The sound of soul music goes beyond the audial surface and swiftly moves to the core of one’s being. Her name defines that sweet spot, resonating from deep down within.
Soul music was originally connected to African American culture as a sound derived by Gospel and the Blues. She parallels the description of comfort food, attributed to African Americans, as a cuisine based on ingenuity and skill with scarce means. From what appeared to be weeds, we discovered greens (mustard, collard and turnip). The remnants of the pig and hog resulted in hog maws, hog head cheese, pig feet and pig snout. From vegetable and meat scraps, we found stews, particularly gumbo. Sunday evenings found families sitting down to a table of ham, macaroni & cheese, cornbread and peach cobbler. By the late 1950s, comfort food was renamed “soul food” because it had substance and stuck to the bones.
Like soul food, soul music is a fusion of beats from Mother Africa, turning to Gospel and Blues, which is how it acquired its initial name – Rhythm & Blues (R&B). This combination of assorted syncopations, rhythms and ethereal sounds resulted in two off springs, Funk and Soul, plus their younger sibling, Neo Soul. All genres and sub-genres continued the format of storytelling in musical and poetic form, like the Griots from African ancestors.
Neo-Soul was developed to categorize soul music performed by artists who were launched in the 1990s and beyond. However, the foundation remains the same. For every song we hear today, you can search the music archives and find the base from which it derived.
A new school of artists fall under the category of neo-soul such as: Ledisi; Angie Stone; Amel Larrieux; Maxwell; India.Arie; Raphael Saadiq; Jill Scott; Erykah Badu; Goapele; Leela James and Rahsaan Patterson to name a few. In essence, it translates as new soul to a new generation. All of these artists will admit that their influences are from the old-school or traditional soul artists.
Many veteran soul artists are credited with inspiring this class of new school like: James Brown; Ray Charles; Gladys Knight; Frankie Beverly; Patti LaBelle; Marvin Gaye; Chaka Khan; Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder.
The music’s popularity resulted in the development of record labels to focus on various styles of soul like Motown, Stax and The Sound of Philadelphia. These fusions of soul, funk and R&B, over time, have created other elements like hip hop, which samples the rhythms, beats and bass lines of many of the classics of yesteryears.
Whether it’s Pharrell and Daft Punk paying tribute to the guitar riffs of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic or Fantasia channeling Patti LaBelle and Tina Turner, the origin of this rich sound can’t be ignored. From Southern Soul, to Funky Soul to even blue-eyed soul like Robin Thicke, Sam Smith or Daley, the core can’t be denied. It’s still good ole soul music, sticking to the hearts and minds of those who love her so dearly.
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