Performing pentecostalism: Music, identity, and the interplay of Jamaican and African American styles

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


A growing trend in contemporary African American gospel has been the incorporation of West Indian influences in performances and commercial recordings. This trend is not particularly surprising, since for decades, music scholars have recognized the transnational ties between Jamaica and the United States. These ties have had a profound impact on the development of sacred and secular musical practice in both locales. Kenneth Bilby, for example, has noted that a significant amount of Jamaican popular music recorded in the 1970s is imbued with a hymnlike quality that suggests the influence of African American church worship on Jamaican expressive culture.1 This essay discusses African American gospel artists and their music as a dynamically recontextualized, African diasporic phenomenon and focuses primarily on the reception and appropriation of island-influenced gospel recordings among Jamaican churchgoers at home and abroad. I seek not only to emphasize the transnational flows of gospel music from the United States but also to call attention to the ongoing negotiations of identity that occur as a result of these flows. In ways that are understood to be controversial, young Jamaican Pentecostals often strive to make this music by African American gospel artists their own, even as many religious leaders vehemently protest its perceived negative impact on Jamaican youth and the congregations to which they often belong.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World
Subtitle of host publicationRituals and Remembrances
PublisherUniversity of Michigan Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9780472050963
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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