African Culture Told Through Folk Music


Folk music is a type of traditional style of music that tells a story. Folk music first originated in Africa, and has been passed down through generations. Africans used folk music to express their culture and experiences. One of the many ways they created folk music was with an instrument they created called the banjo, which is similar to our modern day guitar. Africans were taken by Europeans to come to America to be slaves and were stripped of everything they had. Therefore, they came to America with nothing. The Africans continued to create folk music in America, expressing the hardships they were going through as slaves. 


Folk music has many different forms using various types of instruments, techniques, and rhythms. Instruments like the banjo, djembe, and bones are some of the instruments that were used to make folk music. The banjo is the most known instrument in folk music because many old and new folk songs are played using the banjo. Though the banjo was created in Africa (banjar), Africans continued to make them once they became slaves in America taking on the name banjo. The banjo was a stringed instrument similar to a guitar and is made of wood, twine, and animal hide. The slaves had to learn the songs their masters wanted them to play on the banjo. Therefore, instead of playing their own traditional folk tunes they began to play the folk songs of their white masters. Another technique connected to folk music is the hambone. The hambone is the action of using the body as a drum. This technique was also created by African Americans using their hands to slap parts of their body to create sound while stomping their feet and singing the folk tunes. 


Today, folk music created by slaves in America is often considered country music. Country music is dominated by white people. When you think of country music and musicians, you would often associate it with a white person. Due to cultural appropriation, overtime, folk music has become associated with whiteness and has began to change the sound and rhythm of folk music. There are still artists today who use instruments like the banjo to create folk music such as Rhiannon Giddens. She is an African American musician who plays the fiddle and banjo and is a part of a country, blues and old-time music band. In other words they play modern day folk music.


To conclude, Folk Music was a traditional style of music that Africans used to tell a story. Through folk music, they were able to express their culture and stories from their life. Folk music has many forms and includes instruments like the banjo, djembe, and bones. This music still played today, sounds more like traditional country music now. Though folk music artists today like Rhiannon Giddens still preserve some traditional folk styles, like still playing the banjo.


Burnim, Mellonee V, and Portia K. Maultsby. African American Music: An Introduction. , 2015. Print.

Other writing by the Author

Evolution of Funk

Evolution of Funk What was Funk Music ? Funk music has a groovy urban dance style sound that was most popular in the ’70s and

Read More »


MOTOWN About Motown… Motown was an R&B and soul record label founded by Berry Gordon Jr. Motown is one of the most influential record labels

Read More »

What's your password?

Login to your account

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.