Origin of the Genre
Folk music came during the time of the transatlantic slave trade and is considered the oldest form of African American music. When enslaved people were forced to the Americas, they brought their music with them and adapted it to their new environment. It was passed along through generations orally, and these songs were not written down for a long time. Folk music came about to bring the enslaved people together. Many enslaved people on the plantations did not speak the same language, so music was a way to bring them together.
Characteristics of the Genre
Folk music tends to have similar characteristics to music from the continent of Africa. Some of these characteristics include-
Call-and-response: Call-and-response was another element that Africans used to create what we now refer to as African American folk music. It was used in the fields enslaved people were forced to work in as a form of speech. Sometimes they would communicate meeting times, messages, or use call-and-response just to pass the time.
Banjo: The banjo was an instrument that came over from Africa with native Africans that they continued to build in America. The banjo was the base for many African American folk music songs.
Storytelling: In folk music, storytelling is an important aspect. This element came from African oral traditions. Before written languages, the only way stories and history were preserved was through oral traditions. This method of keeping stories alive transferred to folk music over the ages, and as folk music developed into its own genre.