What is Soul Music? A Guide for the Ages

How important is music in your life?

Music is a vital part of every culture, unique in many countries around the world. During World War II, war songs were crucial in building camaraderie and morale. Today, music continues to build friendships and make communities.

Music is a powerful element in driving people in everyday life. Though many listen to music for entertainment, others find drive and inspiration in it. There are some people who hear more than music.

Have you been asking yourself, what is soul music? In this article, we cover music science and music theory. Read on to discover how influential soul music is in our cultures.

What Is Soul Music?

Soul music is a term born in the 1950s, often used to describe popular African American music in the US. This form of music further evolved between the 60s and 70s. Many people during this time referred to soul music as a new form of rhythm and blues.

In fact, soul is a form of music that carries many strong virtues with it. Ethnic pride and direct emotional delivery are some of its fundamental values. Soul music paved the path for other genres like hip hop, disco, and funk.

History of Soul Music

The first soul songs were born when early musicians changed the lyrics of gospel songs. Though Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in 1863, black people remained unwelcome to whites. White Americans would ban African Americans from entering their churches.

To continue worship, African Americans built their own churches. This gave birth to gospel music with the African-American rhythm and music styles. This is what led to the birth of soul music.

Musicians rewrote the lyrics of common gospel songs to turn them into up-tempo soul songs. Other musicians transformed slow gospel songs into romantic love songs.

Northern Soul Music

Soul music’s extensive history gave birth to two forms of the genre. The first category of soul music was first introduced in the early 60s. Motown Records gave rise to pop-soul hits that found its way to the hearts of young Americans.

Motown worked with musicians like the Funk Brothers. Their primary genre was jazz, but they developed a form of music that was open to White Americans. You may be familiar with artists Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.

The most popular hit by Motown was I’ll Be There by Jackson 5. In lead vocals, they featured a young Michael Jackson. Curtis Mayfield, along with The Impressions, took a different turn with soul music.

Curtis used music as his weapon in fighting the civil rights movement. During this time, African Americans were facing issues like racism, injustice, and poverty. Some of his biggest hits include We’re a Winner, and People Get Ready.

Curtis started a new record label in the 1970s. With Curtom Records, he released many classic soul albums. This includes in soundtrack album that featured in the film Superfly.

Southern Soul

Southern soul music, otherwise known as Memphis soul, refers to a dynamic “deep soul” music. This form of soul, developed in the south, featured brass riffs and ballads.
Musicians from Hi Records produced soul music with solid beats.

They accompanied it with strings and horns to create a rich and funky sound. You may recognize Al Green, whose biggest hits included Call Me and Let’s Stay Together.
One of the most popular figures was Aretha Franklin. She introduced female gospel-style soul music.

Another popular artist is Percy Sledge, who sang When a Man Loves a Woman. These two artists became the most influential figures in selling soul records.

Modern Soul

Soul music inspired many new genres and carried out into the new century. Neo-soul, accompanied by R&B, led to the birth of two new styles: alternative R&B and retro soul. Amy Winehouse became an influential figure in the birth of the retro soul.

This British jazz singer recreated the music from the 60s soul music in her album Back to Black. This Grammy-winning album inspired other artists like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley.

You may also recognize singers like Michael Kiwanuka and Leon Bridges. The second genre, alternative R&B, was born in 2010. This time in music history features Frank Ocean and Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd.

These artists combined the use of acoustic and electronic instruments to produce moody songs. Some artists used technology to recreate these types of sounds instead of using the actual instruments. Creating this type of music requires a strong device, like Lenovo laptops, that can process heavy tasks.

The stories of their songs focused on addiction, depression, and heartache. Many of these alternative R&B artists became popular in the lives of the Gen Z generation.

The younger generation tends to look for songs that can represent troubles in their life. More artists like Beyonce and Solange carry out the legacy of soul music.

A Different Perspective on Soul Music

Many dedicated artists go to great lengths to create impactful music. Immersive artists try to mimic synesthesia during music shows, creating sensory experiences. Synesthesia is a phenomenon that affects about 4% of people on earth.

Those with synesthesia see colors when they read a word or hear a sound. Experts found that upon hearing a sound, the brain shows activity in the parts linked to sound and sight. This unique wiring of the brain results in seeing colors when hearing music.

Synesthesia could also have different effects on people. Some people diagnosed with synesthesia link different colors with certain numbers. For others, synesthesia makes it easier to learn a new language.

Synesthesia and Music

Many people with synesthesia see specific colors when listening to a specific genre of music. This elicits different responses, often influencing a person’s favorite type of music. You may also be familiar with artists who have synesthesia, like Lorde and Pharell Williams.

Another artist with synesthesia is Billie Eilish. In an interview, she shared with her fans that her song Bad Guy were the colors red and yellow. She also associated her song with the number 7.

For Soul music, people with synesthesia could see colors of comfort. Soul music features a rich history. Other listeners of soul music may link it to a valuable childhood memory.

Synesthesia in Play

Steph Singer is an immersive artist and composer. He uses synesthesia as an inspiration to create unique and contemporary music shows. Most studies reveal that we all experience a cross-modal perception or multisensory integration.

Experts suggest that synesthesia is a spectrum that well all are on. When Singer found out about this, she wondered if she could manipulate this part of the brain. Singer worked with a perfumer, psychologist, and chef along with a few choreographers.

With their help, she created multiple concerts that cater to different senses. Each dancer had an assigned audience member, acting as a somatic guide. The dancers would waft or spray scents if relevant to the music.

Dancers would lift audience members’ feet when the music soared. They would tickle their audience if the music took a playful note. Some songs called for the dancers to feed morsels of food to their audience.

Singer’s goal was to bring her audience into the music itself. She wanted her audience to feel the sensuality of Debussy’s music. Instead of borrowing terms to describe senses, they would recreate those feelings.

Impact of Soul Music

Soul music is not only a light-hearted and soulful kind of genre. Soul music calls back to deep roots, originating from a time where discrimination was rampant. African American artists used soul music as a medium to fight against racism.

Newer artists like Frank Ocean used soul music to tackle hard subjects. People became more aware of mental illness, especially among Gen Z members. Frank Ocean gave them representation and a way to vent their feelings.

No matter how you look at it, soul music can define a moment in time. You’ll find many songs that reflect the situations and environments of the time of its creation. Listeners may find that many old songs remain relevant to this day.

Songs about discrimination remain relevant in a time of casual racism. Many listeners can find value in the soul music genre even decades after its original release. Music by Frank Ocean will continue to impact the youth.

His songs will continue to connect with those who struggle with mental illnesses. Soul music is the type of genre that will last for years to come. Soul aims to build a community by opening a part of their soul that they didn’t realize was there.

Soul brings people together, like the victims of discrimination in its early ages. It also built a community of mental health awareness supporters. Soul music is a genre that finds its own voice, often serving as a voice to its listeners and creators.

Discover More About Soul Music

Some music enthusiasts complain that it’s difficult to find music with true meaning. In reality, it’s all around you. If you’re wondering what is soul music, now you know.

Thank you for reading! Are you interested in checking out more guides and music recommendations? If you are, we encourage you to go over our other blog posts today!

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