Music from Africa to America

by Aaliyah Armstrong

The role of music in African Communities

During the 1600s, West African villages were known for having their own musicians and singers that would put on performances. These performances gave them a superior enough status to sit with  kings or chiefs. Their reasoning for creating music was to celebrate agriculture, the crowning of a new king or chief, and/or reenact important events from the past. A very big part of music was dancing, which was also performed at various ceremonies. The used instruments were drums that ranged in sizes 10 to 12 inches or feet. A popular part of the African musical style was the call-and-response technique which would allow a lead singer to sing something while the others would sing back a repetition of those words. African music has also helped to connect people together to strengthen their community, which allowed mutual health and prosperity. 

The role of music in African American Communities

Music in the African American community cannot be spoken of without mentioning the Transatlantic Slave Trade, along with the ,millions of African people that was forced across the Atlantic. The culture that the African people were torn from contributed to the sounds of African American music. These songs would be used while they were doing their work in the fields, and would serves as many functions, such as lifting spirits, coordinating workers movements, encouragement, communicating needs (water, food) and  feelings (sadness, joy), and criticize whites. Music was even used to help the  military life during the Civil War by regulating the camps’ daily life, giving signals or passing orders during a battle, and boosting the morale of soldiers.

The way music is created, performed, and experienced in African and African American Communities

Music is created and performed by African people by them joining in with their singing, dancing, clapping of hands, stomping of feet, and shaking of rattles. The African communities would use drums to create a better rhythm. African American slaves were not allowed to use loud instruments because their owners would be alarmed, so they stuck to clapping their hands and stomping their feet. Their music also consisted of standard English mixed with their own made-up words.

The ways that Timbre in African and African American music differs from European-derived traditions

Timbre: the quality of sound that distinguishes different voices or instruments from one another.

African and African American Music

African and African American people would use instruments to imitate their voices, such as a slide or bottleneck. They would also use a combination of instruments such as the banjo, guitar, jug, and harmonica, which Europeans did not use.

European Music

Europeans believed that African and African American’s people music was just weird and strange noises. 

Most common Musical Structures found in African music

The call-and-response technique was used to get a community involved in the song. It also allowed the soloist to improvise. The call-and-response was a song structure that allowed a soloist to sing something, and in return. a group or someone would sing it back. 

Most common Musical Structure found in African American music

Rhythm and syncopation are the most common structure found in African American music. Syncopation is when the accent changes from the standard European beat. Polyrhythm is when multiple rhythms are played or sung at the same time. This allowed multiple people to be involved due their singing, and instruments being played.