daily activities including agriculture, hunting and war. Singing, automatically became a means to achieve harmony both with nature and the cosmos.

As we know, majority of the African tribes were enslaved and forced to attend worship services. These slaves eventually learned the traditional hymns sung at these worship services, and sang them while working on the fields. Over a period of time, their understanding of the Christian doctrine grew, and the slaves began to draw strength from the biblical passages and compose their own songs. The technique of call and response stayed, and it is what gave birth to gospel music.

These African-Americans sought to singing verses and songs as a means to seek solace in their troubled times. The Church thus, became a medium for venting out their repression. The songs inspired from the Bible became a symbol of redemption, a sign of hope and freedom. The birth of gospel music became synonymous with the blacks living in South America. By the late 1800’s, this form of expression reached the rest of America through traveling minstrels.
Gospel Music in church
Prior to 1870, gospel music took the role of work songs, jubilees and social gospel. The fight for civil rights and equality gave birth to a whole new genre of gospel music. This music incorporated widely accepted social messages into songs that were sung both in church and outside.

Post the success of black music in the 1960s, gospel music became more performance-aware and equally, socially and spiritually engaging. The 70’s and 80’s saw the marriage of funk and disco into the essential gospel music. The 90’s blended an upbeat explosion with the introduction of R’n’B that scored big. Seeing the increasing popularity, the British boosted their existing gospel groups.
Due credit to Thomas Andrew Dorsey popularly called the ‘Father of Black Gospel Music’, who combined the rhythms of jazz and blues into Christian praise songs. Songs like Precious Lord and Peace in the Valley have played a major role in delivering words of assurance even today. Another noteworthy mention is that of Mahalia Jackson, also called the ‘Queen of Gospel Music’, who through her melodious voice caused a regeneration. Such was the power of her singing that people felt encouraged to wholeheartedly participate in the singing.

A Rhythmic Walk Through the Golden Era of Music

Queen Elizabeth not only mandated the arts, she herself was skilled in musical instruments. Her personal instruments were the virginals and the lute. While the Tudor reign generated magnificent amounts of music, musicians and theater, it was most prominent during Queen Elizabeth’s time. As far as music was concerned, she led by example. She would often have her court musicians play for her while she danced, as she considered it a great form of exercise.
Elizabethan music thus entered the homes and lives of all people. Native folk music was seen being played at the dinner tables when families came together for a meal. People who belonged to the higher strata of society in this era were known to hire a musician almost every night. In case of people who could not really hire such musicians, they always had at least one musical instrument and one servant who could play it.
The Popular Instruments
Just like we divide vocals according to the natural range (like tenor, soprano or contralto), the instruments in the Elizabethan era had their own tonal range. Every family of instruments was categorized according to this range and would therefore vary in size and shape, even though they were the same instrument.

The different instruments were also used to denote the status of a person as well. For example, wind instruments such as the trumpets were played to mark the arrival of royalty.
String Instruments
Dulcimer mountain music
♫ The most popular of all stringed instruments was the lute. All the artists in the Elizabethan court could play it. The chitarrone was a huge (almost 6 feet) version of the lute that was also used at the time. The lute was an instrument of soft and controlled melody rather than power, due to which it was used more commonly in a closed environment. It was still the instrument of choice for many street musicians as well as court musicians. The sound box is shaped like an elliptical melon, with multiple ribs (or sides). More ribs meant a deeper sound box, giving a deeper tone.

♫ The fiddle was a street music instrument and was played almost like the modern violin. The fiddle was commonly used by street and town musicians and could either be played with a bow or plucked. The hurdy gurdy was another version of the fiddle that was quite popular in street music as well. You had a wheel that could be rotated using a crank. The wheel brushes against the strings to produce sounds through friction.
antique lute
♫ The harp and the psaltery were in common use. The psaltery was played like the lute, but its sound box was trapezoidal and it usually had 12 strings. The upper society usually preferred keyboard instruments, while the harp was most common in chamber music.

Music Therapy Classical Music

Classical music is one such music genre that has the ability to create a positive aura around you. The effects of classical music on the brain can be perceived well when you listen to its melody and get absorbed in it completely. We have provided you some interesting facts about this effect.
Listening to classical music becomes an addiction when you start feeling the lyrics and allow the melody to get infused in to your mind. A lot of research has been done on the effects that classical music has on the brain, and the results have been proven true. The effects are more pronounced when you submerge yourself completely into the music and listen to it religiously without diverting your mind anywhere else. The rhythms harmonize with the vibrations present inside your mind and you feel intensely relaxed. Classical music is capable of mellowing down your agitated mind and soothing your senses in a unique way. We explain you further in the upcoming segment.

