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The history of gospel music

The history of gospel music from past to present.

The modern day gospel music experience is less than 50 years old. Gospel music is the music of African Americans and is ever changing. From the start it was always met with challenges and today is no different. Many older members of churches think that the music is too wordly. Yonger members of the church think that older members of the church just don`t understand them. But no matter what, Gospel music is here to stay.

During the periods of 1900-1930`s gospel music can be attributed to the social changes that were taking place in the country. Many blacks from the south were starting to move from the south to other areas of the US and bringing with them their form of Gospel music. Gospel music was a form of expression for these people. Gospel music was and still is a thirst for music African Americans can call their own.

The second stage for Gospel music came during the 30`s, which is called the Dorsey Era. Thomas Dorsey is referred to as the Father of Contemporary Gospel. His songs combined shouts of praise and emotional fervor with a contemporary style that was very much unwelcomed in some churches throughout the US.

Then came the 40`s, when gospel music started to change. During this period of time Gospel ensembles and quartets were organized. These groups began to travel throughout the US. By having the groups travel throughout the US it helped to create a demand for this type of music. Shortly after WW2 blacks started to purchase Gospel records in record breaking numbers. The Rev. Herb Brewater of Memphis established himself as the foremost Gospel songwriter of this era.

Gospel quartets had mass public appeal. The members of these groups were casually attired and presented a more flamboyant image.

The 50`s brought more changes in Gospel music. The ensembles were accompanied by a piano or organ. Some of the groups of this era were the Clara Ward Singers of Philadephia, The Staple Singers of Chicago and Albertina Walker of Atlanta. Albertina Walker formed a group called the Caravan that featured James Cleveland, who became a famed composer, conductor and soloist.

Gospel remained very unchanged during the 60`s, 70`s and early 80`s. Then it seemed like gospel music went hip hop. Many rap artists had turned their lives around and found God. The rap group RUN DMC is a good example. After rapping for many years the group turned to rapping about God. During the 90`s Kirk Franklin hit the airwaves with Gospel music that was loud and close to wordly.

But all through its history Gospel music is something that African Americans can claim as their own. Gospel music shares its roots in other African American music styles like blues, jazz, and its cousin rock and roll.

Raga Kedar- A Perspective

Named after Lord Shiva, the hoary Raga Kedar occupies a pride of place in the Hindustani pantheon and is much loved in the ranks of both the laity and the connoisseur. Its structure reveals a kaleidoscopic panorama of complex melodic gestures, conduct and richness of character. Seldom are the core values of Indian Ragadari music united under one roof as they are in Kedar. To know this rAga is to experience firsthand the genius and workings of a superior musical intelligence. In the hands of a master it dispenses food for the soul; in lesser climes it can be intolerable (I have temporarily overcome the urge to be more specific about these climes).

Raga Kedar is of ancient vintage and finds representation in every conceivable genre: Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khayal, Thumri and so on. Its abstract nature makes it notoriously resistant to capture on paper. By "abstract" we mean that it is not a scalar rAga, amenable to reconstruction with elemental Aroha-avarohi phrases. There is much more to it than merely piecing together and summing up a group of tonal clusters.

The rAga employs all shuddha swaras and the teevra madhyam. Throughout the discussion, M = shuddha and m = teevra madhyam. The heart of Kedar lies in the following turn of phrase (pun intended):

S M, M G P, D->M, S R, S

The meeND from D->M is vital. The powerful shuddha madhyam defines the rAga's tonal 'centre.' The pancham is strong and a location for nyAsa.

Let us briefly examine the lakshaNAs and some of the supporting melodic constructs. The sound clips adduced later will clarify and reinforce these ideas.

S R S M, M, M G P

The gandhAr is used lightly (alpatva) as a vault from madhyam to the pancham. A variation on the uThAva (launch) - S M (G)m, P - illustrates the subtle interplay of the two madhyams, a feature of the rAga. The consecutive madhyams may likewise manifest themselves in avarohAtmaka prayogas: P m M. It must be emphasized that although the madhyams appear cheek by jowl in written form the intonation is not so simple: the slide is always mediated by a meeND or a kaNa-swara (grace note). In some traditional Dhrupad and Dhamar compositions, phrases such as G M R S or M G R S are observed but they have fallen out of favour in recent times. It bears mentioning that the proportion of the teevra madhyam is far less than that of the shuddha madhyam. In some older accounts and compositions, the teevra madhyam barely receives acknowledgement.

M, M G P, P (m)D->P->m->M

Upon arrival at the pancham a couple of options suggest themselves. One may simply repair to the shuddha madhyam via a meeND grazing m en route. Or one could execute a meeND originating on the dhaivat back down along the D->P->m->M locus.

PDPP S", S" (N)R" S"


P N (N)D S"

These are some of the prescribed prayogas for an uttarAnga launch.

S" R" S", (S")D P M


These are typical avarohAtmaka prayogas originating from the tAra shaDaj. Appearances are deceptive since every step of the way is laden with a meeND or a delicate curve. Swara ucchAraNa means everything to this rAga. The delicious swoop from the tAra shaDaj back to the shuddha madhyam makes whistle-stops along the way on the dhaivat and the pancham. Accurate description of such prayogas is beyond the scope of the written word.

Obiter dicta: The dhaivat is piquant but it is not a location for nyAsa. The role of the shuddha nishAd is ambivalent. It is not used for nyAsa but the proportion and manner are functions of the performer's background. Typically the musician's asthAi-antarAs (i.e. the canonical composition he chooses to amplify on) will betray the rAga-lakshaNAs. We will not point to all the auxillary strands and embellishments that make for the Kedar tapestry. Each stylistic school or region has its own manner of putting flesh to the generally accepted kernel. In this sense, Kedar furnishes an apt metaphor for Indian tradition in the wider context.

The komal nishAd is optional and when introduced, is rendered weak in a vivAdi-like role: m P D n D P. A final remark on tAnbAzi: straight tAns do not sit well with this rAga. Typically, the swara doublets SS MM PP and triplets SSS MMM PPP are executed, not a trivial undertaking. This completes our preamble.

We inaugurate the audio segment with the popular prayer from GUDDI (1972) in Vani Jairam's voice, composed by Vasant Desai to Gulzar's lyrics: humko mana ki shakti denA -

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