Credit Photo: Tore Sætre / Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0
The church appeared as a shelter for African-Americans. Following their own ministers, they soon developed a unique way to celebrate the Almighty, paroxystic and on the verge of trance. While the Gospel tradition undoubtedly brought many gifted and seasoned vocalists, the powerfulness still shines in evangelical, mainly pentecostal jams, and other services.
We must situate the socio-religious context as inevitably linked to the Black Church. The specific African-American Christian cult has been named and conceptualized as Black Church. This is due to the specificities linked to its religious practices, implying an advanced practice of singing and a porosity between rural blues and evangelical prosody. To a larger extent, Black Church played a leading role in the Black community, as a social work. Within this social work leadership, music takes pride of place1.
The Black Church
A look at Contemporary Gospel acts such as the late Rev. James Moore (1956-2000), a native from Detroit Michigan, gives a precise insight into the level and power of church music nowadays. The skills developed by church musicians are extremely refined and they have nothing to be ashamed of when compared to conservatory students (though most of the time they are getting a classical training at the same time). The choirs and the amplified instruments are extremely loud, because the communion with God expects them to give all.
This “Black sacred music”, using elements of urban funk and soul music, soon turned into a whole genre in its own right with its own codes, ending in finding its place in the studios, venues and musical industry.
Crossing genres: sacred/profane, back and forth
Nevertheless, we would like to concentrate on the more “secularized” Black music type. The coexistence of a “Black church Gospel” and a secularized Black music vast genre (a branch that is now nearly 60 years) is questionable. And if they share aesthetic similarities, their ways of interpreting and their codes are quite different. Some of the performers dare to play profane music, while others exclusively dedicate themselves to the music of the church service.
1 Boyer, Horace C. “The History and Importance of the Black Church.” Harvard Gazette, 9 Mar. 2021, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/03/the-history-and-importance-of-the-black-church/.