Early African American Music

The Beginning of a future legend

The Americas have benefited from the cultures and ways of Africa. They took part in African music festivals and ceremonies as enslaved Africans. They celebrated life as they had done in Africa by telling tales, singing, dancing, playing instruments made in or inspired by Africa, and in general. Their first exposure to European culture and music in North America came via taking part in or watching the religious and social events of slave owners, which they then reinterpreted through processes of adaptation and resistance to fit their own cultural practices and musical ideals. As newly emancipated people, Black people and their ancestors carried on the legacy of African music-making that shaped their own African American identity by developing fresh and unique kinds of Black music.

In the motherland of the slaves, West and Central Africa, both individuals and ensembles play music. It preserves the history of the people, including responses to their social, political, and economic conditions, among other things. It also goes along with all necessary work, play, and ritualized activities. Music-making requires the participation of the entire community, to which dancing is key, when it is planned as a social event. Community members participate in music performances by singing, dancing, clapping their hands, and playing percussion instruments without distinguishing between “performers” and “audience.” Call-and-response and repeating chorus patterns are produced by the singing and community involvement. Additionally, it promotes personal expression by allowing vocalists to freely spew words and change their vocal tones to generate groans, shrills, moans, wails, and screams that represent emotions and noises from daily life.

What's your password?

Login to your account

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