Fisk Jubilee Singers: Pioneers of Negro Spirituals

The Fisk Jubilee singers have been recognized as being one of the most significant contributors to the history of Negro Spirituals. The group introduced the world to these “slave songs” in 1871. Being the first of many to depart from the genre of “black minstrel”, where white musicians would perform these songs in blackface, this group was able to bring vast popularity to tradition of Negro Spirituals.

The growing popularity of these traditions have led to the preservation of black culture, slave stories, which are portrayed through music, and the overall “soul” of those from the African Diaspora. We see these traditions remain stagnant, deeply rooted within today’s art forms such as music and poetry. Some examples of modern day artists that have taken the torch include, Jazmine Sullivan, H.E.R., D Smoke, and Anderson .Paak. These artists exhibit various elements of Spirituals, such as shouting, layered voices and harmonies, raspy and shrill falsetto tones, and specific rhythmic patterns that provide a very soulful feeling.

Above we have D Smoke’s Sunkissed Child and Jazmine Sullivan’s Pick Up Your Feelings. 

Give them a listen and be on the lookout for the elements of Spiritual that I provided above.

The Fisk Jubilee singers are truly extraordinary. They along with other groups have worked together to maintain the traditions of their ancestors of the African Diaspora. We can see their great contributions through many of today’s black artists, both old and young. Over the course of 137 years, each set of Jubilee singers has done an excellent job at revealing Negro Spirituals and Gospel to the world, keeping their history alive. 

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