African American Folk – The Untold Truths

Like many other things, the world tries to strip people of African descent of their credible contributions made to society. This lack of knowledge leads to the undervaluing of African’s worth, as well as the misinterpretation of true history. At the root of this gross atrocity is selfishness. Africans were stripped of their land, stripped of their name, and their families. These resulting emotions are reflected in African American folk music. Aside from this, African music is a reflection of their culture and was heavily integrated into their daily lives. Folk music directly connects back to 1619, when Africans were first transported over to North America to be slaves. Prior to arriving in the America’s, Africans had their own flow. They were already making music. When coming to the Americas, Africans weren’t allowed to bring any instruments with them. Their music was a reflection of their emotions, but more interestingly the music was a form of communication. Many of the songs feature underlying meanings that were unique to those of African descent. It was a way for them to combat their new harsh realities and survive their new surroundings and unfamiliar territories.

Characteristics of Folk

Most people describe African music as “multipart rhythmic structures, repetitive choruses with a lead singer”. One characteristic of African folk music is its call-response style. The style features a singer who will say a phrase or statement and it would be followed by a musical response. The music also includes poly-rhythmic tunes, along with upbeat dances.


Many of these songs are prevalent within many music genres today because they hold value and importance. And their elements are very powerful. The truth is that Africans were already singing when the White Americans got there. After moving and leaving everything behind, they were beat until they came up with something new, which is why Africans began to sing with soul and why we are introduced to the Pattin’ Jumba, as well as the Banjo. The Pattin’ Jumba is a rythmic style of dancing that features hand clapping and foot stomping.

Pattin’ Jumba

The Banjo

Some Implications and Influence of the Genre

Often times, we look at and listen to musical genres and think that they come from Europeans. African Americans are stripped of everything, even the credit that is due when they are the force behind most genres.

Signing off, folk music is a key part of the African American culture. It is one of the most vital components of our history. While our history can be dark and painful, it is equally rich and fulfilling. Folk music continues to influence many people and genres today. You can hear the remnants of folk music across all genres of music such as negro spirituals, blues and more. These spirituals are rooted in our history and will continue to be ingrained like the threading in a quilt!

Much Love,

Zaniyah Dock

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