We’re very pleased to announce a teaser for the publication of the twelfth volume in our critically lauded reference series, Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. We’ve just published this year, Volume 9 which explores genres in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Here, as a teaser article for the International Volume (XII), we present an excerpt on Gospel and Christian Popular Music by Dr. Monique Ingalls.
Dr. Monique Ingalls (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is Assistant Professor of Music at Baylor University. Published in the fields of ethnomusicology, popular music studies, hymnology, and religious studies, her research explores the effects of recent social, cultural, and technological change on Christian popular music worldwide. She is president of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Religion, Music, and Sound Section and co-founder of a biennial conference on global Christian congregational music.
In the latter part of the twentieth century gospel music expanded from its origins as a North American religious popular music to become one of the most widely audible, commercially successful and culturally influential forms of popular music in the world. While the turn of the millennium found gospel and Christian popular music the sixth best-selling genre of popular music in the USA (Taylor 1999), a comparison to world markets makes this commercial success seem moderate. In the first decade of the twenty-first century gospel music was the best-selling popular music genre in Kenya, edging out hip-hop (Kidula 2012; Parsitau 2006); gospel music record production comprised an estimated 50–70 percent of Ghana’s recording output (Collins 2004, 2012); Brazilian gospel music had grown to be a $US1.2 billion-per-year industry (Martinoff 2010); African-American gospel choir music was exploding in popularity in Japan (Naganuma 2009; Timmer 2010); and North American-influenced praise and worship music was quickly becoming the Protestant musical lingua franca in churches across the globe (Ingalls 2012; Mendonça and Kerr 2007; Rommen 2007; Wong 2007).
The meteoric rise of local forms of gospel and Christian popular music can be attributed in part to two significant developments: the shift of global Christianity’s population center to the Southern Hemisphere and access to the means of musical mass production enabled by new digital technologies. Despite the general worldwide surge in local gospel and Christian music production, the amount of scholarship on gospel music outside North America is vastly disproportionate to its prominence and cultural influence. At the time of writing (2014), there are two regional exceptions to the vastly under-researched state of international gospel music. The early twenty-first century has seen several significant studies of gospel and Christian popular styles in sub-Saharan Africa (Atiemo 2006; Barz 2003, 2005; Brennan 2012; Carl 2012, 2013; Chitando 2000, 2002; Gwekwerere 2009; Kidula 2000, 2011, 2012; Lamont 2010; Ojo 1998; Sanga 2008) and the Caribbean (Best 2004; Butler 2002, 2005a, 2008; Rommen 2006, 2007). Though there are isolated sources that discuss gospel or Christian music’s development in particular regions or countries in some detail, there are few works exploring gospel’s influence on larger regions and none that offer a comparative exploration of global gospel and Christian musical forms. Drawing from the available literature on local gospel and Christian popular music traditions and supplementing them with internet primary sources, personal interviews and selected non-English language sources, this article constructs a series of broad regional narratives. Its aims are to chronicle the development of local and global Christian music industries, to provide an overview of the international scope and variety of these musics, and to give an account of gospel and Christian music’s social uses and meanings within its various international contexts.
Defining Gospel and Christian Popular Music
‘Gospel music’ and ‘Christian popular music’ have many overlapping meanings and have encompassed several disparate styles and repertories over the course of the past two centuries. The term ‘gospel music’ originated in the context of late nineteenth-century American revivalism to refer to Christian songs composed in popular and vernacular styles in order to differentiate them from the traditional hymn repertory (Darden 2004; McNeil 2005; Shearon et al. 2012). Shearon (2012) identifies four broad sub-categories of gospel music in North America: northern urban gospel music, southern gospel music, African-American gospel music, and country and bluegrass gospel music. Up until the mid-twentieth century, ‘gospel music’ referred to popular and vernacular musical styles composed and performed by African-American and white US Christians alike for solo or group performance in church or concert settings.
There has always been some degree of overlap in the music of black and white US Protestants. However, over the course of the first half of the twentieth century separate publishing and recording industries developed to promote artists, songwriters and their music (Burnim 2006; Goff 2001). Music with Christian lyrics set to popular styles retained the label ‘gospel’ until the late 1960s when a new cluster of styles emerged among predominantly white performers and audiences.
As converts to Christianity from the 1960s counterculture began to set Christian lyrics to folk, pop and rock styles, terms including ‘Jesus Music,’ ‘praise music’ and ‘Christian rock’ arose to describe the emerging genres (Eskridge 2013; Mall 2012; Young 2011, 2012). Eventually, ‘Contemporary Christian Music’ (often abbreviated ‘CCM’) or simply ‘Christian music’ replaced ‘gospel music’ to differentiate pop- and rock-based styles from African-American gospel, Southern gospel and other gospel styles considered traditional (Cusic 2002; Ingalls et al. 2013). As a result, in the contemporary United States, the genre terms for Christian popular music reflect a racial divide between performers and audiences. In 2012 the Grammy Award categories were changed to reflect the widespread genre labeling practice: music performed by predominantly white performers in pop-rock styles is known as ‘Contemporary Christian Music,’ while music performed by predominantly black performers in African-American contemporary gospel, R&B, or hip-hop styles is known as ‘gospel’ (www.Grammy.com/nominees, accessed 18 February 2014). In current North American popular usage, the two Christian musical styles performed within predominantly white communities that retain the word ‘gospel’ are ‘Southern gospel’ and ‘country gospel.’ Both are connected stylistically to earlier musical styles outside mainstream pop and rock, including quartet singing, convention singing and country music (Goff 2001; Shearon et al. 2012). In North American Christian musical styles with African-American roots, however, the term ‘gospel’ has been maintained even for music that draws from recent secular genres; for instance, ‘contemporary gospel’ refers to music heavily influenced by post-1970s black popular music styles such as R&B and hip-hop that sometimes has a limited stylistic resemblance to earlier gospel styles (Boyer 1985; Burnim 2006a).
In popular North American usage ‘gospel music’ has come largely to signify black Protestant styles and ‘Christian music’ contemporary white pop-rock styles. However, there is a third musical category that cuts across these distinctions defined along lines of race and stylistic origin. This third category of Christian popular music – variously known as ‘praise and worship’ music, ‘contemporary worship music’ or simply ‘worship music’ – refers to a participatory repertory intended to be sung during congregational worship. At once a congregational song repertory and a mass-mediated popular music genre, praise and worship music is performed in a variety of styles in North American churches across lines of race, ethnicity and region (see Ingalls 2008; Johnson 2008, 2011; Nekola 2009; Smith Pollard 2008, 2013).
Although African-American gospel music, CCM and praise and worship music each have their own distinct histories, they share many commonalities. Each has originated within Christian communities in the United States, traveled along intersecting global networks and served as influential models for localized Christian popular music styles around the world. Further, though many gospel and Christian popular songs are regularly sung in congregational worship, these genres are often defined against ‘traditional hymnody,’ the four-part, strophic congregational songs generally of Euro-American provenance and transmitted via print media (hymnals) rather than musical recordings. The several overlaps and intersections between these styles suggest that it would be analytically useful for them to be considered together when exploring the global context. Therefore, for present purposes, ‘international gospel and Christian popular music’ is used to designate those mass-mediated Protestant popular musics which have been influenced by North American popular styles but are constantly being adapted to diverse local contexts. Though North American Christians differentiate ‘Christian music’ from ‘gospel music’ based on musical style, industry and audience, the terms are sometimes interchangeable in other parts of the world; therefore, the terms will be contextualized in each individual region throughout the ensuing discussion.
Gospel and Christian Popular Music Goes Global: North America and Beyond
Almost as soon as it emerged in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, gospel and Christian popular music from North America began to travel the globe. Melvin Butler (2005b) traces the beginnings of gospel’s global travels to two parallel musical voyages that embarked in 1873: the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ first international tour and the English revival tour of evangelist/song leader team Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey. These transnational connections were maintained during the first half of the twentieth century primarily through live appearances and print media, as jubilee quartets toured Europe, South Africa and Australasia in the 1920s and 1930s and as gospel songs from North America were spread to churches across the world (Boyer 2000; Butler 2005b; Cockrell 1987; Darden 2004). Mahalia Jackson’s appearances in front of sell-out audiences in Europe in the 1950s firmly established a trans-Atlantic concert circuit for North American gospel musicians (Boyer 2000; Burnim n.d.). The routes traveled by black gospel singers such as Jackson, Rosetta Tharp and the Golden Gate quartet paved the way for the later success of gospel music recordings abroad (Billboard 1999).
Though gospel and Christian music have long been popular North American exports, the commercial production of Christian popular music in other parts of the world was fairly limited until the last few decades of the twentieth century. For the production of gospel music, economic, cultural and religious processes of globalization have entailed, as Anthony Giddens phrased it, an ‘intensification of worldwide social relations,’ in which influences from distant locales have increasingly shaped local practice (Giddens 1990, 64). While the growth and development of gospel and Christian music has been conditioned by a number of factors specific to local contexts, its global development shares several common features. In particular, there are three important factors – in economic, technological and cultural realms, respectively – that have contributed to the global creation of gospel and Christian music.
First, several important changes in secular and Christian music industries have enabled the wider dissemination of North American gospel and Christian music. The 1990s saw an ‘explosion’ of popularity of African-American gospel music as black gospel labels and gospel choir promoters worked to develop new international markets in Scandinavia, Western and Southern Europe, Japan and South Africa (Billboard 1999; Butler 2005b; Burnim n.d.). During the 1990s the largest US Contemporary Christian Music record labels were bought by major label groups, including EMI, Sony BMG and Warner, giving the Christian music industry the resources necessary to access unprecedented production and distribution capabilities and to develop new international markets (Curiel 1997; Cusic 2002; Ingalls et al. 2013; Mall 2012; Price 1999). The corporate buyout of the CCM industry spurred the rapid growth of transnational connections between Christian music industries, particularly in the Anglophone world. Music industry partnerships and licensing agreements were forged between large churches, nonprofit organizations and recording companies (Mall 2012; Ingalls 2013).
In the early 2000s praise and worship music was increasingly incorporated into the North American Contemporary Christian Music industry, which created new channels for its dissemination abroad (Ingalls 2008; Ingalls et al. 2013). During the early to mid–2000s many of the successful North American Christian and praise and worship music companies opened international offices and appointed international marketing and sales teams. Integrity Music, the largest independent Christian music publisher as of 2010 which became a division of David C. Cook in 2012, has offices in the UK, South Africa, Australia and Singapore. The highest-grossing Christian music company in the USA, EMI’s Christian Music Group (CMG), began working closely with its parent company’s international offices and since the late 1990s has developed licensing and other partnerships with several recording companies and publishers around the world, including Gerth Medien of Germany; Maranatha Music of South Africa; Kingsway Music, the largest UK Christian music publisher; and Australia’s internationally renowned Hillsong Music (Ireland 2010; Moulton 2010; Nordhoff 2010; Paculabo 2009; Schwehn 2010).
By the end of the first decade of the new century what began as a unilateral dissemination of North American gospel and Christian music had become a multilateral flow of musical products and influences between these Anglophone Christian music centers in the United States, United Kingdom, the Caribbean and Australia. The interpenetration is especially pervasive in praise and worship music. According to statistics provided by Christian Copyright Licensing International in 2009, one-third of the one hundred most frequently sung worship songs in the USA originated in the UK, while one-tenth originated in Australia (Christian Copyright Licensing 2009; Ingalls 2013).
