African American Folk Music

African American Folk Music


Folk music, originating in the 19th century, is one of the earliest forms of music created by African Americans. Being forced over into a new land, without any of their instruments from Africa, the enslaved masses were forced to come up with a newy type of music. Folk historically refers to the music of the working class. 

Key Instruments


The Shekere is probably one of the most distinguished instruments and sounds from African American folk music. There are a number of variations of this instrument that can produce the same sound.


The Djembe is an African drum often made out of an animal skin stretched over a piece of wood.  This instrument creates a distinct sound that can still be recognized in modern day music. 


The banjo is a stringed, guitar-like instrument that has its very own distinct sound.


Work Songs

Work songs were songs often sung during work that required more than one person for each task. Work songs often helped keep rhythm, and provided encouragement to the workers. 

Patting Juba

Patting Juba is a type of rhythmic clapping and dancing that involved clapping and stomping. This style of dancing is also known as the hambone.

Well Known Artists

Lead Belly
Elizabeth Cotten


African American Folk music has has such an impact on the music we have today from the instruments to the beats we hear today. Being on of the first styles of music we brought over, it created a strong foundation for black music to stand upon. Before gathering information about folk music, I knew close to nothing. It was cool and interesting to learn about instruments like the banjo, which I previously associated with white people and music. Its awesome to see such the huge impact black people have made on the industry. 

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