What Do You Connect With?
On paper, I identify as an African-American/Black, but if you were to ask me in person how I would say that I am African-American and also a local girl from the island of Oahu. I was born in raised on the island and grew up listening to Hawaiian music and doing the hula. This past week in class, we were asked the question if we can connect with African music? After thinking about my answers I came to the conclusion that I do not connect with African music, but I do enjoy listening to it. As an African-American who was born and raised in Oahu, I connect more with Hawaiian music than African Music, but learning about African music made me realize that they some similarities when it comes to instruments & music styles.
Heartbeat of the Music
In Africa, the djembe is an instrument used for storytelling, healing, baptism, weddings, and community singing. So, it is pretty much used for any occasion and is usually the heartbeat or the percussive sound of the piece. From hearing the sound the djembe makes, it sounded similar to the Ipu heke which is a double gourd and is featured in many Hawaiian songs and chants to the gods. Also, it usually helps set the tempo for the piece. The djembe can make three distinct sounds bass, tone, and slap. The Ipu heke makes a bass sound from hitting the bottom of the gourd on the ground and a high-pitched sound from hitting the side of the gourd. These two instruments have different timbres, but are both used as the heartbeat of each piece. So that goes to show that two different cultures can have similarities in music.
Communicating with a Rhythm
When African music traveled over to the USA with the slave’s holler became popular during the Great Awakening in the 18th century. It was especially popular with African Americans and field workers. Europeans didn’t like how they screamed louder than they sang. In Hawaiian music, they use chanting which has a rhythmic pattern but is spoken at a loud volume to pay respect to the gods or to bless the land. With hollering and chanting people who do not know what it is may just say that they are talking, but it doesn’t have a meaning behind it. Hollering is used to communicate or express their feelings, and chants are used to pay respect to the land or gods. By listening closing to each genre you see that the whole song paints a picture or is telling a story.
Getting Back to The Root
I identify as having a stronger connection with Hawaiian music, but I think that in some way, all different genres of music tie back to African music. Though Hawaiian music’s timbre is light, airy, and smooth while African timbre is rich and raspy, there is still that similarity of telling a story with the song. Also, the heart of each piece may be played on different instruments that have similar features that make you wonder how an island in the Pacific Ocean was able to have a percussion instrument that isn’t that far from a djembe. That goes to show everything has a root and African music is the root of many genres of music, so why wouldn’t it play a part in the creation of Hawaiian music.