A second factor in the rapid globalization of gospel and Christian music since the last quarter of the twentieth century has been the advent of new media technology. From the first gospel music ‘cassette cultures’ (cf. Manuel 1993) that sprang up widely, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean in the 1980s (Best 2004; Chitando 2000; Kidula 2000; Ojo 1998; Wong 2006), to the democratization of recording technology that enabled the development of home and church-owned recording studios (Atiemo 2006; Best 2004; Collins 2004, 2012; Gifford 2004; Mendonça and Kerr 2007) to the creation of online marketplaces and resource hubs for networking, information and digital downloads (Best 2008; Ng 2007), new media technology has enabled the wide accessibility of media resources, spurring the creation of local gospel music genres and enabling the broadening dissemination of the music.
The third factor spurring the development of gospel music outside North America has been the rapid growth of Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity worldwide, particularly in the final quarter of the twentieth century (Ingalls n.d.). In addition to ecstatic spiritual practices and dynamic worship services, a defining characteristic of these new Pentecostal and charismatic churches is their reliance upon media technologies to gain adherents and broader societal influence (Cox 1995; Hackett 1998; Marshall-Fratani 1998; Steigenga and Cleary 2007). These churches have found music to be a particularly potent medium, and across the globe, Pentecostal/charismatic megachurches have frequently been at the forefront of gospel and Christian musical production. In Latin America, Asia and Africa in particular, many of these rapidly growing churches have formed their own music recording studios and production facilities to create and disseminate new music (Hackett 1998; Kalu 2008; Mendonça and Kerr 2007; Wong 2006). Gospel and Christian music plays many roles in the lives of these congregations, including serving as a potent tool for proselytism, encouraging dynamic worship and resourcing the construction of distinctive local, regional and national Christian identities.
North American gospel and Christian music has been and remains influential on other forms of Christian popular music around the world; however, its influence is increasingly conditioned by these cultural, political and economic factors that have encouraged indigenization of gospel and Christian musical styles, which have then exerted a growing amount of influence on the development of other gospel and Christian musics. The ensuing sections of this article provide an overview of the development of gospel and Christian music in several broad geographical regions. These regional overviews, often focusing on case studies from individual countries, chronicle the specific stories of global gospel musics and highlight the central issues faced by the creators of gospel and Christian music around the world.
As of the second decade of the twenty-first century, gospel music is one of the most widespread and lucrative musical genres in sub-Saharan Africa. The beginnings of gospel music in Africa can be traced to a combination of two musical influences: North American and European gospel hymns introduced by Christian missionaries, and African-American spirituals performed by traveling choirs and jubilee quartets (Barz 2003; Chitando 2000; Collins 2004; Cockrell 1987; Erlmann 1991). As a result of over a century of varied influences and independent development, gospel music in Africa today is markedly diverse, drawing from North American sacred and secular genres and local vernacular and popular styles alike. Many, if not most, African gospel music scholars claim that African gospel music knows no stylistic boundaries and should solely be defined by its Christian-themed lyrics, the motivations of its artists, or the religious commitment of its audiences (Chitando 2000 and 2002; Atiemo 2006; Kidula 2000; Kidula and Mitter 2008). A close examination of accounts of African gospel music, however, reveals several additional core similarities: (1) ‘gospel music’ generally refers to a mass-mediated popular music, rather than a music reliant on print media or oral tradition, (2) African gospel music is viewed as distinct from traditional church hymnody and choral music, and (3) African gospel music, at least at its inception, was heavily influenced by various North American musical genres. A more detailed sketch of gospel music in Africa will focus on case studies drawn from Southern, Eastern and Western Africa to chronicle the development of gospel music in these regions and to explore common issues, such as the complex interrelationships between sacred and secular domains, between religious communities and popular entertainment culture, and between music, media and modernity.
Southern Africa: The Birthplace of African Gospel Music
Over the course of their international tours, nineteenth-century jubilee choirs and quartets first introduced African-American sacred music to South Africa, where it has perhaps enjoyed the longest and most enduring influence. The most prominent of these groups were the Fisk Jubilee Singers, who made South Africa one of their primary international tour destinations in the 1880s, and Orpheus McAdoo’s Virginia Jubilee Singers, who spent nearly five years touring South Africa between 1890 and 1898. Their tours popularized the style of the spirituals and combined with Christian missionary hymnody to influence the development of a new, indigenized church music within African separatist churches (Butler 2005b; Cockrell 1987; Erlmann 1991). The popularity of touring gospel quartets also influenced the rise of various secular styles, including the male a cappella vocal genre isicathamiya in South Africa in the 1930s (Erlmann 1991).
In recent decades, these century-old South African gospel-influenced music forms have achieved international renown on the world music market. Since their beginning in 2003 the Soweto Gospel Choir has popularized widely the indigenized South African gospel choir music, touring globally and performing with North American gospel musicians and secular acts alike (Soweto Gospel Choir 2009). Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a group whose international performance career was launched with their performance on Paul Simon’s Graceland, have popularized isicathamiya to a world audience, recording over 40 albums and selling over 7 million records in South Africa and abroad (LadySmith Black Mambazo 2008).
Since the late 1980s white South African gospel music in English and Afrikaans has developed a strong following due both to growing charismatic church networks and to strengthening ties to the broader Anglophone Christian music industry. Maranatha Record Company and Music Publishing, currently the largest gospel publisher in South Africa, developed in the mid-1980s to produce Christian music in English and Afrikaans. Large-scale, national Christian conferences and events in the 2000s have propelled several South African artists to national and international prominence (Ireland 2010). Juanita du Plessis, an Afrikaner gospel artist who performs in country and pop styles, became one of the top-selling recording artists in both secular and sacred music in South Africa. Du Plessis’s 2008 album Vlieg hoog (Fly High) was the best-selling gospel album in South African history, selling 140,000 units in less than a year (de Swardt 2008). Afrikaner praise and worship leader Piet Smit, who has recorded worship albums in Afrikaans, English and Dutch, has toured internationally and developed a strong following in the UK and the Netherlands (Ireland 2010).
The international and regional popularity of South African gospel music has greatly influenced the development of gospel music in neighboring regions as well. South African choirs were one of the primary influences upon the development of Zimbabwean gospel music in the 1980s, where church networks provided a ready-made fan base for the music (Chitando 2002). Zimbabwean gospel music pioneers Jordan Chataika and Machanic Manyeruke modeled their guitar-based music on commercial South African and North American models but began incorporating local popular styles, particularly sungura. Pentecostal and charismatic churches’ support of gospel music helped to propel gospel music from the margins to the center of popular musical production in Zimbabwe over the course of the 1990s. With the mass production of cassettes, gospel songs that had been confined to church services and special concerts became music for entertainment at social gatherings (Chitando 2000). Many popular secular artists, including Oliver Mtukudzi, recorded gospel albums in the 1990s, and after undergoing conversion experiences, some devoted their careers to gospel music exclusively (Chitando 2002; Makwenda 2009). Gospel music continued to top the Zimbabwean charts in the early to mid-2000s, disseminated broadly through television, radio, cassette and CD production, and local and international tours of its artists. Gospel star Charles Charamba’s 2004 album Chapters and Verses sold over 100,000 copies within four weeks of its release (Zimaudio 2005).
Zimbabwean gospel music continues to play an important role in local identity politics and in national self-representation. The Zimbabwean government appointed gospel musician Machanic Manyeruke a cultural ambassador in the late 1980s, sending him to perform as an official state representative in Asia, North America and Europe (Chitando 2002). Gospel music has also provided a way to navigate political and social pressures. Gwekwerere (2009) points to successive waves of ‘reformist’ and ‘radical’ gospel music as important and effective tools of protest during Zimbabwe’s political turmoil and economic instability of the 1980s–2000s. Gospel music not only provided a means for Zimbabweans to express their anger and frustration with the government, but also, in creating a public forum for commentary on social issues, served as a resource promoting social change. Gospel music has also enabled the formation of an interethnic, pan-Christian identity, presenting a united front for Christianity over and against African traditional religions on the one hand and secular modernity on the other (Chitando 2000; Makwenda 2009). Gospel music, according to religious historian Ezra Chitando, has aided the blurring of denominational distinctions and the formation of an ‘all-embracing Christian identity,’ as members from many different congregations unite around gospel music and artists (Chitando 2000, 308).
West Africa: Negotiating Sacred and Secular through Gospel Music in Ghana and Nigeria
Between 1970 and the early 2000s gospel music in the West African nations of Ghana and Nigeria has risen from relative obscurity to arguably the most commercially successful music genre in the region. Like southern Africa, gospel music in West Africa is predated by a near century-long tradition of Christian church music. The first commercially successful gospel music performers were church choirs and university-based gospel singing groups (Ojo 1998). Florian Carl (n.d., 2014) has observed that Ghanaian gospel music is characterized by ‘constant feedback between congregational and mass-mediated performance practices’ (1); likewise, ‘live’ music-making and recordings are interdependent within Nigerian Yoruba gospel music (Brennan 2012). With strong support from Pentecostal and charismatic churches, gospel music flourished through exposure through multiple venues, including cassettes, live performances, evangelistic conferences and retreats, and performance in weekly church services. This combination of media and live performances in local and regional contexts helped to build a solid fan base for fledgling gospel industries in Nigeria and Ghana. Nigeria’s first gospel music festival, the Living Spring Festival, was organized in 1983, and provided a place where Nigerian Christians could gather to learn new songs to incorporate into ‘praise worship’ singing at their churches (Ojo 1998). Churches in Ghana formed gospel music associations and award shows to spur the careers of gospel artists (Collins 2004). The success of Ghanaian gospel music has created significant opportunities for female singers. Once prohibited by their conservative families from gracing secular dance music stages, women have been afforded freedom within the sacred space of gospel music performance and currently dominate the genre of gospel highlife in Ghana (Collins 2012).
Like gospel music in southern Africa, West African gospel is a synthesis of North American, local and national popular styles, and is increasingly multi-stylistic and multi-lingual. By far the most popular style of gospel music in Ghana is gospel highlife, a popular dance music style that is itself becoming increasingly diverse stylistically and linguistically. One review of popular Ghanaian gospel artist Celestine Donkor’s 2010 release Restoration highlights the diversity of languages and styles on her newest album, which contains songs in Yoruba, English, Ewe and Twi and employs musical styles including reggae, country and highlife. Donkor frames her stylistic inclusivity in terms of a desire for international appeal (Dela Anglanu 2010). Pentecostal-charismatic congregations in Ghana and Nigeria also employ praise and worship music, drawn from international (but particularly North American) models and local styles alike (Hackett 1998; Carl 2013). Ghanaian praise and worship music is sung mostly in English and is characterized by use of Western electronic and brass instruments (Gifford 2004, 27). Gospel highlife is the dominant musical genre used in uptempo ‘praise,’ and band musicians in large churches are often professional or semi-professional artists in the gospel highlife scene (Gifford 2004; Carl 2013). Slower worship songs are characterized by unmetered or slow tempos and instrumentation and vocals that often resemble the sentimental ballads.
Through the 1990s and 2000s the gospel music industry in West Africa grew dramatically. By one estimate, during the 1990s between 50 and 80 percent of Ghana’s radio airplay and cassette production was comprised of Ghanaian gospel music (Collins 2004, 418). This popularity has encouraged the development of partnerships with North American gospel musicians. ‘The Experience,’ an annual gospel music concert in Lagos, Nigeria, begun in 2006 by the House on the Rock Pentecostal/charismatic megachurch, is billed as ‘the largest gospel concert in the world.’ In 2009 the 12-hour concert drew over 400,000 attendees to see Nigerian gospel music stars such as juju-star-turned-pastor Evangelist Ebenezer Obey and rap/rock fusion group Rooftop MCs along with international gospel stars including American contemporary gospel artists Kirk Franklin and Donnie McClurkin; Jamaican gospel dancehall singer Chevelle Franklyn; and praise and worship leader Don Moen (Olusina 2009).
