Black Heaven Africanized Christian Spiritual Song
Roots of Black Africanized Christianity Spiritual Songs
Black African infused musical way of worshiping God in the heavens has modern-day and historical meanings to spiritual, gospel and hymnal music.
In Africa among native black people, music has been used for thousands of years to treat illnesses, speak with deities and God and restore harmony and have been central to the lives of African people. Music-making and performance permeated important life events and daily activities throughout every clan, tribe, and community in Africa.
However, the white slave owners of North America was scared by and detested the slave population African infused way of worshiping God in the heavens because they considered it to be idolatrous and wild. As a result, the gatherings were often banned and had to be conducted in secret.
The African population in Africa and the American colonies had initially been introduced to Christianity in the sixtieth century during the appropriation of African people on the African continent and during the Transatlantic Slave trade.
The black enslaved population was at first forced fed Biblical stories containing parallels to their own lives and slowly created spirituals that retold narratives about Biblical figures. As Africanized Christianity took hold of the black enslaved population, spirituals served as a way to express sorrows and hopes.
As Frederick Douglass, a nineteenth-century abolitionist author and former slave wrote in his book My Bondage and My Freedom of singing spirituals during his years in bondage: "A keen observer might have detected in our repeated singing of 'O Canaan, sweet Canaan, I am bound for the land of Canaan,' something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant to reach the North, and the North was our Canaan."
|Drums are a central part of African and African-American church services|
Africanized Christianity in the informal gatherings of African slaves in praise houses and outdoor meetings called brush arbor meetings, bush meetings, or camp meetings. At the meetings, participants would sing, chant, dance and sometimes enter rapturous trances. Spirituals also stem from the ring shout, a shuffling circular dance to chanting.
In the 1870s, the creation of the Jubilee Singers, a chorus consisting of former slaves from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, sparked an international interest in the musical form. While some African Americans at the time associated with the spiritual tradition with slavery and were not enthusiastic about continuing it, the Fisk University singer's performances persuaded many that it should be continued.
Ensembles around the country started to emulate the Jubilee singers, giving birth to a concert hall tradition of performing this music that has remained strong to this day. While spirituals continue to have a presence in the concert hall, the centrality of the form to African American Churches has waned in the twentieth century with the rise in the popularity of Gospel music.
The Gospel tradition has preserved some of the lyrics of many spirituals, but the musical forms have changed dramatically as harmonies are added and the tunes arranged to suit new performance styles. In spite of these changes, forms of the traditional spiritual continue to survive in some of the conservative congregations of the South that are either more isolated from modern influences, or that simply choose to preserve the older songs.
Spirituals have played a significant role as vehicles for protests at intermittent points during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, spirituals, as well as Gospel songs, supported the efforts of civil rights activists.
Many of the freedom songs of the period, such as Oh, Freedom! and Eyes on the Prize were adapted from old spirituals. The civil rights movement's central song, We Shall Overcome, words and music by Zilphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Buy Carawan, and Pete Seeger merged the gospel hymn I'll Overcome Someday written by Rev. C.A. Tindley 1851–1933, with the spiritual I'll Be all right written by Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1953).
What are Spiritual Songs, Gospel Songs and Gospel Hymns?
What are Spiritual Songs?
Spirituals are vocal music of somber hopeful expressions of devout trust in God to make the next life in heaven a glorious happy existence. Spiritual songs share common hardships in the here and now physical and emotional life making it better through expressive religious songs. Spirituals are also known as Negro spirituals, Spiritual music, or African-American spirituals, are a genre of religious songs originating in the North American South.
What is Gospel Songs?
Sacred and the secular. Gospel songs are an African American religious music that merged secular blues music with sanctified bible text. Beginning in the early 20th century, gospel songs are designed to invite the presence of the Holy Spirit. Among the most prominent black gospel music composer was Thomas A. Dorsey is also known as "Georgia Tom"1899–1993, a prolific and best-selling songwriter whose works include, most notably, Precious Lord, Take My Hand. Dorsey was known as the father of black gospel music and Mahalia Jackson arguably remains the most famous gospel singer in the world.
What is Gospel Hymns?
Gospel hymns are regal religious songs with direct references to the Gospel message of the New Testament. One of the earliest of these Gospel hymns was written in German between 1527 and 1529, when Martin Luther wrote the words and composed the music of the stately and much sung A Mighty Fortress is our God, in German Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott was translated by Frederick H. Hedge in 1853. Today a popular version A mighty fortress is our God, a sword and shield victorious is sung on Sunday mornings throughout Lutheran church congregations worldwide including on African soil.
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