Singing Culture: A Study of Gospel Music in Zimbabwe

Singing Culture: A Study of Gospel Music in Zimbabwe

Singing Culture: A Study of Gospel Music in Zimbabwe

Singing Culture: A Study of Gospel Music in Zimbabwe

Synopsis

This study examines the historical development and social, political and economic significance of gospel music in Zimbabwe. It approaches music with Christian theological ideas and popular appeal as a cultural phenomenon with manifold implications. Applying a history of religions approach to the study of a widespread religious phenomenon, the study seeks to link religious studies with popular culture. This study also seeks to bring to the fore the long-standing issue of the relationship between Christianity and African culture along with the neglected theme of music and the construction of religious and other identities.

Excerpt

This study examines the historical development, social, political and economic significance of gospel music in Zimbabwe. It approaches music with Christian theological ideas and popular appeal as a cultural phenomenon with manifold implications. Applying a history of religions approach to the study of a widespread religious phenomenon, the study seeks to link religious studies with popular culture. It argues that gospel music represents a valuable entry point into a discussion of contemporary African cultural production. Gospel music illustrates the limitations of discourses of authenticity wherein “African cultural production is consumed, judged, and analysed in terms of its ‘Africanness’” (Baaz, 2001: 11). I maintain that gospel music successfully blends the musical traditions of Zimbabwe, influences from other African countries, and musical styles from other parts of the world.

Through the application of multiple methodological lenses, the study sets out to describe, analyse and interpret gospel music in Zimbabwe during the 1990s. It outlines the historical development of popular music in Zimbabwe, alongside locating the emergence of gospel music in the politically and economically challenging 1990s. the report captures the impact of Christianity on music performances, highlights the various groups of cultural workers who have derived opportunities from gospel music and undertakes an analysis of the context in which gospel music was able to thrive. Through an examination of dominant themes in Zimbabwean gospel music and its creative appropriation of various musical styles, the study illustrates the complexity underlying contemporary African artistic products.

This study also seeks to bring to the fore the long-standing issue of the relationship between Christianity and African culture. Although many African theologians, nationalists, missiologists, Non-Governmental Organisation activists and other practitioners have proffered valuable insights, in most instances their efforts have been vitiated by a preoccupation with a frozen view of African culture. Many writers have tended to view African culture as a relic from some glorious past. Although this may please avid cultural nationalists, it obfuscates the inherently adaptive nature of African, and indeed of any other, culture. Consequently, in this study the focus is on gospel music as an integral part of contemporary African culture. By examining gospel music texts, performances by artists and audiences at gospel concerts and television presentations, the study contributes to the discourses on religion and public spaces. the report also brings to the fore the neglected theme of music and the construction of religious and other identities.

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