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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Azizi Contemporary African Gospel Songs (10) Contemporary African Gospel Songs 06 Jan 12


This thread focuses on contemporary* Gospel songs from West Africa, and other regions of Africa, or by Africans living elsewhere.

* I am defining "contemporary" to be 1990s and on.

A number of African Gospel songs (also known as praise & worship songs) are currently very popular throughout the world. In part, this is because of the role of YouTube videos and other internet sites in raising awareness of those songs and providing opportunities to hear and see them. The popularity of contemporary African Gospel music is also because of the increased immigration of African musicians, vocalists, and composers, and/or the increased travel of those artists outside of their nations and outside Africa for concerts, church performances etc. More and more African musicians, vocalists, and composers are recording with other Africans from outside their ethnic group and nation, are recording with people from the African Diaspora, and with non-Black people. This has resulted in a combination of cultural influences resulting in a rich mix of African-Caribbean rhythyms, and/or African-Jazz rhythms and other so-called "World music" flavored songs & tunes.

Besides the aesthetic enjoyment of much of the contemporary African Gospel music that I have heard online, what particularly interests me is studying how the instrumental music/lyrics reflect traditional African cultures in various ways including the prevalence of forms of call & response, and the use of the tradition names for the Supreme Deity in the language of the composer or recording artist's ethnic group. I've also found that while the tune is usually quite consistent, there are often multiple versions of the same song, there are certain consistent lyrics within that song "family", and there are also additional lyrics that may be relatively "fixed" for the vocalist who records that particualr version, but still might be changed by the omission of lyrics and/or the addition of floating verses by other vocalists or church congregations. Furthermore, the recording artists and others might perform the song differently using interjections or spoken word "testifying" (preaching). The spontaneous addition of other verses and spoken portions means that the song is open ended (the length of the song isn't fixed; each rendition of the song may be different).

I'm also interested to observe in videos of contemporary African Gospel songs how dancing during church services or elsewhere is considered a normal, desired response to that music. This is different from the Puritan influenced USA, but to be expected in African cultures in which playing musical instruments, singing, and dancing are inextricably linked with each other.

Two contemporary Gospel songs that have numerous YouTube videos are "Jehovah, You Are The Most High God" and "Baba Se O" (also known as "Baba ese"). I recently posted a four part series on my cultural blog "Pancocojams". Those post include information, videos, and two examples of lyrics of "Jehovah, You Are The Most High God". The link to the first post is http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/01/africa-gospel-song-you-are-most-high.html includes an example of the first recorded version of that song from Gbenga Wise. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I queried Gbenga Wise (who now lives in the USA). Mr. Wise happened to be in London but he promptly responded to my questions, and gave me corrected information about the recording date for that song [I had repeated a 1998 date from someone on a YouTube thread]. That Gospel artist also gave me additional clarifying information about the "Jehovah, You Are The Most High God" (JYATMHG) song, and about the song he refers to as "Baba Baba Ese O". As I had received permission from him to do so, I updated my blog post with the information he had shared with me.

Post 2 of that series includes information about the tempo and rhytyms of versions of that "Jehovah, You Are The Most High God", and also includes more video examples. Post 3 includes information about the call & response structure of those songs, and also includes two text examples of that song. And Part 4 features additional video examples of that song from Africans in Europe.

Lyrics of contemporary African Gospel songs are very hard to find.
On this thread, I'll add one text example from Part 3 of my post http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/01/lyric-examples-of-jehovah-you-are-most.html, and I'll add a transcription I did of another version of that song that I didn't include on that post. I may also add lyrics to other versions of JYATMHG or lyrics of other songs, and links to other videos of African Gospel music to this thread.

Your comments, links to videos, and lyric examples-transcriptions or otherwise-are welcome here and on my blog.

Best wishes,

Azizi Powell


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