It was an unconventional start to a rock concert: an explosion of fluorescent lights, a deafening drum roll and, finally, an extract from Psalm 91. “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”

Biblical citations over, a singer wearing giant blue earrings and a garish purple tunic swept out on to centre stage, sending thousands of fans pogoing into the air.

But it was a mosh pit with a difference – for this was the Festival Promessas, a beachside showcase of some of Brazil’s best-known gospel bands and, more importantly, the first evangelical show to be broadcast by the Brazilian media giant Rede Globo.

Backstage, Regis Danese, one of the country’s top gospel artists, grinned cheek to cheek. “Today is a historic day for Brazilian gospel music,” he said. “The people of God should praise and thank God for all this.”

Brazil is known as the land of samba, bossa nova and funk. But increasingly, the artists topping the charts wield not just guitars and tambourines but also copies of the Bible. Danese’s 2008 album Compromisso, which featured tracks such as Your Altar and I Want to Thank You, sold more than one million copies and was nominated for a Grammy.

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