Introduction: Rivers of Babylon: Contextualizing Black British Gospel Music

Muir, Pauline; Dixon-McKenzie, Dulcie and Monique, Ingalls. 2024. Introduction: Rivers of Babylon: Contextualizing Black British Gospel Music. In: Dulcie Dixon-Mckenzie; Pauline Muir and Monique Ingalls, eds. Black British Gospel Music: From the Windrush Generation to Black Lives Matter. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 9781032145853 [Book Section] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

The arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 signalled the beginnings of mass post-war immigration of African Caribbean people to the United Kingdom. Since then, Black British people have formed churches and other Christian institutions that have been central to their social, political and religious lives. It was in these churches that choirs, ensembles, praise and worship teams and soloists developed the musical entity that this book is calling Black British Gospel Music (BBGM). BBGM is a dynamic and multifaceted musical practice. As the chapters of this book demonstrate, Black British Gospel Music is a diasporic river rooted in the experiences of Black British Christian communities. From the mid-twentieth century to the present day, many tributaries have flowed into this river, and plentiful streams have influenced ‘secular’ music, Christian worship practices and community music-making alike.
Black British Gospel Music is the first book-length academic text focused on British gospel music; as such, one of its chief goals is to bring this area of study to the attention of the scholarly community as well as practitioners and to demonstrate its significance across multiple conversations. This book draws on a plurality of voices, including scholars established in their field, junior academics and gospel music practitioners and contributes to current academic debates through the lens of this under-explored and hitherto under-researched area. This book’s contributors examine Black British Gospel Music in historical and contemporary perspectives using lenses from several disciplines, including post-colonial studies, musicology, theology and education. This book establishes a historical framework for British gospel’s development, highlighting significant events, individuals and institutions. Chapters focused on the present day demonstrate the complex relationship between gospel and other forms of congregational music, between forms of gospel practice by African diasporic groups and predominantly white British choirs and between gospel industries in Britain, America and Europe.
The book’s introduction will first unpack the central conceptual metaphor of ‘Rivers of Babylon’, a twin theoretical framework of Empire and Christianity. Then we will discuss the terms that comprise our object of study examining the complex and often contested resonances of ‘Black’, ‘British’ and ‘Gospel Music’. An overview of the academic literature will establish the scholarly foundations of our book, highlighting the gaps in understanding that our study aims to fill. We end the introduction with a summary of the three parts of the book and the individual chapters within them.

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Book Section

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Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


4 June 2024Published

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Date Deposited:

06 Mar 2024 16:49

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03 May 2024 10:45


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