Ghanaian and Nigerian gospel groups maintain active links to the West African diaspora. West African immigrant groups are both keeping alive their distinct gospel traditions within Europe and North America and finding new audiences for their music. Ghanaian gospel highlife is the most popular form of music among the Ghanaian diaspora living in Holland, Germany and the Netherlands, and several Ghanaian gospel artists are thriving in the diaspora, selling records, receiving internet radio airplay and conducting concert tours both in the countries of their birth and in their adopted homelands (Atiemo 2006; Carl 2013). The accessibility of Ghanaian gospel music on social media platforms such as YouTube (Carl n.d.) has also ensured its popularity in the diaspora.
According to John Collins (2004), gospel music’s success in West Africa in recent years has challenged boundaries between secular and sacred domains, spurring the secularization of sacred music and the sacralization of popular culture. In Ghana, these processes are uniquely conditioned by the close relationship between gospel and highlife music. During the oppressive regime of the late 1970s, a combination of excessive taxation, migration and night curfew nearly destroyed the live performance culture of Ghanaian highlife (Collins 2002, 2004; Gifford 2004). As a result, during the 1970s and 1980s, live highlife performance moved from the secular domain of popular entertainment into the church. Pentecostal and charismatic churches became de facto patrons of highlife: tax-free zones in which artists could practice their trade (Collins 2012).
Gospel music has also exerted a marked influence on West African public culture, but with commercial success and public visibility has come scrutiny of gospel artists’ lifestyles and anxiety that they have ‘sold out’ their Christian principles for commercial popularity (for instance, see Amankwa 2010; Carl n.d.). The song ‘Moving Forward’ recorded by popular Ghanaian gospel singer Christiana Love and popular among church bands, was appropriated by Ghana’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the presidential campaign of Nana Akufo-Addo in 2008. Many churches refused to play it because of its partisan associations (Carl n.d.). Because the musical songs and styles employed by gospel and secular groups are sometimes the same, other aspects of performance are used to reinforce the sacred/secular boundary. For instance, after popular Nigerian juju artist Ebenezer Obey converted to charismatic Christianity, several aspects of his performance and image changed markedly. In Good News (1993), Obey’s first gospel album following his conversion, Obey sings in pidgin English rather than Yoruba and is depicted on his album cover in a business suit rather than traditional Nigerian clothes, signifying affinity to the transnational (and North American-influenced) Christian community (Ojo 1998).
East Africa: Building National Identities through Gospel Music in Kenya
While Christian music has over a century-long history in East Africa, the term ‘gospel music’ was first applied in the 1980s to commercial Christian music performed by solo artists and groups in this region (Mitter and Kidula 2008). In East Africa, the first commercially popular Christian music was kwaya (choir) music, with a few touring choirs becoming popular in the 1960s (Barz 2003; Parsitau 2006; Mitter and Kidula 2008). In the 1980s the Kenyan gospel music industry grew rapidly from small, church-based recording companies to a profitable industry due to the popular Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) television program ‘Sing and Shine’ (Kidula 1998; Mitter and Kidula 2008). Begun in 1985 and airing on the sole Kenyan TV station, this program was developed to promote a gospel music style influenced by local Kenyan popular styles. Televised gospel music programs launched the careers of several gospel artists, the earliest and one of the most successful being Tanzanian Faustin Munishi, an accordionist and singer who rose to national prominence after being featured on two Christian television shows in 1986 (Mitter and Kidula 2008). By 1990 his self-recorded and self-marketed cassette was selling 1,000 copies per day (Kidula 2000).
During the economic downturn of the 1990s, Kenyan journalists described gospel music as the ‘local industry’s savior,’ because it continued to sell well when other popular genres were failing (Kidula 2000). When the Kenyan government relinquished its monopoly on television and radio media, Pentecostal and charismatic churches stepped in and bought broadcasting corporations and FM stations. By the late 1990s four of Kenya’s 21 FM radio stations were owned by Pentecostal/charismatic groups (Parsitau 2006). During the 1990s gospel music in Kenya built and maintained a close connection to youth culture, offering a Christian and economical alternative to urban night life. Churches became spaces of popular entertainment for teenagers, featuring evening meetings that were combinations of gospel concerts and worship services. Kenyan teenagers began to come to the church, rather than the discos or nightclubs, to dance, listen to music and socialize (Gifford 1998).
In the second decade of the twenty-first century gospel music and rap are the two dominant forms of popular music in Kenya, though gospel is by far the more profitable of the two widespread genres (Kidula 2012). Kenyan gospel music has seen a rapid diversification, following closely Kenyan popular musical trends more generally. Kwaya music in Kenya and Tanzania has expanded to include a number of different genres, including indigenous ngoma songs, East African popular music, and Western traditional and popular styles (Barz 2003). Individual gospel artists draw from East African genres like soukous and boomba to transnational styles including reggae, hip-hop and zouk (Kiberenge 2009). Kenyan gospel music has also established a network of international connections between its artists and international gospel music celebrities. Kenyan gospel star Esther Wahome, following the placement of a song from her album Fuharia on an Afro-pop compilation CD alongside international African celebrities such as Manu Dibangu, Zap Mama and Youssou N’Dour, toured widely in Africa, Europe and North America (Adewara 2006). Gospel and rap are the two most widespread and lucrative genres among the Kenyan diaspora (Kidula 2012). During the early 2000s the Kenyan group Milele, a gospel group employing Afro-fusion styles, sold over 40,000 copies of their three albums in the USA alone (Parsitau 2006). Nairobi has become a popular destination for tours of international evangelists and gospel artists, including North American gospel and Christian artists representing such diverse as styles as R&B gospel, gospel hip-hop, soft rock and praise and worship (Parsitau 2006). Nairobi is also home to the Mavuno Festival, a newly organized gathering first held in September 2009 and billed as the first East African gospel music festival (Kiberenge 2009). Sponsored by the nondenominational Mavuno Church and Nairobi-based gospel recording company Kijiji Records, the Mavuno Festival drew a crowd of 40,000 to see North American contemporary gospel star and headliner Kirk Franklin, as well as gospel artists from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (Mwapi 2009).
Since its rise to prominence in the 1990s, gospel music has occupied a prominent place within both the Kenyan music industry and national culture. Ethnomusicologist Jean Kidula has argued that gospel music was the first ‘national’ popular musical style of Kenya because it garnered an inter-ethnic, national audience (Kidula 2000). As one of the first styles to be sung in the national language Swahili, gospel music proved capable of uniting the diverse Kenyan population while other popular styles appealed to fragmented niches based on ethnicity and language (Kidula 2000). The popularity of gospel music in the national arena is evident in the way gospel has been used in recent years in the Kenyan political sphere. Gospel songs are so widely known in Kenya that they are used for political slogans in elections. Politicians both use the songs to stand for their campaigns and have changed the words to popular gospel songs to serve as campaign slogans during several elections during the early 2000s (Parsitau 2008). Mark Lamont (2010) points out that localized commercial gospel music performances have created an alternative public sphere that allows the airing of sensitive moral issues (e.g., intergenerational respect and the AIDS epidemic) not often discussed within churches.
Gospel Music in East and Southeast Asia
During the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s a variety of gospel and Christian music styles developed in many parts of East and Southeast Asia. An exploration of three different East and Southeast Asian contexts will show the diversity of gospel and Christian music styles and the different economic, political and cultural factors that have encouraged their widespread growth.
China: Forming a Trans-Pacific Christian Diaspora through Chinese Christian Music
Chinese contemporary Christian music is a translocal repertory with a large listening public and closely connected music publishing and recording infrastructure in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mainland China and Chinese-speaking communities in North America and Australia. Despite the wide reach and influence of this music, it seems the only academic source yet to chronicle its development is Connie Oi-Yan Wong’s study Singing the Gospel Chinese Style: ‘Praise and Worship’ Music in the Asian Pacific (Wong 2006); thus, the discussion that follows relies heavily upon this groundbreaking work.
Though mainland China has the largest numerical population of Christians of these areas, it is also where the Christian music industry is the least developed. The majority of Christians in mainland China belong to ‘house churches’ unauthorized by the government. Because the government suppresses unauthorized religious activities, there is no established Chinese Christian popular music industry in mainland China; rather, new songs are locally recorded and circulated via homemade cassettes and CDs (Wong 2006). While most Christian songwriters of mainland China remain obscure, one figure has risen to prominence not only within mainland China’s house church movement but also within Chinese-speaking churches throughout East Asia and the Chinese diaspora. Lu Xiao Min, China’s most prolific hymnwriter, composed 1,000 songs known as the Canaan Hymns which have been compiled into popular hymnbooks and CD compilations (China Soul for Christ Foundation 2003). Lu’s songs do not fit the stylistic or lyrical categories of praise and worship or gospel music in other parts of Asia and are often considered folk hymns rather than gospel or contemporary Christian music. Rather than corporate praise, most of the Canaan Hymn’s lyrics emphasize personal testimony, while the pentatonic melodies draw more from Chinese folk and patriotic song styles and less from Western pop music and are often orchestrated in the tradition of Chinese patriotic songs (Wong 2006).
Because of the constraints placed on Christian groups in mainland China, the major centers for the development of Chinese Christian popular music have been Taiwan and Hong Kong. Wong traces the first wave of the development of Chinese Contemporary Christian Music in Taiwan and Hong Kong to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when North American praise choruses were first translated into Chinese (Wong 2006). In the late 1970s the Taiwanese singing group Heavenly Melody began writing their own choruses, which combined aspects of Western hymns with Taiwanese pop and folk styles (Heavenly Melody 2008). In Hong Kong, new Christian songs modeled on Western popular music became known as ‘folk hymns’ or ‘gospel folk’ and were immensely popular among the younger generation (Ho 2013). Vicky Wing-Ki Ho (2013) writes that the ‘Hong Kong Contemporary Folk Writing Contest,’ a competition that encouraged young Christians to write new ‘gospel folk’ songs in Cantonese, marked the beginning of ‘Hong Kong CCM’ (67). A group of Chinese songwriters called the Hong Kong Association of Christian Music (ACM) began writing similar short choruses for congregational singing in Cantonese that were influenced by both Western popular music and Cantopop and were generally accompanied on guitar or piano (Wong 2006, 72). Around the year 2000 Hong Kong and Taiwan both established Christian television stations that fueled the wide dissemination of Christian music and helped to form a pan-Asian Christian listening public (Wong 2006). A small number of CCM/Cantopop crossover acts, including the Eternity Girls and Christian convert and Cantopop star Sammi Cheng, have experienced modest success in Hong Kong (Ho 2013).
The global spread of praise and worship music influenced the second major wave of Christian music production in Chinese-speaking East Asia. Chinese praise and worship (jingbai zanmei) was first spread broadly through the music’s production by growing Korean charismatic and Pentecostal megachurches beginning in the late 1980s. One of the most prominent groups was All Nations Worship and Praise Ministries, founded in 1987 by Stephen Hah of Korea. As part of its missionary endeavor to other Asian groups, All Nations set up praise and worship music training schools and events across East and Southeast Asia beginning in the late 1980s (All Nations Worship and Praise Ministries 2009), and is viewed as a bridge between the music of Korean Pentecostalism and Chinese Christian music (Wong 2006, 111). In Hong Kong, participatory praise and worship music grew alongside CCM and eclipsed it in popularity in the late 1990s (Ho 2013, 68).