How Does Classical Music Affect the Brain

The two significant elements of classical music that make it so intensely appealing, are its rhythm and melody. The rhythm acts like a stimulant for the brain while the melody sparks up your mind. Melody and rhythm when combined together affect the performance and organization of the brain in the positive direction.

¶ Several studies have shown that production of serotonin is elevated in the brain when a person is engrossed in the music. It’s a sleep inducing hormone, that also acts as an anti-depressant. Secretion of serotonin takes place when your brain is exposed to positive shock, like music, poetry, movies, etc. When your mind is tuned to the notes of classical music then you can automatically sense a pleasing aura around you. The soothing vibe that you feel around yourself is the outcome of serotonin which is released under the effect of classical music. Scientists also say that, classical music can bring down the levels of hormone cortisone, whose excessive presence can cause anxiety, stress and depression.

¶ Instrumental classical music from India and other Eastern countries has a spellbinding effect on the brain. Classical music played with instruments, like santoor, sarod, sitar and flute can rejuvenate your mind instantly. The harmony in the notes and the soft melody played can improve your concentration power. You can resort to this form of music while suffering from anxiety, exhaustion and restlessness. Classical music also encourages your creative instincts, which is a direct outcome of the effects it has on your brain.

¶ The most pronounced is the effect of Mozart’s 60 beat per minute composition of the baroque period. The Mozart Effect says that, improvement on the performance of spatio-temporal reasoning and short- term memory takes place through the listening of complex music, such as Mozart’s two-piano concertos. The waves generated inside the brain has a specific amplitude and frequency. Listening to this particular form of music can influence the pattern of the waves produced inside the brain. It further improves your reasoning and cognitive abilities. As a consequence of change in frequency and amplitude of the waves, your brain responds quickly and it is able to process information more swiftly. You can read the book, ‘The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit’, written by Don Campbell for acquiring in depth knowledge about this phenomenon.

The History of Rap Music

Rap music has its roots in Africa. Even before hip-hop or rap originated, the Griots (village story tellers) of West Africa narrated stories in a rhythmic way with drum beats. Rap music is also closely related to the songs that were sung by the African-American slaves, while they worked in the fields and did other manual labor. These songs were about the hardships and suffering that the slaves were forced to endure at the hands of their masters. The ‘call and answer’ emceeing technique is believed to have originated from such songs, wherein, one of the slaves would lead the song by calling out a part, while the others answered the call by singing the next few lines of the song. According to Blues guitarist and historian, Elijah Wald, people were rapping blues lyrics in 1920s. The call and answer technique was incorporated in gospel music as well, and sung by the church minister while making sermons.

Apart from rap pioneers such as Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham and Gil” Scott-Heron, a group of African-American poets in 1969, The Last Poets were making rap music about politics, society, race, and discrimination. Their song “Wake Up, Niggers” (1970) and among other songs contained spoken words, poetry, and jazz. The soul album ‘Black Moses’ by Isaac Hayes, had songs that were titled “Ike’s Rap” and “Ike’s Rap II”. The first big rap single that took America by storm was “Rapper’s Delight”, by Sugarhill Gang in 1979. This song revolutionized the genre. The single was a great commercial success and producers were finally ready to produce rap records. Many new rap bands like, Run-DMC and Kool Herc came up and found numerous fans.

The Myth

During the seventies and eighties, there was a myth among people that, this genre was for the Blacks. Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ (1965) was a try on rap, too. In 1981, a new-wave white band, Blondie, tried it in the song called ‘Rapture’. In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa released ‘Planet Rock’, which was a huge success. He was the first Black Muslim making rap music. In 1986, this form of music reached the top of the charts with singles like, ‘Fight For Your Right’ by Beastie Boys and ‘Walk This Way’ by Run-DMC. Soon, Run-DMC became the first rap band to feature regularly on MTV (Music Television). In the mid 1980s, the first female band, Salt-n-Pepa, released their single, “The Show Stoppa”, which was a success, and henceforth, there was no looking back for this band.

Rap through the Years

Rap is “food for the soul” as many describe it. Rap is a lifestyle; it means different things to different people. The beauty of rap is the fact of relating it with oneself. People often wonder as to why rap sounds aggressive and revolves around miserable circumstances. Well, that’s because, there were and are troubled times in people’s lives. The music is what inspires people through venting and how! Similarly, rapping about champagne, cars and partying is very much a lifestyle too. It’s a feel-good factor in this case. There is no right and wrong when it comes to music. What we need to understand is that music is not esoteric and is there for the taking.