Gospel Music Culture
Gospel music culture often refers to the Christian music that sprung from the early African American church, which was later adopted by most modern churches and influenced a lot of gospel and R&B singers. Gospel music culture is known for its unique beats and the contagious tempos that will have people swaying and dancing along with the choir. Spiritual music is primarily influenced by African music brought by African slaves. The use of the drum, dance and clapping distinguish gospel songs from other forms of music. Gospel music culture experienced a moment of repression in the early years of slavery where most slave owners separated their slaves from each other in order to make integration to the new culture easier. However, slaves found a way to practice their music, which was perhaps the only thing they had in common that they could remember, whether it was singing and dancing after work or at night, in places where they would not be easily heard by their owners. Owners later realized that slaves were more efficient if they were allowed to sing. This led to an infusion of African music with the traditions of Christian religion and the English language that formed the foundations of gospel song.
Slaves developed work songs, which they sang while laboring out on the fields. As they got more Christianized the songs evolved into something more that held a deeper Biblical context while preserving the message of the harshness of life and labor and oppression under their White owners. Gospel music culture began to evolve even more when slaves began to gather in congregations in tents after work to hear the gospel being preached. There they learned about the old classic Christian hymns that they would later infuse with the musical techniques that they brought with them from Africa. Improvisations of old ad classic hymns led to totally different songs and new arrangements for the hymns.
A large part of gospel music employs the call and response technique, which is a technique between the soloist and the congregation. This is a direct influence of African music that was carried over to America by the slaves. The soloist was allowed to improvise with the text and the melody of the song during the call and response technique.
Gospel music began with Thomas A. Dorsey, considered to be the Father of Gospel Music who composed such gospel landmarks as “There Will Be Peace in the Valley.” Dorsey was a consummate musician who often played the blues and performed with Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Attending the gatherings of the National Baptist Convention led him to change his music preferences and he started writing gospel songs, among them “If You See My Savior”.
Spiritual songs gained little importance prior to the civil war. After the war ended new interest in gospel songs flourished and the music slowly started to gain recognition outside of the slave circles. The abolishment of the slavery helped paved the way for the popularity of gospel music culture because by then slaves were allowed to sing their gospel music freely.