Joshua Nelson, the Prince of Kosher Gospel
Date(s) - Sunday, November 10, 2013
Congregation of Moses
Recently named one of Time magazine’s Top 10 Jewish Music stars, Joshua Nelson is the Prince of Kosher Gospel. Kosher gospel is the marriage of Jewish religious lyrics and meanings with the soulful sounds of American gospel music. While the word “gospel”, a Greek word meaning good news, is usually associated with African-American Christian churches, the musical styling is African sounds that came from several African tribes, and developed as a tool to escape social injustice. This was the Spiritual, the Meter Hymns, Jubilee songs and ultimately, the coined “Gospel Music.” These African rhythms pre-date the West Africans’ introduction to Christianity. These same sounds have been retained in the musical cultures of Black African Muslims and Jews, and such soul-inflected vocalizations filled the Black Hebrew synagogue Joshua Nelson attended as a child with his family, observant Jews who traced their lineage back to Senegal. When he was eight, Joshua Nelson discovered an album by Mahalia Jackson, the Queen of Gospel, in his grandparents’ record collection, and he fell in love with her singing. During his teens and early twenties, he became widely celebrated as a gospel singer continuing the Jackson’s legacy. Born and raised Jewish, he continued studies of Judaism, including two years on a college and kibbutz program in Israel, and clarified his understanding that throughout history, Jews had always integrated Jewish law and religious practices with the cultural context in which they lived. Upon his return from Israel, Nelson began to apply this understanding to music, beginning what has been called “a revolution in Jewish music” by combining Jewish liturgical lyrics with one of America’s best-known indigenous musical forms; thus kosher gospel music was born. For Joshua Nelson, kosher gospel is a way to claim both parts of his identity as a Black Jew. For his audiences, whatever their faith or heritage, kosher gospel has been a revelation. Now in his early thirties, Nelson has performed around the world, for Presidents, congregations, major music festivals—and for Oprah, who named him a “Next Big Thing.” He has produced a stellar album, Mi Chamocha, sung with stars from Aretha Franklin to the Klezmatics, and served as the subject of the acclaimed documentary film Keep on Walking.
Co-Sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan with support, in part, from the Ravitz Foundation.
$20 adult; $5 student and others under 18