Nathaniel Dett and the Negro Spiritual
Negro Spirituals are the origins of some of the music we hear today.
What began as a way for slaves to connect and pass time during the hardships of that time, turned into its own complete genre of music. The African roots are present in this music and have continued to flow through time. Through negro spirituals we are given songs which you hear today like “Sweet Low, Sweet Chariot”. This call and response music has pioneered music for generations.
There is a grave importance in keeping and continuing to pass the traditions of negro spirituals which is where Nathaniel Dett comes into play.
Dett used his knowledge of negro spirituals and other musics to create a special blend of negro spirituals and European traditions. He managed to add a classic tone to the music which had not been done before creating “negro folk music.”
Under his leadership, the Hampton Singers of Hampton Institute gained national recognition. Much of his work continued in the tradition of concert hall like performances, which we see more commonly today.
Although most of his most prominent work was during segregation, his use of negro spirituals and his focus on the continuation of tradition left and impact on the music that we heard today.