As a result of the activity of groups like All Nations and increased media exposure, praise and worship music became widespread among Chinese evangelical and Pentecostal/charismatic churches and encouraged the formation of touring praise and worship groups. The most widely known of such groups is Stream of Praise Music Ministries, founded in Los Angeles in 1993 and releasing their first worship album Let Praise Arise (讓讚美飛揚) in 1996. This group of around twenty Taiwanese American instrumentalists and vocalists tours widely in East Asia, Australasia, and North America, and remains one of the best-known Chinese praise and worship groups. Stream of Praise composes worship songs influenced by a variety of popular styles including Taiwanese pop, cantopop, North American pop-rock, R&B and rap. While the group conducts their multi-city praise and worship events largely in Mandarin, they also record songs in English, Taiwanese and Cantonese (Wong 2006).
Malaysia: Developing a Gospel Music Industry Through the Internet
From the 1970s to the year 2000 Christian popular music in Malaysia and Singapore consisted primarily of Western contemporary Christian and praise and worship music from Australia, the UK and the USA. A few independent albums were produced by local Malaysian Christian artists, but did not circulate broadly because of the poor quality of the recordings and a lack of sales and distribution networks (Ng 2006). During the first decade of the twenty-first century, however, Malaysian gospel music experienced rapid growth.
The development of the Malaysian gospel music industry is due in large part to the efforts of a few pioneering individuals and their use of the internet to create online resource hubs and places of exposure for Christian artists. Ng Wah Lok, a Malaysian pastor and worship leader, established the music publishing and recording company Tabernacle Music out of his Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Kuala Lumpur and is an avid chronicler of the development of gospel music in Malaysia (Ng 2006, 2007, 2010). In 2001 Ng established the website tabernaclemusic.com to promote his own albums, and the website soon became a hub for promoting other Malaysian gospel artists’ albums and for providing resources on worship leading and songwriting. In 2003 the first Christian recording label in Malaysia, Oops Asia, was founded, along with a gospel music distributor, Starmaker’s Enterprise. Since then, several Malaysian gospel artists experienced cross-over success: Christian pop-rock group Altered Frequency received frequent airplay on local radio and television, and adult contemporary vocalist Juwita Suwito won a Malaysian Music Industry Award for Best Local English Album for her album Brand New World (2005). In 2006 Christian singer/songwriter Esther Mui founded the Malaysian Christian Songwriter’s Network and website which hosts an internet radio station, the first Christian radio station in Malaysia (Ng and Mui 2010).
By the second decade of the 2000s Malaysian gospel music is comprised of solo artists, bands and church-based ensembles who perform primarily Western and Asian pop/rock and acoustic styles. The majority of Malaysian gospel music is in English with a minority of releases in Mandarin (Ng 2006), catering to the Malaysian Christian population which is largely ethnically Chinese and comprises approximately 9 percent of Malaysia’s predominantly Muslim population (Ahmad and Cheah 2010).
Japan: Negotiating Competing Spiritualities through Gospel Choir Music
From the early 1990s to the present gospel music has enjoyed a high degree of popularity in Japan, in which less than 2 percent of the population is Christian. Unlike the pop and rock-based Christian music of East and Southeast Asia, the predominant style of gospel and Christian music in Japan is black gospel choir music. Though Japan had long been a popular destination for African-American gospel musicians’ tours, several musicals and Hollywood films of the early 1990s that featured gospel music fueled a gospel music ‘explosion’ in Japan (Rucker 2001). Gospel’s popularity coincided with a widespread Japanese appropriation of African-American cultural elements more generally (Cornyetz 1994; Naganuma 2009).
Networks of gospel choirs in Japan developed rapidly over the 1990s decade, led largely by the secular music industry. In its community music schools, Yamaha began gospel music choir classes, and by 2004 230 Yamaha shops were offering gospel class to an estimated 7,000 Japanese (Naganuma 2006; 2009). In the 1990s the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) established their first and only Asian chapter in Japan (Naganuma 2009), and by the year 2000 there were an estimated 300 gospel workshops taking place each year across Japan (Tokyo Journal 2000). Christian organizations, seeing the gospel music boom as an opportunity for proselytism, developed new networks of choirs and groups across the country, such as the Hallelujah Gospel Family, a group of over 30 choirs headed by Filipino jazz artist turned gospel musician Ken Taylor (Rucker 2001; Timmer 2010).
Gospel music has become a site of contested meanings in Japan as practitioners negotiate its racial and religious associations. For some Japanese gospel choir leaders there is a felt tension between the Christian and secular uses of gospel choir music (Naganuma 2006, 2009). Secular gospel choirs use gospel music to provide an emotional release, a space in which to resist cultural norms and to build a participative musical community (Tokyo Journal 2000; Rucker 2001; Naganuma 2009). While gospel music lyrics are nearly always in English and therefore not readily understood, the sound is interpreted to signify a universal message of hope growing out of the African-American struggle against oppression (Naganuma 2009).
While gospel choirs led by Christian ministries fulfill many of these same community-building and cathartic functions, they have several notable differences. Gospel workshops conducted by North American pastors and music ministers often include an explanation of the Christian message and a call for conversion (Timmer 2010; Smith 2010). To aid their evangelistic efforts, Christian groups have translated gospel songs into Japanese and encouraged the composition of Japanese gospel songs so that the message is more readily understood. Established Japanese churches, however, have rarely employed gospel music in their congregational worship, preferring European-style hymnody or pop-rock influenced praise and worship (Timmer 2010). The Hallelujah Gospel Family network of choirs has fused gospel music with such Japanese styles as wa-daiko drumming in an attempt to signify the harmonization of the Christian message and Japanese culture (Timmer 2010).
Despite these differences in rationale, both Christian and secular organizations have worked closely with North American gospel musicians to co-ordinate concert tours, events and workshops in Japan. Some of the more professional Japanese gospel groups, such as the Japan Fire Mass Choir, now conduct tours to North America, with annual tours of churches in the southern and eastern USA (Smith 2010).
Gospel and Christian Music in Australia
The Anglophone Christian Musical Mainstream
Christian popular music has enjoyed over a century-long history in Australia. Australians were introduced to gospel music beginning with the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ tour of Australia that followed the group’s South Africa tour in the 1880s (Erlmann 1991), and they embraced mid-twentieth-century North American gospel music along with other African-American popular styles (Haesler 2005). North American gospel and Christian music associated with ‘white’ styles such as country, pop and rock have greatly influenced development of Australian gospel and Christian music. From the mid-twentieth century to the present country gospel music has been a prominent subgenre in the Australian country music scene (Walker 2000; Gibson 2004). By the 2000s gospel and Christian music in Australia, like Australian popular music more generally (Mason 2003), was dominated by music in a pop-rock style, likely due to the close ties that developed between the Australian, North American and European Christian music industries during the final two decades of the twentieth century.
Beginning in the 1980s US Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and praise and worship became the best-selling forms of Christian music in Australia (Moulton 2010). Australian artists began composing Christian music in pop and rock styles, and several Christian music festivals arose to support the new music, including Easterfest (formerly the Australian Gospel Music Festival) in Toowoomba and New Zealand’s Parachute Festival, currently billed as the largest music festival in the Southern Hemisphere (Parachute Arts Trust 2009). These festivals frequently featured headline artists from North America and the UK alongside local Christian rock and popular music acts. According to an industry executive at Word Music, one of the largest music recording and publishing companies and retailers of Australian Christian music, during the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of Christian music was imported from North America and the UK; however, during the 1990s sales of Australian Christian music rose dramatically, particularly in the praise and worship category (Moulton 2010).
While there is an active local independent Christian music scene in Australia, evangelical and charismatic megachurches are responsible for the majority of Australian production of Christian music. Some churches have provided limited support to Christian rock and pop artists (Evans 2006; Bagnall 2001); however, their best-known and most profitable product is praise and worship music. The Australian church best known for its praise and worship music is Hillsong Church, a Sydney-based Pentecostal congregation. Evans (2006) writes that many equate the Hillsong’s music with ‘the sound of Australian Christianity,’ and that some consider Hillsong’s music to define an entire subgenre of praise and worship music (93). Hillsong Church produced its first congregational worship song album in 1988, and in 1991 established the recording and music publishing house Hillsong Music Australia. By the mid-2000s Hillsong’s annual worship conference was drawing nearly 30,000 Christian musicians from around the world, helping to fuel Hillsong’s national and international reputation as a center for Christian musical production (Hillsong Music 2009).
Darlene Zschech, Hillsong’s worship pastor from 1995 to 2007, became the face of the church and one of the most recognizable praise and worship singers and songwriters worldwide at the turn of the twenty-first century (Bagnall 2001; Delgado 2001; Evans 2006). Early in Zschech’s tenure, Hillsong signed a distribution deal with Alabama-based Integrity Music, then one of the largest praise and worship music distributors in the USA. Zschech’s well-known worship ballad ‘Shout to the Lord,’ a worship song set in an adult-contemporary pop style, was featured on an album by the same name distributed by Integrity in 1995. Zschech’s ‘Shout to the Lord’ rose to become one of the top ten most frequently sung worship songs in the USA and UK from 1999 to 2009 (Christian Copyright Licensing International 2009) and has been translated into dozens of languages. ‘Shout to the Lord’ was covered by Christian recording artists the world over, entering US secular popular culture as a ‘gospel song’ on two 2008 episodes of American Idol. The new face of Hillsong church for the twenty-first century is Hillsong United, which grew from the church’s youth band, known for their melodic, rock-influenced worship music.
At the end of the first decade of the 2000s Hillsong has become a global media empire and a globally recognized musico-religious brand (Riches and Wagner 2012). International partnerships in the USA and Europe have expanded Hillsong’s global reach (Salem Communications 2010). Several additional Hillsong churches have been formed in London, Cape Town, Kiev and New York. In the late 2000s Darlene Zschech and Hillsong United continue to tour widely in six continents, holding ‘worship concerts’ in packed-out arenas. By 2010 Hillsong’s worship albums were distributed in nearly 90 countries, had sold an estimated 11 million units, and received more than 30 gold and platinum sales awards worldwide (Hillsong Music 2009).
From Country to Kores: Gospel Music in Indigenous Australia
Gospel music among indigenous Australians has a parallel trajectory to that of the dominant society. The Christian music of indigenous Australia dates to the Christian hymn traditions developed after European missionization in the late nineteenth century (Breen 1989; Magowan 2013; Swijghuisen Reigersberg 2008). The 1950s and 1960s saw the development of the first commercial forms of Aboriginal gospel music: guitar-accompanied gospel songs modeled on North American country gospel styles (Breen 1989; Walker 2000; Dunbar-Hall and Gibson 2004). Since the rapid growth of pentecostal Christianity among indigenous communities beginning in the 1980s, Aboriginal Australian gospel music has grown to include a variety of genres, including praise and worship music, country gospel, contemporary rock and pop, and a fusion of North American popular and indigenous styles (Lawrence 1998; Magowan 2007; Slotte 2005).
