Brazil’s explosion of música gospel

As Protestants gain numbers, a sizable world of Christian music in many genres has emerged.

Since the 1970s, Brazil’s Protestant population has grown rapidly to more than 60 million believers today. Most of them fall into the general category of evangelicals and Pente­costals, with the worship styles we would expect from those traditions. That story is well known to North Americans.

Less familiar is the sizable musical world that has emerged from this expansion. Brazil today is the center of a large and thriving industry in música gospel—Christian music of various genres. Those millions of church members constitute a domestic market second only to that of the United States. Christian music, broadly defined, accounts for around 20 percent of the nation’s music market, which supports some 5,000 Christian singers and bands.

In an echo of the Black experience in the United States, many of the most successful acts began by serving individual churches before expanding their ambitions into the public realm. Among the most famous artists are Diante do Trono (Before the Throne), led by Ana Paula Valadão. The group emerged in the 1990s as the praise band of Lagoinha Church, a vast charismatic Baptist megachurch based in Belo Horizonte. In 2003, Diante do Trono attracted an audience of 2 million to an event in São Paulo, and their albums have sold 15 million copies worldwide. Valadão is an influential celebrity far beyond the world of Christian music. The band in turn has launched successful spinoff acts, such as former member Marine Friesen, who went solo in 2015.