Whenever I think of Gospel music I imagine an African-American choir in a Baptist church praising and worshiping the Lord with passion and lots of enthusiasm. It’s the toe-tapping kind of music that makes you want to clap your hands and dance a little jig. I really enjoy watching gospel singers worship the Lord with all their heart and soul.
The history of Christian Gospel music, according to some scholars, goes back to the days of slave trading. The African slaves brought with them spiritual songs from hundreds of ethnic groups across West and sub-Saharan Africa. They would use these songs to communicate in the fields throughout America. Eventually this style, Negro Spirituals, was combined with secular music genres to form black gospel music. When Europeans came to America the sacred church music (hymns) eventually became white gospel music. The white and black gospel music collided in the early 20th century to form the modern gospel music of today. Thomas Dorsey who is called “the father of gospel music”, and gospel singers Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, played a major role in the development of gospel music. The common theme for Gospel music is praise, worship and/or thanks to God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit.
Christian Gospel music differs in style and flavor. It is characterized by strong vocals with strong harmony. In fact, rock music and jazz from the 1950-60s have strong gospel characteristics. Some of the instruments used in Gospel music are piano and/or organ, drums, bass guitar, and electric guitar.
The subgenres of Gospel Music include:
Urban Contemporary Gospel (sometimes marketed as "Black gospel" to help distinguish it from other forms of Christian music, such as contemporary Christian music or Christian Rock and Southern Gospel) is a subgenre of Gospel music.
Christian Country Music, sometimes referred to as Country Gospel music, is a subgenre of gospel music with a country flair, is also known as Inspirational Country. Christian Country over the years has progressed into a mainstream country sound with inspirational or positive country lyrics. In the middle 90's, Christian Country hit its highest popularity. In the late 90's Christian country declined in popularity because of misappropriations of funding within the Christian Country Music Association. The CCMA has over the years had many problems within its leadership. Many artists, record labels and radio stations were hurt during the 90's scandal and finally the Country Music Association sued the CCMA in 2002 for infringement.
Southern Gospel is sometimes called "quartet music" by fans due to the original all male, tenor-lead-baritone-bass quartet make-up. This type of music deals with the everyday problems of life and how God answers those problems. Southern Gospel depends on strong harmonies, often with extremely wide ranges (i.e. extremely low bass, falsetto tenor.) Flavors in Southern Gospel range from ultra-traditional early quartet music (i.e. the Statesmen Quartet, circa 1940-50) to very cutting edge sounds (i.e. current Signature Sound quartet discography).
Progressive Southern Gospel is an American music genre that has grown out of Southern Gospel over the past couple of decades.
Current Progressive Southern Gospel is characterized by its blend of traditional Southern Gospel instrumentation with elements of modern Country and pop music. Hints of other styles are frequently employed in the mix as well. In some Progressive Southern Gospel, you can hear a touch of Cajun, Celtic, Bluegrass, or even Southern rock.
Where traditional Southern Gospel more often emphasizes blend and polish, Progressive Southern Gospel tends to be presented with a more emotional tone. Vocalists are known for experimenting, stretching, scooping, slurring, and over accentuating melodies and diction.
Lyrically, Progressive Southern Gospel songs are patterned after traditional Southern Gospel in that they maintain a clear evangelistic and/or testimonial slant. In many cases, lyrical content and/or Country diction are the only elements separating a Progressive Southern Gospel artist from a pop oriented, Contemporary Christian music artist.
Bluegrass Gospel Music is rooted in American mountain music. Bluegrass Gospel has emerged as a third subgenre. Nearly all bluegrass artists incorporate gospel music into their repertoire. Distinctive elements of this style include Christian lyrics, soulful three- or four-part harmony singing, and sometimes playing instrumentals subdue. A cappella choruses are popular with bluegrass gospel artists, though the harmony structure differs somewhat from standard barbershop or choir singing.
Gospel Blues is a blues-based form of Gospel music (a combination of blues guitar and evangelistic lyrics). (From Wikipedia)
Even though Gospel music originated in America, its popularity has spread across the world from Canada, to Australia and Norway. Canada’s gospel choirs Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir and Quebec Celebration Gospel Choir are famous. The Australian Gospel Music Festival draws up to 40,000 people during the Easter weekend. The popular Ansgar Gospel Choir is the only true Norwegian Gospel Choir.