In Queensland’s Torres Strait islands, the kores (chorus), modeled on North American praise and worship, generally employs Western band instrumentation and electronic amplification and is sung in the widely spoken Torres Strait Creole. Performed across a spectrum of denominations and ethnic groups, the kores has brought a unity of practice across Christian groups in the region (Lawrence 1998). Among the Yolngu of Arnhem Land, new Christian songs were primarily learned from touring white evangelists and through recordings produced by the British and Australian worship music industries. US praise and worship choruses, generally performed with keyboard and guitar accompaniment, were translated into local languages in the 1980s. Through the 1990s and 2000s some indigenous song genres and dances were incorporated into Yolngu Christian music, though their use remains controversial (Magowan 2007).
While North American praise choruses and, more recently, worship music from Australia’s Hillsong Church are also popular among many indigenous communities (Slotte 2005), beginning in the early 2000s a local cassette culture has developed. Since their founding in 2003 Tracks of the Desert, a recording company located in Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory, has produced over 20 gospel recordings of indigenous Australian church-based groups representing a variety of ethnic groups, languages and gospel styles, including country and country rock, praise and worship, and traditional choir music. A variety of gospel styles and languages is represented on the 2008 compilation album Altjirraka Paartja (‘Tracks of the Desert’). Local aboriginal gospel and Christian styles have developed in dialogue with the Christian expression of other indigenous groups and transnational Christian media alike. Yolngu Christians have been involved in pan-indigenous events such as the World Christian Gathering on Indigenous Peoples, a biennial event that brings together indigenous groups for sharing conversation and cultural performances (Magowan 2007). Aboriginal gospel and Christian music embodies the locally rooted yet cosmopolitan mindset that Magowan (2007) has termed ‘translocal sentiment,’ enabled by transnational pentecostal Christianity and the globalized Christian media industry.
Gospel and Christian Music in Europe
Western Europe has a privileged place in the history of international gospel and Christian music as one of gospel’s first global centers outside North America. Melvin Butler suggests that the globalization of gospel music began with two parallel North American tours to Europe in 1873: the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ first international tour and D.L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey’s revival crusade to England (Butler 2005). Since then, Europe has been in sustained contact with a variety of North American gospel and Christian styles because of its close ties to the North American popular music scene and its Protestant church networks.
While there is a long history of gospel and Christian music in Europe, there is an uneven infrastructure for its local production. Gospel and Christian music industries and fan bases are relatively well established in some countries but not in others. Furthermore, much of the development of gospel music in Europe has occurred over a relatively short period of time. Since the late 1970s and early 1980s several forms of gospel music have developed that inhabit very different social and cultural spheres. This section will explore three important gospel and Christian music streams in contemporary Europe: pop-rock contemporary Christian music and praise and worship; gospel choir music; and the gospel music of Afro-Caribbean and West African immigrant groups.
European CCM and Praise and Worship Music
The UK, Holland and Germany are each home to a well-established network of publishers, recording companies and fans of pop- and rock-influenced Christian music. The UK is home to the largest Christian music publisher in Europe, Eastbourne-based Kingsway Music, which enjoys a close relationship with influential evangelical and charismatic churches and festivals in the UK. British Christian music traces its lineage to the same patterns of thought and practice that established the Christian music industry in the USA, the origins of which lay in the evangelical Christian adaptation of elements of US counterculture in the 1970s. Youth musicals, albums and songbooks from the USA moved across the Atlantic in the 1970s and 1980s and influenced the development of recording and publishing companies to produce and disseminate Christian music in the UK (Ward 2005). In the 1980s the British Christian music recording industry began to diverge from the entertainment-driven model of the US Christian popular music industry. Instead, in the UK Christian music production centered around praise and worship music used in congregational singing. While in the 1970s and early 1980s Kingsway Music supported many Christian pop acts, by the late 1980s it was producing worship music exclusively (Ward 2005).
In his detailed account of the development of the German Christian music industry, Winfried Dalferth identifies three phases of development of Christian music in Germany and the surrounding areas of Western Europe (Dalferth 2000, 156–301). The first period (1945–65) was marked by the translations of North American gospel choruses into German and the use of popular styles for new Christian songs. These new songs, composed in jazz, gospel and regional folk styles including brass choirs, became known as Sacropop (Weber 2008). The second phase, taking place between 1965 and 1980, was the establishment and development of Christian publishing houses to produce the new music. Dalferth sets out the third phase as the rise of Christian music festivals, particularly in the UK, Holland and Germany. Popular German and Dutch Christian music festivals established in the 1980s and 1990s, each drawing between 2,000 and 9,000 fans, included Jubila, Flevo-Festival, Chairos and Calden (Dalferth 2000). In the UK during the same period, several prominent festivals and Christian retreat weeks, including Greenbelt, Spring Harvest, New Wine and Soul Survivor, helped to form a fan base for Christian popular music (Ward 2005). These annual events aided in the formation of national Christian youth subcultures, serving as showcases for songs and artists and forming the distribution network for Christian music (Ward 2005).
To Dalferth’s three phases could be added a fourth beginning in the mid-1990s: the rise of praise and worship music. According to Jörg Schwehn, label manager for Gerth Medien, currently the largest Christian music recording and publishing company in Germany, praise and worship music accounted for approximately 50 percent of his company’s 2009 sales, followed by Christian pop-rock at 30 percent (Schwehn 2010). While a substantial portion of these sales was international, domestic Christian music products still accounted for the majority of Gerth Medien’s sales. Particularly influential has been a series of compilation albums of worship songs in German, a series of songbooks and CDs for youth worship. Feiert Jesus! (‘Celebrate Jesus!’), a youth songbook and CD compilation series, has become a well-known brand of German worship music since the release of the first songbook in 1995. The 2002 songbook edition sold out 90,000 copies in its first two weeks, and the 2005 live worship album featuring many well-known German praise and worship artists sold 10,000 copies within weeks of its release (Jelinek 2005).
European CCM and praise and worship industries have strong international ties to the Anglophone Christian music industry in North America and Australia. While musical dissemination in the twentieth century flowed mainly from North America, in the twenty-first century UK praise and worship music in particular has enjoyed international success. Beginning with British Christian rock band Delirious?, who began as a worship band at a Littlehampton church and rose to prominence in US Christian music in the late 1990s, UK worship music grew to be one of the major international forces in global praise and worship music (Ward 2005). In the early 2000s Kingsway Music developed a partnership with the US Christian music industry giant EMI CMG (Whitehead 2006), and, as a result, earnings on songs in one British music catalogue increased over 1,000 percent between 1998 and 2005, and albums containing the songs numbered some 11 million units sold (Whitehead 2006). Worship songs and songwriters from the UK, including Graham Kendrick, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and Martin Smith, became well known in the USA during the first decade of the 2000s, spawning numerous cover versions by US Christian artists and frequent airplay on Christian radio. According to CCLI’s copyright reports, in 2009 one-third of the songs most frequently sung during congregational worship in the USA were written or recorded by UK-based worship leaders and songwriters (‘CCLI Top 100 Songs’).
European Gospel Choirs
In some parts of Europe, North American black gospel music has become an important repertory for choral groups. The commercial availability of North American black gospel music, in addition to the touring gospel musicians, including Mahalia Jackson in the early 1960s, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples in the 1970s and various US gospel choirs, helped to fuel gospel music’s popularity in Europe (Aanestad 1997; Grimmel 1997; Wickberg and Hagen 1997; Sandberg 2003) as gospel music was grafted into a longstanding European tradition of choral singing.
Extensive networks of gospel choirs developed in Scandinavia and Germany. In 1963, the same year Mahalia Jackson gave a concert in Stockholm, one of the first gospel choirs in Sweden was formed when the youth of Immanuel Church in Örebro, Sweden began to sing African-American gospel music (Sandberg 2003). Changing their name to the Joybells Gospel Choir, the group has toured internationally since 1968 (Joybells 2010). In the 1980s Sweden experienced a gospel boom (Wickberg and Hagen 1997). By 2003 there were an estimated 248 gospel choirs in Sweden with an annual Gospel Choir festival in Stockholm to which a US gospel choir is invited each year to perform and teach workshops (Sandberg 2003). Gospel music followed a similar trajectory in Norway and Germany, where it was adopted by church and secular singing groups alike (Aanestad 1997; Grimmel 1997). While many groups perform gospel music in a more traditional style, others have experimented with fusing the traditional black gospel choir style with Christian pop-rock and contemporary or urban gospel music. Norway’s well-known Oslo Gospel Choir, which has sold over 1 million albums since their founding in 1988, sings arrangements in a variety of styles, from traditional African-American gospel, to pop- and rock-influenced praise and worship (Oslo Gospel Choir 2009). The Norwegian Gospel Voices, a 30-member international touring ensemble, performs in a contemporary urban style, mixing hip-hop, contemporary gospel and rock (North 2003). Regional and international choir tours, annual gospel festivals, and internet resource hubs and online communities have provided means for building gospel choir networks and the performance infrastructure of Europe.
While many gospel choirs aspire to emulate the African-American originators of the music, gospel choir music has been ‘Europeanized’ to a degree. Increasingly, gospel choirs in Europe sing in their native languages rather than English (Joybells 2010; Oslo Gospel Choir 2009). Musically, there is also some divergence between European and African-American gospel choir styles because of differences in preferred vocal timbre, ornamentation, and vocal and instrumental harmonies (Wickberg and Hagen 1997; Schwehn 2010).
The New European Gospel Music: West Indian and West African Diasporas
The Afro-Caribbean diaspora to the UK in the 1960s marked the first wave of immigrant gospel music into Europe. European black churches continued their gospel music traditions from the Caribbean, and in the 1970s and 1980s many popular gospel-singing groups emerged, traveling widely among their communities in the UK (Broughton 1985; McKenzie 2007; Smith 2009). Since the 1990s Christian immigrant groups from West Africa have introduced a new style of gospel music to Europe. Several of Europe’s largest and fastest-growing churches have their origins in West Africa, including the Nigerian-based denomination Redeemed Christian Church of God, which in the year 2000 had 50 churches and a membership of 200,000 in the UK alone (Hunt 2000). At the end of the 2000s the largest church in London was Kingsway International Christian Centre, a Nigerian charismatic church with 12,000 in attendance each Sunday. One of Kingsway’s stated goals is to spread the gospel through using ‘every medium available’ (Kingsway 2009). Music is a primary media employed in the ‘reverse proselytization’ of Europeans by Christian African immigrants. In Germany, large churches comprised largely of African immigrants frequently sponsor gospel concerts, sometimes bringing in professional gospel artists from their home country in order to attract the surrounding white European community. The concerts include a short evangelistic sermon at the end calling for conversions to Christianity (Währisch-Oblau 2009).
While seeking broader influence in the global centers of Europe, these churches have frequently become ethnic enclaves where distinctive Christian identities are constructed and maintained (Hunt 2000; McLean 2007), and gospel music plays a particularly important role in these processes as well. In both West Indian and West African congregations, congregational worship music borrows both from global praise and worship and gospel music from their respective homelands (Hunt 2000; McKenzie 2009; McLean 2007). Second-generation West Indian churches in the UK feature a variety of gospel and Christian musical styles, including Caribbean choruses and hymns, African-American gospel music, and praise and worship music (McLean 2007). Like youth groups in churches in their West African home countries, new African immigrant church youth groups draw in participants with special gospel music concerts where styles range from traditional North American gospel to African gospel styles to such urban genres as R&B, jungle and hip-hop (Hunt 2000). African gospel musicians are frequently able to make a living touring the immigrant church circuit in Europe (Atiemo 2006; Parsitau 2006; Adewara 2006).
