Gospel music is a genre of Christian music and it reminds Christians of the secular world that they live in, which helps to remind them that there is a higher power at work. The music also helps to keep Christians self-aware and more connected to their spirituality. Some argue that gospel music is rooted in Africa and was brought to the Americas by the slaves. However, gospel harmonies and many of the hymns themselves also show a clear Scottish influence. The basic elements of Gospel music are ‘call-and-response’, complex rhythms, group singing, and the employment of rhythmic instrumentation.
Today, gospel music is no longer a Sunday-only affair, but a major part of the recording industry. These are the different styles of gospel music:
Spirituals (or Negro spirituals) are religious folk songs (‘work songs’ and ‘field hollers’) developed by black American slaves. Many Negro spirituals follow a call-and-response. Most are communal songs, expressions of faith while some of them are socio-political protests against the white American culture. They are a result of the interaction of music and religion from Africa with music and religion of European origin.
Traditional gospel, sometimes referred to as black gospel, was popular in the mid 20th century. It usually features a large church choir, often fronted by one or more soloists to express personal or communal belief regarding African American Christian life. It is composed and performed for entertainment, aesthetic pleasure or religious and ceremonial purposes to praise, worship or give thanks to God.
Gospel blues is a blues-based form of gospel music (a combination of blues guitar and evangelistic lyrics). Many early blues performers included gospel blues in their repertoire but steered clear of dance-oriented blues styles such as 12-bar shuffles-beat song and boogie-woogie dance tunes.
Shout music, a type of gospel music performed by shout bands. The shout band tradition of the southeastern United States originated from the exuberant church music of North Carolina. African American brass players formed bands, predominantly trombone-based, inspired by jazz, blues and Dixieland, gospel and old-time spirituals: a more soulful version of a New Orleans Brass Band.
Southern gospel is commonly known as ‘quartet’ music due to the original all male, tenor-lead-baritone-bass quartet make-up. Early quartets were typically accompanied only by piano or guitar, and in some cases a piano and banjo. Over time, full bands were added and even later, pre-record accompaniments were introduced. Sometimes we can hear bluegrass arrangements in southern gospel. Over the years, this genre has evolved into a popular form of music across the United States and overseas, especially in the Southern United States.
Progressive Southern Gospel
Progressive southern gospel is an American music genre that has grown out of southern gospel over the past couple of decades. The style can trace its roots to groups like The Nelons in the 1980s, who appeared regularly on events with traditional Southern gospel groups. Traditional Southern gospel emphasised on blend and polish but progressive southern gospel are more into experimenting, stretching, scooping, slurring and over accentuating melodies and diction to present a more emotional tone.
It originated as a blend of early mountain music, cowboy music, and the music from the plantations of the Deep South. Its musical characteristics consist of basic through-composed melodies, simple arrangements (no modulations of key or change in tempi), and modest accompaniment (piano and/or organ). All vocal textures and timbres are acceptable in this style.
Sometimes considered outside the realm of Gospel music, Contemporary Christian Music is a genre of popular music which is lyrically focused on matters concerned with the Christian faith. The contemporary gospel style blends the musical and performance practices of blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, hip-hop, rap, and rock with the core elements of gospel music performance.