Black British Gospel Music Past, Present, and Future: Final Reflections from the Editors

Dixon-McKenzie, Dulcie; Muir, Pauline and Ingalls, Monique. 2024. Black British Gospel Music Past, Present, and Future: Final Reflections from the Editors. In: Dulcie Dixon-McKenzie; Pauline Muir and Monique Ingalls, eds. Black British Gospel Music: From the Windrush Generation to Black Lives Matter. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 237-250. ISBN 9781032145853 [Book Section] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

The title of this book, Rivers of Babylon, uses the metaphor of a ‘river’ to conceptualise the diversity of Black British Gospel Music that continues to evolve as streams of living water in 21st-century Britain and globally. In this final chapter, we each share final reflections of our scholarship, which will be framed using water’s metaphoric language to help us imagine the future. First, the use of Babylon metaphorically is worth revisiting. Taken from the scriptural text in Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

Here we have the image of a group of people sitting, weeping, and remembering. They are located in a place captivated by a system that has caused generational harm, yet they are required to sing. The people are reminiscing on the past, yet we know from other biblical passages that they did not lose hope for their future as a people. Indeed, many generations later, many of them returned to Zion, though transformed through their sojourn in exile. In the time in between their exile and return, they did indeed learn to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.

That in-between time, which finds the people of Zion living in the tension between the pain of the ‘now’ and the joy of the ‘not yet,’ is the moment that this book has chronicled. Among people of the African diaspora in Britain, the Lord’s song has taken many forms, from the soulful melodies of singers to the harmonies of choirs, to the rhymes and rhythms of grime MCs. Though nurtured within the Black Majority Church, it has never been contained within its walls; Black British Gospel Music continually spills out into the high streets, schools, and suburbs. And BBGM does not return to sacred spaces unchanged; through its sojourns, the music is constantly renewed and transformed, at times subtly and at other times radically.

In this final chapter, each of the three editors reflects on key themes of this volume, drawing together threads of the discussion and pointing the way forward for further examination. In doing so, we embody a stance that we hope will be adopted by scholars of BBGM moving forward: that of collaboration across, and in full view of, difference among scholars who embody a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

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Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


4 June 2024Published

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Date Deposited:

06 Mar 2024 16:51

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03 May 2024 10:44


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