- Faith & Family
The smooth rhythms of R&B, the booming bass of reggaeton, the melodic soul of soca, the measured beats of rap and the flowing lyrics of reggae could all be heard at the Oasis Church Miami on Saturday, June 18.
No, the Oasis Church had not dedicated one night to secular music, instead, the sanctuary offered attendants a worship experience as they hosted the first annual Urban Gospel Fest.
Urban Gospel refers to a diverse genre of music that is often a Christian version of secular urban music including hip-hop, reggaeton, dance hall, and merengue.
“Urban Gospel music is music derived from urban communities around the world, yet reclaimed for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is essentially music from the streets,” stated Tiffani Knowles, in an emailed inquiry. Knowles is the managing editor of NEWD Magazine, one of the event’s sponsors.
In addition to Oasis Church and NEWD Magazine, the concert was sponsored by Soul Movement Crew, F-N-F Live and Vision Music. Since the beginning of 2011, sponsors have been planning the Urban Gospel Fest in order to bring together a variety of Christian music styles.
According to Knowles, the Urban Gospel Fest brought a rare opportunity to showcase an oft- “shunned” musical genre.
“While [urban gospel] carries the same message of a Sunday sermon or a choir’s rendition, it is packaged in a way that is palatable and relatable to young, urban music-lovers. This rubs churches and church leaders the wrong way because they feel these artists are “copying the world, instead of upholding a standard of holiness,” Knowles explained.
Yet Yannick Jackson, founder of Soul Movement Crew, believes that the perception of Urban Gospel music is changing – albeit slowly.
“Even though the support has increased over the years for Urban Gospel music, some people and church groups still consider it as unholy or not of God,” Jackson said via email.
To help others become more accepting of Urban Gospel, Jackson advises people to approach the musical style with an open mind.
She explained further, “We encourage people to go beyond the beat and take the time to listen to the lyrics. Once they do that, they would understand that the content consists of the message of the Gospel, someone’s testimony and/or songs geared to encourage the listener to live a lifestyle of righteousness.”
Featured artists at the event included Miami’s CUDS Music, Ft. Lauderdale’s Mark Lee, Trinidad’s former Soca King, Nigel Lewis, Haiti’s LaVie, and Liberia’s Sekajipo.
Since the beginning of 2011, the sponsors have been planning the Urban Gospel Fest.
“This year, we asked artists in our network to be a part of this event. These artists really have a heart to use their music as tool to evangelize and to make a positive impact in the lives of their audience,” Jackson said.
By Kaila Heard