Rafa Selase

"Spiritual Music Songs About Freedom"

Red Blooded American Songs About Freedom Album

Red Blooded American - Album ( 2017)

Listen

"Chasing Demons"

Jazz Fusion Jazz Rap

"Unhome"

Folk Spiritual Songs

"Red Blooded American"

Protest Song

Spiritual Music Songs About Freedom

Spirituals are songs that were original creations of African Americans. Negro Spirituals was another name used to categorize this music. It originated from their beliefs, combined with their struggles of subjugation, oppression and the brutality associated with slavery. African American music of that time was sung in a group, and included chants that are very similar to the choir songs heard in some of today's Black Baptist churches. It's also worth mentioning black poets have always written poetry that was consistent with negro spirituals.  

Origin of the “Spiritual Songs”

Wikipedia states that Blues, gospel music, country music, jazz and R & B were direct derivatives of spiritual music. In simple terms negro spiritual music is music that influences the spirit, but for educational purposes I will give a more thorough review of the origins of African American spirituals. Upon doing a little research I was fascinated with the connection between spiritual music, poetry and jazz, their origins and the historical experience of the so-called African American.

I was personally creating music that spoke to my experience and perspective while highlighting significant historical events. Obviously I was influenced by my upbringing but it was amazing to realize what I was creating was connected to a rich history and from something deep in all of our pasts. Again songs which I like to call poems (psalms) in written form is where is all started.  Written form is the poem, vocal is the spoken word or song. 

Before I go further; Can we accept the fact that music is a language? Sound, beats, bass, and the sound of strings is a language. A spiritual language! Music sets the foundation for your emotional state; it allows you to be more accepting and connected to not only the message of the music, but also your own thoughts. Music opens the heart and overrides the clutter. Music speaks to the soul!  An example is music that is played constantly on the radio eventually turns into messages that are played over and over in your mind, which over time will influence your behaviors.

Here are some examples of well known artist within the jazz, soul, and R&B genres. These artist were not classified as gospel artists, but their music was indeed based in negro spirituals. 

Some of the artist include:

John Coltrane - I'll wait and pray

Billy Holiday & Nina Simone - Strange Fruit

Hugh Masekela - His Entire Collection

Lauryn Hill - Conquering Lion

Donny Hathaway - Someday We'll Be Free

Willie Nelson - In God's Eyes

Bob Marley - Thank You Lord

Spiritual music is African American music; it is freedom music and it is deeply seeded in the historical and present day experience of people world wide. It is a music that is both educational and spiritual. Spirituality and freedom go hand in hand! Freedom will require you to access, challenge and move your spirit. NOTE: I am not saying only negroes or blacks can create this music, but rather this type of music originated from the African American experience. Furthermore white, yellow and brown people have continued to make enormous contributions to this foundational music genre.  Music is colorblind!

HIP HOP Influence -Drums have been used in Africa for many forms of communication. When the colonizers realized the power link between drums and communication, drums were no longer allowed! It is quite interesting that drums and that beat were one of the main elements that drives hip hop music.

My music in general is as much poetry as it is spiritual, is as much freedom as it is jazz and is as much folk as it is alternative hip hop. It is music that is rooted from a spiritual experience while also holding on to those things that we value. And that is freedom. My songs are simply songs about freeing your mind, living powerfully, songs about life, songs about struggle, and ultimately freedom songs about victory! Just music, man...It's my sound, my voice! 

Negro Spiritual History cont...

Many are now embracing a spiritual music and a belief system that has brought them through difficult times. In the past there was a conflict with the religion slave holders taught. The reason is many blacks were questioning their strategically flawed version of the theology which was used to enslave, oppress, steal & rape. It was the oppressors personal belief system based on hatred  rather than a fact based historical and spiritual teaching that was backed by a well documented historical book about a certain people. Upon further exploration into the  origins and music that originated from this belief system exposes many things. So let me go a little further into this subject. I found it extremely interesting. 

Origins of Spiritual Music

Wikipedia talks about the beginnings of negro music spirituals. The concept of singing spirituals can be found in the King James Bible. Again, this is very intriguing in the fact the bible was used a means of control during slavery when the origins of spiritual music began. In the New Testament, they are referred to as “hymns” and “psalms.”

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

And Ephesians 5:19 says, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

Slaves were not allowed to speak their original language. Being found doing so could cost your life, a limb, or a family member.  They were forced to convert to a Eurocentric Christianity, which taught the slaves a European image of God, and used scriptures that spoke specifically about obeying masters and such. This included the making of a Jesus with European features.

A lot of the original spiritual were based on Christian psalms and hymns. The foundation was overcoming the odds, staying faithful and believing that we would overcome.  

As I continued to dig, I found more interesting nuggets. Before the Crusades, the images of Jesus and the early Christians found in Europe were all dark skinned with black or so-called African features. During the Crusades, soldiers (crusaders) refused to kill the enemy (who were darker skinned) because they would report that they looked like God! This was the beginning of the European Jesus, which was a strategic misrepresentation to remove the emotional connection of the true image of God in the flesh versus what they needed (European Jesus) to control the minds of all people, both white and black.

(An even more interesting note: the Ten Commandments forbids creating and worshipping an image of God. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” This is found in Exodus 20:4.)

Colossians 3:22 was used quite often to defend slavery, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;”

It most be noted that the Blacks were not allowed to read or write in addition to speak their language of origin. This is how negro spiritual music songs about freedom began. This seems to go against the idea that the bible was the slave master’s religion. If that were true, the bible would have been embraced and taught in its entirety. The story of Moses leading the Hebrew Israelites out of captivity would have been embraced. The specific scripture in Deuteronomy which says the Hebrews will go into another time of bondage would have been highlighted.

Deuteronomy 28:68 says, “And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.”

If the Bible were the slave master’s religion, they would have been OK with teaching the prophetic words of Isaiah 13:11 that speak directly to those that do the very types of deeds they themselves were doing, “Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.”

Proverbs 11:21 says “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, But the descendants of the righteous will be delivered.”

Or Ecclesiastes 8:11, which speaks directly to the time given to evil deeds of slave holders and human rights violators, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”

Or the scriptures that speak to those that stand by and make excuses for those that oppress and subjugate others. Proverbs 17:15 says, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.”

This is not a theological lesson, but rather a small article on the power of music, its origins and how spiritual music and jazz, specifically songs about freedom, were developed. Ultimately music is for everyone and most importantly negro spiritual music will continue to uplift, inspire and encourage people of all races, creeds, religions and backgrounds. 

Gratitude,

Rafa