Gospel and Christian Music in Latin America and the Caribbean
In the 30-year period from the 1980s to the late 2000s, Latin America experienced a religious revolution resulting in nearly one in five Latin Americans self-identifying as Protestant (evangélico), and the majority of these belonging to charismatic or Pentecostal churches (Steigenga and Cleary 2007; Wightman 2007; Pew Forum 2006a, 2006b). Though there has been a corresponding and equally dramatic growth in the production and consumption of gospel and Christian popular music, Latin American Protestant music is by far the least researched repertory of international gospel music in proportion to its popularity across this broad region.
The first popular Christian and gospel songs in Latin America were the 1970s North American praise and worship choruses first heard on Protestant missionary radio stations broadcast throughout Latin America. These choruses became popular among Latin American evangelical youth and were translated and integrated into church services (Palomino 2004). As in many parts of Africa and Asia, charismatic and Pentecostal churches fueled the growth and development of Latin American worship music and Christian popular music. Pentecostal media industries began to saturate the Latin American market with cassettes, CDs, videotapes, television broadcasts and radio programs that further propelled the creation and dissemination of Christian popular music (Palomino 2004, 14).
Praise and Worship Music in Spanish-Speaking Latin America and the Caribbean
In Spanish-speaking Latin American and Caribbean countries, two terms are generally used to describe Christian popular music: música cristiana contemporanea (contemporary Christian music), a non-congregational form of Christian popular music, and alabanza y adoración (praise and worship), popular songs sung during congregational worship. Both can include a wide variety of styles. Bolivian alabanzas (praise choruses) for congregational worship include styles ranging from North American pop-rock to mariachi to Andean brass and drum bands (Wightman 2007). The conversion of prominent secular artists to Christianity has fueled further stylistic incorporation. Juan Luis Guerra, an internationally known Dominican musician who converted to evangelical Christianity in the early 2000s, has created Christian music inflected by salsa, merengue and bachata and has since become one of the best-selling artists in the field of música cristiana.
By far the largest producer of Spanish-language Christian music and worship music is CanZion Productions based in Houston, Texas. CanZion was begun in 1987 by worship leader Marcos Witt, currently the best-known figure in Latin American Christian music (Palomino 2004). CanZion’s inaugural release was Witt’s Canción a Dios (Song to God), a collection of worship songs in Spanish in a pop/soft-rock style common in US praise and worship music of the 1980s inflected with Latin rhythms (Witt 2000). In addition to founding the most successful Spanish-language Christian label, Witt is a prolific and popular recording artist himself, selling more than 7 million copies of the 22 albums produced between 1987 and 2004 (Cobo 2004). In 2004 CanZion established the label Con Ritmo to produce Christian music in regional popular styles of Central and South America (Sánchez 2008).
Ryan Gladwin (n.d.) considers Witt and his CanZion as foundation for an increasingly unified Latin American Christian Music (LACM) scene that has been influential in creating a unified ‘pentecostal-evangelical’ identity among Protestants of Central and South America. CanZion’s rise illustrates well the rapid formation and transnational networks operational within Latin American Christian music. In 2010 the CanZion record company had international offices located in eight Central and South American countries, including three offices in Mexico and two in Argentina. In 1994 in Durango, Mexico, Witt inaugurated a series of Christian musician training schools now located in 69 cities in North America, South America, Africa and Europe (Cobo 2004; Sánchez 2008). In addition to CanZion, other large producers of Spanish-language worship and Christian music are housed in Florida or Texas with branch offices in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
While the infrastructure of the Spanish-speaking Latin Christian music industry is still developing, it experienced continued growth and integration in the early 2000s. The year 2002 saw the formation of the first professional association for Christian popular music, the National Academy of Christian Artists and Musicians (ANMAC). In 2003 Mexico City and San Antonio-based ANMAC established the Premios Arpa (the Harp Awards), the first Spanish-language Christian music awards (ANMAC 2009). Several US Christian music publishers and recording companies have developed Spanish-language wings, including Integrity Music (Integridad) and Vineyard Music (La Viña). In 2007 Hillsong Music of Australia began translating their songs into Spanish, and in 2012 collaborated with Witt and other Mexican and Colombian worship songwriters to produce the Spanish-language album Global Project Español. It was released internationally on iTunes and other national online music distributors in 2012 and debuted at number 1 on iTunes in the Latin genre.
Brazil: A Proliferation of Gospel Styles
The development of gospel and Christian music in Brazil has followed a largely similar path to that of Spanish-speaking Central and South America. In Brazil, both congregational and non-congregational Protestant popular musics were subsumed under the música gospel marketing category in the 1990s (Baggio 2005; Martinoff 2010). The Brazilian gospel music industry has experienced a meteoric rise since its founding in the 1980s. In 2010 industry earnings were estimated at R$3 billion (US$1.2 billion) per year with 96 independent gospel record labels and nearly 2 million people employed in connection to the industry (Martinoff 2010). Arquivo Gospel, a large online discography managed by Brazilian Christian music chronicler Salvador de Sousa, includes 17 subgenres of gospel music, from Brazilian praise and worship music (louvor e adoração), to international pop gospel styles such as reggae, metal and rock, to such national popular musical styles as funk carioca, pagode and sertanejo gospel music (www.arquivogospel.com.br). While the use of certain local styles with immoral associations remains a source of tension within some Protestant groups, Brazilian Christian musicians have continued to incorporate musical popular styles in order to aid evangelistic efforts and to provide a Christian alternative to secular music of the same styles (Mendonça and Kerr 2007; Oosterbaan n.d.).
As in other parts of Latin America, the substantial growth of pentecostalism since the 1980s has swelled the numbers of Brazilian Protestants: 22 percent of the Brazilian population self-identified as evangélico (Protestant) in the year 2007 (Burdick 2013). With their considerable resources, megachurches and Pentecostal church networks in Brazil have established recording companies and provided a large consumer base for the new music. Igreja Renascer em Cristo (Reborn in Christ Church) in São Paulo established one of the first gospel radio stations in 1990 and promoted gospel concerts, often to stadium crowds of youth (Martinoff 2010). The Brazilian Pentecostal church network Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), which claims over 8 million members worldwide, owns one of six national public TV broadcast networks with 30 stations, several radio stations, and its own publishing house and record company (Oosterbaan 2008; Martinoff 2010). Gospel music ‘megaevents’ are widely used for promoting gospel and unifying Brazilian evangelicals. Louvorzões, large-scale events featuring gospel music performance in public spaces, can draw crowds in the hundreds of thousands; by one estimate, the multi-city public demonstration March for Jesus drew over 3 million people in 2007 (Mendonça 2008).
Musical groups associated with large churches and church networks have become well known in the Brazilian gospel music and praise and worship scene. Diante do Trono (Before the Throne), a Christian group that grew out of a charismatic Baptist church in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, became one of the most successful praise and worship groups in Brazil since producing its first worship album in 1998. Diante do Trono albums have received added publicity by being recorded live in sports stadiums and arenas in the largest cities of each of the Brazilian states. The live recording sessions grew from 7,000 people in 1998 to an estimated 2 million people in Saõ Paulo for the 2003 recording (Diante do Trono Ministries). Diante do Trono has also developed an international reach, with worship albums translated into English, Albanian and Polish and an annual conference for training evangelical worship leaders in Brazilian praise and worship (Diante do Trono Ministries). Diante do Trono has also propelled the rise of several of its group members to fame as solo gospel artists (Tristaõ 2009). Brazilian church networks have established worship ministry training schools to teach participants the theological and practical aspects of conducting contemporary worship bands in their churches. While many focus on the transnational praise and worship style based largely on North American pop-rock, others have begun to integrate traditional instruments and styles into existing repertories created from North American models (Tristaõ 2009).
While música gospel encompasses all popular Christian styles in Brazil, a subgenre known by the English-language phrase ‘Black music gospel,’ which draws from such African diasporic styles as gospel, soul, funk, R&B and rap, has become increasingly popular among black Brazilian Protestant communities (Pinheiro 2007; Burdick 2009, 2013). By adopting transnational musical styles, particularly the rap and gospel music they associate with African Americans, Afro-Brazilian evangélicos self-identify as black, construct a sense of racial identity and pride, and call attention to widespread racial inequality in Brazil despite the official national ideology of racial democracy (Pinheiro 2007; Burdick 2013).
Caribbean Gospel: Negotiating Postcolonial and Diasporic Identities
In many parts of the Caribbean, the term ‘gospel music’ is used to cover all kinds of Christian music, regardless of origin or performance space (Best 2004; Rommen 2007). Due to its colonial ties and its proximity to North America, Christian musical traditions – both indigenous and adapted from North American and European models – have long been present in the Caribbean. Many of the former British colonies developed indigenous hymnody or local performance traditions of translated Western hymns (Butler 2002; Rommen 2007). In the latter half of the twentieth century, these traditions informed the development of popular gospel and Christian music styles. The 1970s saw both the first wave of influence from North American Christian music, including country gospel and praise choruses, as well as the first experimentation with Caribbean popular styles that produced such new genres as gospelypso and gospel reggae (Best 2004; Rommen 2007). Because of increased media exposure, during the 1980s gospel music in the Caribbean was heavily influenced by North American gospel artists including soul-singer-turned-evangelist Al Green and Andrae Crouch, as regional gospel artists began to emulate their styles (Best 2004).
Caribbean popular culture scholar Curwen Best points to a variety of factors that led to the rapid growth of Caribbean gospel music in the 1990s. One important development was an influx of popular secular artists, including Jamaican reggae and dancehall stars Papa San and Stichie, who converted to Christianity and began creating gospel music in the musical styles for which they were known. Through the efforts of such pioneers as Noel Richards, Marilyn Joseph and Nicole Ballosingh, gospelypso became a more established genre. Gospel reggae and dub, popularized by such artists as Trinidadian Sherwin Gardner and US band Christafari, achieved success locally and within the North American Christian music market (Rommen 2006, 2007). The growth of international gospel music industry followed by the global spread of praise and worship music created a new pantheon of celebrity gospel artists from outside the Caribbean, including UK Christian rock band Delirious?, North American R&B and contemporary gospel artists Ron Kenoly, Alvin Slaughter and Kirk Franklin, and US CCM star Michael W. Smith (Best 2004, 83). Increased media exposure on satellite television and local radio also helped to spur the development of gospel.
Gospel music became one of the fastest-growing Caribbean music genres in the 2000s (Best 2008), enabled by a strong infrastructure based on popular festivals and exposure from internet media and radio. The early 2000s saw the development of gospel festivals such as the Cayman Islands’ ‘Miles Ahead’ and Jamaica’s ‘Fun in the Son’ (Butler 2005; Caribbean Daily News 2010). In 1996 the Bahamian Gospel Music Marlin Awards were inaugurated to honor the best in Bahamian gospel; in 2002 the awards were broadened to include Caribbean gospel more generally and were renamed the Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards, honoring gospel artists in more than 50 categories (Marlin Awards 2010).
Around the turn of the millennium Caribbean gospel music also began to exert influence on North American, European and African gospel music, as artists from the Caribbean embarked on international tours and participated in festivals both local and abroad (Butler 2005; Kiberenge 2009; Vanguard Media 2008; Olusina 2009).
Collaborative recording endeavors have also brought Caribbean gospel into dialogue with several other international gospel music styles. In the year 2000 African-American gospel celebrity Donnie McClurkin recorded his album Donnie McClurkin: Live in London and More live at a London church comprised of first- and second-generation Caribbean immigrants. Several songs on the album were performed in dub style with reggae-inflected accompaniment and thereafter became very popular in Jamaica (Butler 2005).
