In the wake of Soul legend Ben E. King’s death, Nouveaux’s Timmy Odejimi takes a look at the music genre and what it means to him.
As a black African individual, soul music was never really embedded into my system in comparison to most (if not all) of my African-American friends, relatives and former companions.
Birthed and fairly raised in a nation and continent (Nigeria, Africa – respectively) bursting with a rich culture of instrumental and transcendental music – from Afrobeat to Jùjú music – soul was a music genre with little popularity, but still somehow found its way into everyone’s homes.
It was 1997, the year my callow and tender ears were exposed (or rather introduced) to a genre filled with life, love, sentiment and passionate energy.
Percy Sledge’s 1968 record, “When a man loves a woman” – the first soul song that opened my eyes and led me into a world like none other and opened up an infatuation with a genre unusual to my surrounding at the time. Though only a toddler at the time, Sledge’s profound and soul-captivating lyrics only shaped a meaning in my mind years after hearing it.
Music, as commonly said, is a universal language; this is an undisputed fact. Possessing the power and influence to bring people of diverse backgrounds together, the beauty and impact is indescribable.
Each genre means something different to every individual. Just like numerous things in life, music essentially comes down to interpretation and how its meaning is shaped through perception. From the perspective of an avid music listener, soul shapes a personal meaning through its ability of triggering undiscovered emotions.
Moreover, where does soul music actually come from? A question forever asked, but inaccurately answered. Some music scholars and researchers, such as music lecturer Piero Scaruffi, claim it was shaped and formed “by the commercial boom of “race” music that had led to the creation of channels and infrastructures run by black entrepreneurs for black artists.”
Others, music and soul fanatics like myself and possibly those reading, believe the roots of soul is an art form crafted from gospel music which almost (if not every) black individual experienced either growing up or at some point in their lives.
Talent is quite simply an understatement when describing artists within the genre. From men to women, the genre had and still has an overwhelming quantity of soul-tastic singers. Going back to the old school days – from Marvin Gaye to Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin to Ben E. King, Ray Charles to Nina Simone – the amount of creative and magnificent vocalist of old age soul is endless.
Comparing the old school with the new is always a two-sided affair. It is usually a matter where the majority of soul listeners go for the old school as their preference; however, new listeners usually steer towards the new school. A situation like this I would find myself in a predicament.
With the likes of Nina Simone’s beautifully poignant and profound vocals to Norah Jones’ soft and cotton-like voice moving your body, mind and soul onto a bed of clouds, it is never an easy task to pick preference. But it has to be admitted that the old school possess a novelty and quality unavailable to the new school.
Technology advancements has led to an odd transformation of music as a whole. Auto-tuning has become detrimental to music; a great plague which urgently needs to be eradicated. All these “developments” to music has made it frustratingly difficult to enjoy today’s music. Though soul is a genre not necessarily easy to tamper with it, artists of different music genres now experiment with soul; something usually ending in disaster of poorly produced music.
Nonetheless, soul music is still, however, the pioneering genre in music. Call me biased, but its history is unrivalled and the genre is universally loved and respected. From the sweet grapevines of Marvin Gaye to the uplifting and robust vocals of Patti Labelle and Aretha Franklin, every soul song takes you on a journey whilst exploring different sides of emotions and creating an intimae bond between you and the artist.
There’s a particular reason why the genre is called ‘soul.’ It’s as simple as this; it touches the soul – in different ways and forms. The beauty of as mentioned is indescribable, but the feeling one gets is captivating. As though paralyzed by its lyrics and tunes, soul music puts you in a place no form of drug can. A genre for any mood or moment – whether it is romance, celebration, heartbreak or loss, there is always a song to tend to your sentiment.
Soul music is purely heavenly. With the amount of children parents have conceived due to the genre, it is a music blessed with all that is good with life.
In the comment section below, tell us what soul means to you.