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Musicians celebrate gospel according to Curacao

Take a trip to Curacao hear the sounds of gospel
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January 28, 2000
Web posted at: 4:19 p.m. EST (2119 GMT)

From Neil Curry
CNN WorldBeat Correspondent

(CNN) -- In the 17th century, as Europeans founded the American colonies, the island of Curacao in the Dutch Antilles off Venezuela became a main transit port for the slave trade from Africa. The legacy of Dutch colonial rule is still evident in the architecture of Curacao's capital, Willemstad.

But today, the island's economy benefits from tourism and a drink of the same name. It's in this happier spirit that Curacao recently staged its first gospel festival.

The new African-Americans thrown into slavery in the 1600s clung to rhythms and songs of their homeland to help them through their troubled times. Many adopted the Christian faith for support. The twin pillars of music and religion formed the foundation on which the gospel music tradition was built, says Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr., a musician who participated in Curacao's music festival.

"I believe when we really go back," Morton says, "that that's the roots of many of our great jazz singers, contemporary artists. All of these basically had their roots in the church. And there was always some effect that it had on them -- look at the jazz musicians, they were sitting on a piano at church. They were playing that (style of music) in church.

"So it was very easy for people to cross over into the jazz realm, because of the excitement they were experiencing in the church," he says.

Although they all work in the gospel idiom, bands at the festival ran the gamut of styles. The three-woman group Trin-i-tee puts its biblical message into a hip-hop format, in an attempt to reach younger audiences. More traditional gospel choirs -- the Koro di St. Fama and the Beacon Light Mass Choir -- were on the lineup, too.

And some famous names, including Gladys Knight and Beverly Crawford, were also on hand. To get a sample of the fest, watch our full report.

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Curacao Chamber of Commerce
Curacao Tourism Development Bureau
Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church Ministries: About Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr.
Word Online: Trin-i-tee 5:7
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