Think about black music and you immediately come up with black gospel music, right? There are a large number of famous soul singers nowadays who began as gospel music artists. This impressive list includes, among others, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Lou Rawls, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, says Leonard Goines in the online article “Gospel Music and the Black Consciousness”.
In terms of history, Goines noted that black gospel music grew out of the late 19th and early 20th century folk church and is essentially created in a context of individual and collective spontaneity. As a total manifestation, black gospel can be viewed as a synthesis of West African and Afro-American music, dance, poetry, oratory and drama. There are two basic sources from which the aesthetic ideals of gospel singing have been derived.
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These are the free-style collective improvisations utilized by congregations in the black church and the black gospel preacher's rhetorical solo style. Since the beginning of their history in the plantation praise houses, black preachers have utilized folk poetry and the vivid phrase to excite the emotions and involve the participation of their congregations. Possessing special oratorical skills marked by a call-and-response format and punctuated with groans and gestures, these master preachers have been able to create an aura of excitement and hope rarely equaled (Goines, 2004)
I would have to agree with Goines when he pointed out gospel has distilled the aesthetic essence of the black arts into a unified whole. The uniqueness of black gospel music, in my opinion, is in the experience itself when you listen to it. As noted by Goines, few people can experience gospel in its true cultural setting and fail to hear black poetry in the black preacher's sermon. Nor can they fail to see drama in the emotion-packed performance of a black gospel choir interacting with its congregation; nor fail to see dance in the gospel shout.
It is also in this aspect that I would say yes, there is such a thing as a Black Style. Anyone who listens to gospel music can easily identify if the singer is black or not. The soulfulness and the emotions revealed in black gospel music is definitely a manifestation of the proud cultural heritage of the African-American people. Source: Goines, Leonard 2004: Gospel Music and the Black Consciousness [online] Available at: http://www. afgen. com/gospel21. html [cited on May 24, 2006]
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