While many forms of gospel music have risen in popularity in the Caribbean, gospel music set to local styles has been a source of controversy. While many Caribbean Christians accept gospel music settings of local styles as a way to keep members of the younger generation in church (Butler 2005), evangelical and Pentecostal churches that have emphasized separation from the world and have their own longstanding musical traditions have found gospel music composed in local styles problematic because it indexes morally difficult ‘worldly’ lifestyles and beliefs (Butler 2002, 2005; Rommen 2006, 2007). Timothy Rommen explains this conflict as a reason for the perpetual Caribbean attraction to North American gospel musical genres, which are often seen as more acceptable because they lack associations with problematic local contexts (Rommen 2007).
Throughout the contemporary world, gospel and Christian music has taken a variety of forms and incorporated a wide array of sounds. One aspect of gospel and Christian music’s development remains the same worldwide: in nearly all regions in the world, gospel and Christian music experienced dramatic growth in the latter quarter of the twentieth century, developing steadily expanding infrastructures for musical production, a growing and devoted listening public, and increasing audibility through various media. Rapidly growing Christian communities in Latin America, Africa and Asia had greater and greater access to technology and, combined with international partnerships and more musical production, continue to spur the creation and dissemination of this music on local, national and global levels. To conclude this overview of international gospel and Christian music, the ensuing paragraphs offer a paradigm for understanding the music’s development and a preliminary sketch of certain points of juncture as points of departure for a comparative understanding of international gospel and Christian musics.
Stephen Feld has written that scholarly and journalistic accounts of ‘world music’ in the late twentieth century fell into two kinds of narratives: celebratory narratives, which laud hybridity and emphasize the development of new styles, and anxious narratives, which express concern that influence from the Western ‘center’ of power and resources will lead to the homogenization of diverse musical forms (Feld 2000). These same narrative tropes are at play within accounts of gospel music, with many authors lauding the indigenization of gospel music genres (Chitando 2002; Kidula 2000; Ojo 1998; Parsitau 2006) as others point to North America’s continued disproportionate influence on local gospel music production due to its greater power, resources and infrastructure (Best 2004, 2008; Hackett 1998; Marshall-Fratani 1998). Similarly to the debate about ‘world music,’ a new paradigm is needed to account for both perspectives and to clarify the relationship of global and North American gospel musics.
Drawing from the numerous regional studies cited here, the author proposes a three-phase paradigm for the development of international gospel music in the twentieth century. The first phase is marked by unilateral North American influence as local communities adopted the new musical style. From jubilee choir spirituals adopted in South Africa at the turn of the twentieth century to the 1970s praise choruses that formed the basis for contemporary congregational song in Latin America and Asia, importation was quickly followed by an emulation of North American models. In the second phase of gospel music’s development, gospel and Christian music local cultures soon diverged from North American models as gospel music took on the language, melodies, rhythms and instrumentation of the other musics of its creators. This hybridization led to an indigenization of gospel and Christian music in many parts of the world, as it became recognized as a musical genre distinct from both North American gospel and local secular styles. As gospel and Christian musics became established as local, regional or national popular styles, they often entered a third phase of development, themselves becoming transnational popular Christian repertories. By the late twentieth century North America no longer exerted a unilateral influence on other gospel and Christian musical traditions; rather, the flows of influence had become multilateral. For instance, South African gospel choir music formed the foundations for the development of gospel in Southern and East Africa (Chitando 2000; Kidula 2000); a shared Mandarin praise and worship repertory has united the large transnational Chinese Christian community of the Pacific Rim (Wong 2006); and gospel reggae from the Caribbean has become a best-selling genre of Christian music in North America (Rommen 2006).
While musical meanings and uses are in great part locally constructed and negotiated, there are several common threads running through many global gospel and Christian music repertories. As mass-mediated forms of popular music, most gospel and Christian musics aspire to reach across boundaries of region, nation, ethnicity and language as Christian and gospel artists and their associated industries actively work to form a wider listening public. Evangelical Christianity’s desire for growth to fulfill the gospel mandate to expand the Christian community gives this economic impulse religious sanction. As a result of both economic and religious aspirations for growth, gospel and Christian music worldwide is generally characterized by a boundary-defying, global orientation. Gospel music differs markedly from local Christian hymn repertories in this regard: while hymns have become increasingly indigenized on the local level over the twentieth century, gospel and Christian music across the world have encouraged identification largely on regional, national and international levels. Gospel and Christian music is overwhelmingly composed in national or widely spoken languages (Kidula 2000; Lawrence 1998; Ojo 1998; Sanga 2008; Webb 2011), and in cases in which there is not a common language, gospel and Christian musical styles are sometimes performed in multiple languages or dialects in the same venue (Atiemo 2006; Chitando 2000; Wong 2006). In both cases, the music brings people together across ethnic groups and geographical regions to form a common religious public. Some gospel and Christian music – particularly praise and worship – remains in English, sometimes even performed in North American accents to signify an affinity with global Christianity (Butler 2005a; Marshall-Fratani 1998; Rommen 2007).
In many parts of the world, these transnational affinities expressed by gospel and Christian music styles serve as a forum for negotiating the new social, economic and political conditions brought about by modernity. This repertory of religious popular music, set to ‘modern’ popular musical styles, becomes a way to engage selectively with the tools and techniques of modernity while embracing a ‘traditional’ base of morality and a religious metanarrative (Miller 1998; Hackett 1998; Marshall-Fratani 1998). In the context of contemporary Ghana, anthropologist Jesse Shipley has suggested that gospel music signifies an ‘alternative cosmopolitanism’ over and against that of secular modernity, comprised of a different set of transnational social networks and governing values (Mitter and Shipley 2008).
These processes of identification are enabled by meanings understood to adhere within the musical styles that stem from the racial and regional associations of gospel and Christian music. While in many cases no sharp distinction exists between different forms of North American gospel and Christian music (see Butler 2005a; Rommen 2007), in others ‘black’ gospel and ‘white’ pop-rock Christian music are sometimes appropriated for very different reasons. Because African-American gospel has attained a degree of popularity within the secular popular music industry unparalleled by white Christian music, its performance becomes a space of complex negotiations in international contexts. Black gospel music has long been widely performed and emulated throughout Africa and the African diaspora, where it is a sign of North American prosperity and a means of identifying with the global Christian community.
In regions that share less of a cultural affinity, however, such as Europe, Australia and Japan, black gospel choir music has often been appropriated as a participatory musical activity divorced from the specific spiritual traditions and belief system of Protestant Christianity (Johnson 2005; Naganuma 2009; Sandberg 2003). E. Patrick Johnson has described these instances of cross-cultural appropriation by groups of people often geographically and culturally distant from African Americans as ‘dialogic performances’ of blackness (Johnson 2005, 60). Performers frequently find gospel music to be a space for less inhibited expression and a forum for discovering new ways to understand themselves and their society vis-à-vis the distant Other. While secular use of black gospel music has often emphasized its universal message of hope, North American missionaries and local Christians have struggled to enforce the more explicitly Christian meanings of gospel music, emphasizing Christian beliefs as forming the foundation for the experience of the songs and attempting to capitalize on the music’s secular popularity as an opportunity for proselytism (Naganuma 2009; Timmer 2010).
White North American Christian popular music, including Christian rock, CCM and much praise and worship music, differs from black gospel in that it is not part of an established separate musical tradition but rather tends to emulate closely popular styles of the surrounding culture (Miller 1997; Romanowski 2000). For the reason that the musical style itself does not carry the same range of religious and racial associations of black gospel music, white Christian music is almost never appropriated without a concomitant faith similarity, and the style itself signifies a North American ‘modern’ style of Christianity. For this reason, it is useful as a means of transcending local contexts and identifying with the broader global Christian community (Butler 2005a; Hackett 1998; Rommen 2007).
While gospel and Christian music’s racial and ethnic associations entail a series of different negotiations, there is one central issue related to musical meaning common to all styles: boundary disputes owing to the musics’ associations with secular popular music styles and industries. The borrowing of secular musical styles, marketing strategies and artist personas is frequently a source of criticism and conflict, as listening publics work to erect and maintain boundaries between sacred and secular realms, and as gospel artists navigate carefully to avoid pitfalls of ‘selling out’ their values while aspiring for larger audiences.
As scholars continue to chronicle the development of gospel and Christian music worldwide and communities’ struggle with the implications of meaning and identification on local levels, this entry is offered as a useful starting point for understanding this under-researched, yet dynamic and significant, genre of international popular music.
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Oslo Gospel Choir. 2009. ‘Oslo Gospel Choir: The Story.’ Oslo Gospel Choir homepage. Online at: http://www.ogc.no/en/historien.php (accessed 17 May 2010).
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Pinheiro, Márcia Leitão. 2007. ‘Música, religião e cor: Uma leitura da produção de Black Music Gospel’ [Music, Religion, and Color: A Reading of the Production of Black Gospel Music.] Religião e Sociedade 27(2): 163–80.
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‘Popularity of Church Music Crosses Continents.’ 1999. Billboard 111(31): 36, 40.
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Riches, Tanya. 2007. ‘Shout to the Lord! Music and Change at Hillsong: 1996–2007.’ Unpublished Masters dissertation, University of Sydney, Sydney College of Divinity.
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Risvik, Øyvind. 1998. Oslo Gospel Choir: Et Reportasjealbum. Oslo: Genesis Forlag.
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Rommen, Timothy. 2002. ‘Nationalism and the Soul: Gospelypso as Independence.’ Black Music Research Journal 22(1): 37–63.
Rommen, Timothy. 2006. ‘Protestant Vibration? Reggae, Rastafari, and Conscious Evangelicals.’ In Popular Music 25(2): 1–29.
Rommen, Timothy. 2007. Mek Some Noise: Gospel Music and the Ethics of Style in Trinidad. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
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Sandberg, Ulf. 2003. ‘Gospel Music in Sweden.’ Gospel.se homepage. Online at: http://www.gospel.se/html/gospel_music_in_sweden.html (accessed 30 April 2010).
Sanga, Imani. 2008. ‘Music and Nationalism in Tanzania: Dynamics of National Space in Muziki wa Injili in Dar es Salaam.’ Ethnomusicology 52(1): 52–84.
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Slotte, Ingrid. 2005. ‘A Rally at Ramingining: The “Uniting” Force of Music and Dance in a Yolngu Christian Context.’ In Landscapes of Indigenous Performance: Music, Song and Dance of the Torres Strait and Arnhem Land, eds. Fiona Magowan and Karl Neuenfeldt. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 76–95.
Smith Pollard, Deborah. 2008. Contemporary Gospel Music: When the Church Becomes Your Party. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Smith, Jamon. 2010. ‘Choir Brings Japanese Flavor to Gospel Music.’ Tuscaloosa News, 19 March. Online at: www.tuscaloosanews.com (accessed 16 April 2010).
Smith, Steve Alexander. 2009. British Black Gospel: The Foundations of This Vibrant Sound. Oxford and Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books.
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Stevens, Kathy. 2004. ‘The Gospel Music Hall of Fame & Museum to Change Name To “International Gospel Music Hall of Fame & Museum”; New Name Reflects Global Positioning.’ Black Gospel Promo E-Zine. Online at: http://www.blackgospelpromo.com/newsletter/page2.html (accessed 12 April 2010).
Stowe, David W. 2002. ‘“An Inestimable Blessing”: The American Gospel Invasion of 1873.’ ATQ 16(3): 189–212.
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Taylor, Robin. 1999. ‘In Christian Music, Will Business Bury Faith?’ National Catholic Reporter 35(15): 14–19.
