TRACING IT TO ITS ORIGINS
"Its strength has always been rooted in the sexual energy of its rhythm . . Rock 'n' roll made you want to move and shake and get physically excited."—Janet Podell, Rock Music in America, pp. 46-47.
"Its insistent basic backbeat and shuffle rhythms demanded a physical response . . So the harsh, direct syncopation of rock 'n' roll came as a physical manifestation of its content—a challenge to loosen up, to break the old molds of convention and standards of propriety . . The musicians themselves moved and danced as they played, begging the listener to cast off his inhibitions."—William J. Shafer, Rock Music, p. 15.
The following passage was penned by a non-Christian who studied deeply into the roots of the music his ancestors brought to the Western world.
"Spurred by the holy drums [in Central Africa], deep in the meditation of the dance, one is literally entered by a god [demon] . . and it can happen to anyone.
"In Abomey, Africa, these deities that speak through humans are called vodun. The word means 'mysteries.' From their vodun (also called voden) comes our Voodoo, and it is to Voodoo that we must look for the roots of our music . . Voodoo is not so much Africa in the new World as it is Africa meeting the New World, absorbing it and being absorbed by it . . Protestantism and Voodoo are always at odds. A Haitian saying goes, 'If you want the loa [a voodoo god] to leave you alone—become a Protestant [believer]' . .
"Elvis Presley was the first product of African music in America which the official culture could not ignore . . When whites started playing rock 'n' roll, the whole aesthetic of Western performance changed . . Spurred by a god within him, the devotee . . throws himself into a series of improvisations [bodily movements] . . The audience is not taken in: it is to the loa [Voodoo god] and not the loa's servant [the performer] that their admiration goes out.
"The Voodoo rite of [demon] possession by the god became the standard of American performance in rock 'n' roll. Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Jim Morrison, Johnny Rotten, Prince;—they let themselves be possessed not by any god they could name but by the supernatural spirit they felt in the music . . Western performers transmitted their possession through their voice and their dance to their audience, even through their records.
"Music can be understood by the body instantly. It carries so much history within it that we don't need history to understand it . .
"From the first, this music has felt like an attack on the institutions [marriage, the family, the church, etc.]—and that was what it was attacking . . 'If I told you what our music is really about, we'd probably all get arrested,' Bob Dylan told an interviewer in 1965. It is a music that won't stop, and it won't leave us alone. It speaks through the body and invokes the spirit."—Michael Ventura, "Hear that Long Snake moan," Whole Earth Review, Spring 1987, pp. 28-43; and Summer 1987, pp. 82-92.
In the following passage, the author refers to the demons as "gods," because that is what the native musicians and worshipers call them. But they are actually demons which, at the sound of the drum rhythms, come and enter those in attendance.
"Much has been said and written by many people about the harmfulness of the beats in rock music. One of the most important reasons it is harmful is because it calls the demons. This use of music goes way back in African history. It is also found in Indian history.
"The author has, in her possession, tapes of songs to the oldest known, original gods of India. These come from Tamil in the southern part of India, and go back to the early time of Indian history.
"From these countries, and particularly from Africa, the music and religion spread in the world because of the dispersion of people in slavery. Even though slaves, people preserved their loyalty to their religion, through whatever means they could.
"There are three main religions which are still extant which grew out of this dispersion.
"In Haiti, it is called Voodoo. In Cuba, it is called Santeria. And, in Brazil, it is called Condomble.
"In each of these religions, as in African and Indian religions, specific rhythms are used to call specific gods. This is the purpose of the rituals performed.
"Drums are played; there is dancing. A certain rhythm is played, depending on which god is desired, and that god comes and possesses individuals.
"The same exact rhythms are used in each of the three religions named above, in African and Indian music, in rock music, and in music used in meetings of faith healers. The god comes, whenever he is called by anyone using those rhythms on the drums.
"Does the god come to celebration-type worship services, when the god's rhythm is played in Christian rock music, even though the people present do not realize that they are calling a god? There is quite a strong consensus that the god does come."—Demon Possession and Music, by Dr. Juanita McElwain.
Dr. McElwain said that the demon comes when those rhythms are played. Why does he come? in order to possess people. Sounds terribly dangerous! Would you want to be present at such a gathering?
But why do the natives want to call the demons to come and possess them? Because the people have learned that when the demons enter their bodies,—the people feel excited and exhilarate,, and want to wave their arms, dance around wildly, and fall on the floor in apparent ecstasy.
While they are gathered together, the demons give them—what seems to be—a glorious feeling of excitement and exaltation. Amid the excitement of these native rituals, the natives are urged to want to have sexual intercourse with one another.
But then afterward, those demons—still in their bodies—give them feelings of depression and anger, and gradually lead them to acts of violence.
Elsewhere in this book, we learn that exactly the same thing happens to those who attend rock concerts!
Just below is an incident which exactly fits the above description of what happens in African voodoo rituals! Although the location was very different, the steady drum beats brought the same "gods,"—with the same effects on the worshipers—who, like African natives, had come to the gathering that evening in order to experience those effects!
Without realizing it, these worshipers, at a small church in America that you will soon read about, had invited demons to enter their bodies. As a result, in the weeks and months which followed, you can know that those people experienced various difficulties with feelings of depression, hostility, and desires to engage in acts of immorality.
The demons are very intelligent; and their objective is to remain in the people after the meeting is over, so they can influence them to maintain a half-dead Christian experience. For this reason, the demons will not cause too many problems, lest the people become alarmed, stop attending the demon drum rituals, and flee to Christ for help.
"Not long ago, at the invitation of one of my music students, I visited a local church and was able to witness a use of 'gospel music' that was totally out of harmony with normal standards of worship.
"In front of the church, which seated no more than 250 worshipers, were enough drums, synthesizers, amplifiers, and loudspeakers to fill a room many times that size with sound at a decibel level that would even then be decidedly uncomfortable.
"At the beginning of the worship service, the performance of standard gospel hymns began at a relatively soft level, at a moderate tempo and very little use of the drums.
"However, the musicians gradually abandoned the pianissimo in favor of the forte and then fortissimo—with all twelve speakers at maximum volume level. The percussion instruments [drums], at high volume and with complex rhythms, were leading out in a drastic change in the conduct of those who had come to this evening worship service.
"As tempo and sound level increased, the congregation began to stir in the pews and soon were standing and raising their hands. As the music progressed from simple melodies and rhythms to higher volume levels and rhythmic complexities, many in the congregation (of primarily Anglo-Saxon heritage) began to dance in the aisles and chancel of the little church!
"The dancing was not with another person, but individual parishioners would jump and whirl, often shaking violently as they fell to the floor—with screams of ecstasy! As the service was at its height of excitement, the musicians very gradually lowered the volume while simplifying and softening the beat. Gradually, the physical manifestations moderated, and soon all were back in their pews, singing softly and occasionally raising one or both hands, while recuperating from the strenuous exercises they had just experienced.
"The congregation had been led through this entire experience by the influence of music—music that led them in tiny increments of excitement by means of skillfully played instruments. During the zenith of the service, a young man seated behind me asked me, 'Are you saved?' He was apparently puzzled by my lack of participation.
"I asked a high-school-age girl, 'What does it feel like to be writhing on the floor with people above you?' 'It is the most ecstatic and glorious experience you can imagine,' she replied. However, if it had not been for the musical excesses, these 'high' experiences would not have taken place. I did not sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church that evening."—Paul E. Hamel, D.Mus. Ed., Eeritus Professor of Music, Andrews University.
—There is much more on this subject of the origins of this captivating music in the next two chapters.