Folk Music


Folk music originated when Africans were brought to America during the Slave Trade. Hymns, rhythms, andsongs were used as coping mechanisms while enduring torturous labor. Folk music was also used as self expression, an outlet for their sorrows and frustration.



Polyrhythm – Some folk music would contain several contrasting rhythms that were played/sung simultaneously.

Banjo – The banjo was a popular instrument used in folk music.

Patting Juba – A style of dance that was used to replace drumming. It consisted of clapping, stomping, and patting your arms, chest, and legs.

Passed Down Orally – Folk music was usually passed down by word of mouth.

Social Implications:

Folk music is best known for its solemn theme, and sorrowful lyrics. “Slave music” was used to convey their struggles, and keep themselves connected to their cultural roots in Africa.

Important Performers:

Huddie Ledbetter was a popular folk and blues artists, with songs such as “Easy Rider” and “Digging My Potatoes”.

Odetta Holmes was another popular folk and blues artist, as well as a civil and human rights activist. A few of her songs were “Glory Glory” and “Go Down Sunshine”.


Folk music was intended to be used as a way for slaves to express their pain and sorrow. However, their songs were eventually published for entertainment, while distorting the music with European renditions.


Folk music influenced future genres to come, such as blues, jazz, and R&B. All of these genres remain African American dominated.


Although folk music originated with slavery, it has transcended into other genres where Black artists are able to express their musicality and creativity. I admire those before us who were able to express themselves through such a trying time.

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