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If you asked a Rap artist where the term rap originated you may be told it came from hip hop music in the 1970's. They may explain it as rhythmic beats or modern urban music. If the truth be known, Rap originated in South Africa. The term Rap refers to the beat of a tribal drum. Can you think of two musical forms based on painful experiences of everyday life? They are Gospel and Blues. For most music lovers we don't often stop to consider the origin, we simply enjoy it. Black History Month gives us the opportunity to stop, think, listen and consider all the different generations and influences that impact the music of today. One music form that has impacted all music styles is Gospel. The word "Gospel" comes from the Greek word "Euongelion" meaning "the good news" (Jesus being sent to save us). Musician and non-musician alike often feel we have these rhythms instinctively within us. That is possible as each generation is handed the history from the generation before whether we are aware of it or not. There are two perspectives of Gospel Music. One being African American brought over from South Africa during the slave trade. The other being Anglo American which is thought to have come from England. People complained about Protestant churches being noisy, were the congregation would sing. This was very unusual for England. Once arriving in the USA slaves were baptized. There was a fear that it would be illegal to hold a fellow Christian in bondage. Legislation was quickly passed stating that being baptized did not change their slave status. Regardless of the legislation, slaves did not believe one could be a slave master and a Christian. They did not believe you could beat a slave and then ask God for forgiveness repeatedly. In the attempt to bring Christianity to Africans, missionaries stopped things they felt were "unfit". As a result, the core of their music, the African DRUM, was removed. The percussion which was used to communicate with each other was then expressed differently using hand clapping. Bobby Mcferrin who you know from his many songs such as "Don't Worry Be Happy" uses his body as a percussion instrument and voice to express percussion sounds. In spite of the changes, slaves did not abandon their religion or music. Africans used the rhythmic patterns of African music and harmonies to express their newly forming Gospel sound. Their musical roots being different from the Europeans necessitated them to find a way to make it their own. They stretched out the signature, and introduced rhythm and syncopation. While English/White music was rooted on written music and lyrics, African/Black slave music is known to be rooted by the Holy Spirit. To lose the Holy Spirit from the music is to lose the essence and meaning of it.

African American Gospel is different from Anglo American Gospel because the structure of the hymn is different. African Americans would say they "raise a hymn". They sing a line or two in a structured way followed by the congregation bringing in improvisations. This was not found in traditional churches. In 1805 blacks and whites started to blend together for a more unified sound. Whites started hearing black music for the first time after the Civil War and were drawn to the differences. Gospel became louder, often shouting. This became infections. It is the "conviction" expressed and articulated that conveys the soul and heritage of Africa maintaining the roots and foundation of its origin. Gospel is an emotional experience where you "get physically into" it rather then sit and listen to a speaker. Gospel became a part of pop culture in the 1960's. The music of that time was not considered traditional enough to be sung in church. Now the same music is considered traditional. One recognizable hymn is "Oh Happy Day". It is difficult for us to think of it as controversial but at that time it was. Gospel music has helped people through racism, segregation, and lynching allowing them to survive and develop their own identity outside of Africa. It can be argued that today Gospel music is returning back to the African heritage, reclaiming what was previously claimed by others. The point I am trying to make is that there are many musical styles of today which originated in ways we never or rarely think of. I hope my attempt to scratch the surface has broadened your thinking slightly and will inspire you to dig deeper into the roots of Africa and African music.

BIO Donna has developed a complete mind / body / spirit / voice method designed to access the power from the body to eliminate any pressure that may prohibit us from singing our best. She combines specific rhythms and music patterns along with exercises designed to build proper breath support while gently working the entire vocal range, top to bottom. The voice has the fullness needed to express a song in any style desired. She no longer worries about pitch, range or power as she was able to relax and let things happen instinctively rather then force them to happen. You will too! She now passes that knowledge on to others interested in understanding and developing their own distinct sound. Donna is a member of SOCAN.

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