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Timmer, Jeffrey John. 2010. ‘Japanese Gospel Choirs: Community, Relationships, and Celebration in the Hallelujah Gospel Family.’ Unpublished MA thesis in Ethnomusicology: Liberty University.
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Tristaõ, Nelson. 2009. Personal interview by author. Eastbourne, UK, 13 November.
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Wagner, Tom. 2014. ‘Hearing the ‘Hillsong Sound’: Music, Marketing, Meaning, and
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Währisch-Oblau, Claudia. 2009. The Missionary Self-Perception of Pentecostal/Charismatic Church Leaders from the Global South in Europe: Bringing Back the Gospel. Leiden, NL: Brill.
Walker, Clinton. 2000. Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music. Annadale: Pluto Press.
Ward, Pete. 2005. Selling Worship: How What We Sing Has Changed the Church. Bletchley, Herts and Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Press.
Webb, Michael. 2011. ‘Palang Conformity and Fulset Freedom: Encountering Pentecostalism’s “Sensational” Liturgical Forms in the Postmissionary Church in Lae, Papua New Guinea.’ Ethnomusicology 55(3): 445–72.
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Witt, Marcos. 2000. Enciende una luz: Crónicas y lecciones de mi vida y ministerio [Turn on a Light: Chronicles and Lessons of My Life and Ministry]. Lake Mary, FL: Casa Creación.
Wong, Connie Oi-Yan. 2006. Singing the Gospel Chinese Style: ‘Praise and Worship’ Music in the Asian Pacific. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.
Young, Shawn David. 2011. ‘Jesus People U.S.A., the Christian Woodstock, and Conflicting Worlds: Political, Theological, and Musical Evolution, 1972–2010.’ Ph .D. dissertation, Michigan State University.
Young, Shawn David. 2012. ‘Into the Grey: The Left, Progressivism, and Christian Rock in Uptown Chicago.’ Religions 3(1): 498–522.
Zimaudio. 2005. ‘Zimaudio Artists: Charles Charamba.’ Online at: http://www.zimaudio.com/artistPage.php?artistSent=Charles+Charamba (accessed 12 April 2010).
Zschech, Darlene. 1996. Worship. Sydney: Hillsong Australia.
Zschech, Darlene. 2004. Extravagant Worship: Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord God Almighty Who Was and Is, and Is to Come. Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House.
Altjirraka Paartja [Celebrate]. Tracks of the Desert. 2002: Australia.
Charamba, Charles. Chapters and Verses. Gramma Records. 2004: Zimbabwe.
Delirious? Cutting Edge. Sparrow Records. 1997: USA.
du Plessis, Juanita. Vlieg Hoog. Maroela Musiek. 2008: South Africa.
Feiert Jesus! Holzgerlingen: Hänssler. 1995: Germany.
Global Project Español. Hillsong Music Australia. 2012: International.
Juwita Suwito. Brand New World. Oops Asia Records. 2005: Malaysia.
十字架的愛–迦南詩歌精選 [The Love of The Cross: Canaan Hymn Songs of Lu Xiao Min]. 2005: China.
McClurkin, Donnie. Donnie McClurkin: Live in London and More. Verity 43150–22000. 2000: USA.
Munishi, Faustin. Munishi, Vol. 2. Self-produced cassette recording. 1988: Kenya.
Obey, Ebenezer. Good News. Obey OPS 026. 1993: Nigeria.
Sammi Cheng. 信 [Faith]. East Asia Entertainment Ltd. 2009: Hong Kong.
Simon, Paul. Graceland. Warner Brothers. 1986: Burbank, USA.
Soweto Gospel Choir. Voices from Heaven. Shanachie. 2005: USA.
Stream of Praise. 讓讚美飛揚. Let Praise Arise. Stream of Praise Music CD-PW1. 1996: USA.
Wahome, Esther. Furahia. AI Records. 2001: Kenya.
Witt, Marcos. Canción a Dios [Song to God]. CanZion. 1986: USA.
Zschech, Darlene. ‘Shout to the Lord.’ Shout to the Lord. Integrity’s Hosanna Music 08952. 1996: USA.
This list is by no means exhaustive. The most complete information available has been provided. With the limited information available on this topic and the remoteness of some recordings, however, discographical information for many albums is incomplete.
Adenuga, Wale, with Panam Percy Paul and Kunie Ajayi. Fountain of Praise: Of a Truth. Fountain of Praise Music. 2001: Nigeria.
Atieno, Mary. Mary Atieno Vol. 1: Halleluya Tutaimba. Gospel /C/18. 1991: Kenya.
Charamba, Charles. Chapters and Verses. Gramma Records. 2004: Zimbabwe.
Daughters of Glorious Jesus. Mebo Yesu Din Daa. Cassette. 1992: Ghana.
du Plessis, Juanita. 10 Jaar Platinum Treffers [10 Years: Platinum Hits]. Maroela Musiek. 2008: South Africa.
Jordan Chataika and His Three Sisters. Mashoko aMwari. Teal Record Company L4FLP1001. 1989: Zimbabwe.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Gospel Songs. Wrass Records 005. 2003: South Africa.
Love, Christiana. Moving Forward. 2008: Ghana.
Machanic Manyeruke and the Puritans. The Very Best of Mechanic Manyeruke and the Puritants [sic]. Gramma Records. 2000: Zimbabwe.
Machanic Manyeruke. Zakewu. Teal Record Company L4NDLP7. 1984: Zimbabwe.
Munishi, Faustin. Munishi Vol. 2. Self-produced cassette recording. 1988: Kenya.
Obey, Ebenezer. Good News. Obey OPS 026. 1993: Nigeria.
Panam Percy Paul. Master of the Universe. Nelly Music. 1997: Nigeria.
Popular Gospel, Choral and A-Capella from the Townships of South Africa. Prestige Elite. 2001: South Africa.
Rooftop MCs. Shock Therapy. West Side Music. 2004: Nigeria.
Smit, Piet. 50 Gewildste Treffers [50 Popular Hits]. Maranatha Record Company. 2007:
Smith, Esther. Gye No Di. Ankobea Music Production. 2003: Ghana.
South African Gospel. Arc Music. 2006: South Africa.
Soweto Gospel Choir. Voices from Heaven. Shanachie. 2005: USA.
The Rough Guide to South African Gospel. World Music Network. 2003: UK.
Wahome, Esther. Furahia. AI Records. 2001: Kenya.
Altered Frequency. Exalt. Oops Asia Records. 2003: Malaysia.
Cheng, Sammi. 信 [Faith]. East Asia Entertainment Ltd. 2009: Hong Kong.
Heavenly Melody. Yedi de hua, 野地的花 [Flowers of the Field]. Overseas Radio and Television Productions. 1980: Taiwan.
Hope That One Day. Oops Asia Records. 2007: Malaysia.
Juwita Suwito. Brand New World. Oops Asia Records. 2005: Malaysia.
十字架的愛–迦南詩歌精選 [The Love of The Cross: Canaan Hymn Songs of Lu Xiao Min]. 2005: China.
Ng Wah Lok. Every Time I Pray. Tabernacle Music. 2001: Malaysia.
Stream of Praise. 讓讚美飛揚 [Let Praise Arise.] Stream of Praise Music CD-PW1. 1996: USA.
Altjirraka Paartja [Celebrate]. Tracks of the Desert. 2002: Australia.
Hillsong. The Platinum Collection, Volume 1. Hillsong Music Australia. 2000: Australia.
Hillsong. The Platinum Collection, Volume 2. Hillsong Music Australia. 2003: Australia.
Hillsong. Shout to the Lord. Integrity’s Hosanna Music 08952. 1996: USA.
In God’s Country: The Best of Australian Country Gospel. Hardrush Music Corporation HRDM0027. 2007: Australia.
Anbetung Gold: 50 Grosse Lobpreis-Hits, Vol 2. (3-CD set.) Gerth Medien 946413. 2010: Germany.
Anbetung Gold: 50 Grosse Lobpreis-Hits. Vol 1. (3-CD set.) Gerth Medien 946362. 2007: Germany.
Delirious? Cutting Edge. Sparrow Records. 1997: USA.
Feiert Jesus! Holzgerlingen: Hänssler. 1995: Germany.
Joybells Gospel Choir. I Won’t Turn Back. Naxos Sweden. 1992: Sweden.
Kendrick, Graham. Jesus, Stand Among Us. Kingsway. 1979: UK.
Norwegian Gospel Voices. Let’s Dance. Mind The Gap Productions. 2003: UK.
Oslo Gospel Choir. 20 Years: 20 Songs. Kirkelig Kulturverksted. 2008: Norway.
Redman, Matt. Blessed Be Your Name: The Songs of Matt Redman, Vol. 1. Survivor Records SURCD5026. 2005: UK.
Soul-Stirrings. Island Records. 1993: UK.
Survivor: 10 Years. Survivor Records SURCD5090. 2008: UK.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Barros, Aline. O melhor da música gospel. AB Records. 2008: Brazil.
Caribbean Gospel, Book 1. VP Music Productions 1634.2. 2001: Jamaica.
Caribbean Gospel, Book 2. VP Music Productions 1674.2. 2006: Jamaica.
Caribbean Gospel, Book 3. VP Music Productions 1874.2. 2010: Jamaica.
Diante do Trono. 10 Anos: Tempo de Festa. 2007: Brazil.
Fernandinho. Faz chover. Ministerio Faz Chover. 2003: Brazil.
Gardner, Sherwin. Leaning. Lion of Zion Entertainment LZD 6521. 2002: Trinidad.
Global Project Español. Hillsong Music Australia. 2012: International.
Guerra, Juan Luis. Para Ti. VeneMusic. 2004: USA.
Holder, Rev. Nicole Ballosingh. Calypso Worship, Vol. 1. Nicman Productions NIC004. 1998: Trinidad.
Melhor do gospel nacional, Vol. 1. AB Records. 2001: Brazil.
Melhor do gospel nacional, Vol. 2. AB Records. 2003: Brazil.
Papa San. God and I. GospoCentric Records. 2003: USA.
Richards, Noel. Make Some Noise. Noma Music Productions 0002. 1999: Trinidad.
Rojo. Con Corazon en la Mano. Reyvol Records. 2007: USA.
Witt, Marcos. Lo mejor de Marcos I. CanZion. 1994: USA.
50 Worship Anthems. Star Song 5099951112028. 2008: USA.
The Best of Maranatha! Vols. 1 and 2. Maranatha! Music MM-0053A. 1979: USA.
The Best of Passion So Far. Sparrow Records CD 42180. 2007: USA.
Crouch, Andrae. Tribute: The Songs of Andrae Crouch. Warner Alliance 946224–2. 1996: USA.
Franklin, Kirk. The Nu Nation Project. Gospo Centric 90178. 2000: USA.
Jackson, Mahalia. Gospels, Spirituals, and Hymns. Columbia/Legacy CK 47084. 1993: USA.
Jackson, Mahalia. Mahalia Jackson Recorded Live in Europe During Her Latest Concert Tour. Sony Music Entertainment CK 85282. 1962: USA.
McClurkin, Donnie. Donnie McClurkin: Live in London and More. Verity 43150–22000. 2000: USA.
Moen, Don. God Will Make a Way: The Best of Don Moen. Integrity Music EK 89020. 2003: USA.
Smith, Michael W. Worship. Reunion Records 02341-00252. 2001: USA.
WOW Worship Platinum Collection. (3-CD set.) Vineyard, Integrity, and Maranatha! Music 86912. 2002: USA.
Latin America and the Caribbean