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
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.