There’s a few tools that I’ve learned to employ to train myself in different cultural styles of worship that I can share with the blog readers. Of course, when you work for a church like mine, there’s not much of a music budget, so I’ve had to learn to be resourceful with the awesome power of the web. Here’s a few places to get started:

1. iTunes, iTunes, iTunes.

I am surprised that more people have not discovered how awesome iTunes is when you really dig into it. A lot of folks in my church are under the impression that this software is only for iPod owners. In reality, iTunes is just a place to buy music that you can save onto your computer for listening, burn to a CD or upload to your mp3 player of choice. iTunes has a great store that can also be an education in music. Start by taking one artist that you know, let’s say Kirk Franklin that everyone on the planet is familiar with. Type that into the search and go to his link where you’ll see all his recordings and on the right you’ll see a list of artist who are similar. So, you can follow those links to other artists and songs all day long, getting deeper and deeper into the gospel experience. Each song plays a 30 second sample which is enough to get the general vibe. If you hear something you like, create a playlist and drag and drop the song into the list. At the end of your session you might choose to buy a few tracks, but you can still learn a lot for free from those little samples.

2. YouTube

You can also go over to YouTube and type in the names of a few artists and you will find scores of videos that are sometimes just the track from the CD in it’s entirety. This is certainly not legal to post, but it’s there for you to experience if you don’t feel guilty about it. You are not stealing by listening to it. Again, if you really like the track, then buy it. YouTube also provides suggestions, and so you can spend all day listening to videos. Check out my previous post to see what the type of videos I’m describing. This is also a great tool for finding African music. Type “African Gospel” or a word like “Nzambe” or “Yesu” into the search and you will get a bunch of videos of African gospel.

3. Internet Radio

Now head back over to iTunes. If you look at the top left hand side under “Library” you will see an icon labeled “Radio”. This takes you to a massive catalog of radio internet radio stations organized by genre. This has been fun to discover because the actual radio in my car is pretty lame. Internet Radio takes me back to the days when you would sit by the radio with your finger on record to catch a good song on tape. My sister had boxes of radio mix tapes. What a fun time of musical discovery! Internet Radio is not on demand, but it’s another way to open your mind up to what people are listening to who are from another culture. Listening to the good stuff along with the bad means that you are becoming more discerning. You can be conversant in the style so that you can engage with that style in a constructive way. What makes good rap and bad rap? What makes good Soukous and bad Soukous? How does Kirk Franklin’s sound compare to Donnie McClurkin?

4. All Music Guide (

This is a little more intensive. The All Music Guide website has bios on artists, articles on the development of genres, and even album and song reviews. This website is for when you are read to really learn more about the origins of the sounds you hear. It helps you understand the “why” of certain sounds. Pick a genre or even a country and start reading about what music is part of their cultural landscape. This website has been a big source of information for me about the Congolese sound. (I could also recommend Wikipedia for this sort of thing.)