Folk Music or “Bluegrass” Music… What are the origins?


African Americans, as always, finesse everything we touch especially when it comes to music. Our influence has inspired many other forms of music. Many elements have transferred over into folk music because of our stylistic approach and the perfection of our delivery despite the many attempts to diminish and dehumanize our passion as well as our souls. While being shipped to their new countries, Africans were stripped from their homeland and brought whatever they could grab, which was their instruments. White people have reclaimed our instruments, our style, and our culture as their own. One of these instruments is the djembe which makes 3 sounds, the bass, tone, and slap. Despite the many attempts to silence us, we used our call and response, and field cries to keep us going. It made the days shorter and gave us faith that one day, we would be free. To this day the white man has taken our banjo and reclaimed it to make “bluegrass music.” Throughout history, black men have never been able to claim anything as their own instead the white man takes our credit and attempts to take our dignity; with the help of music, black people will always thrive.

Black Face 

In attempt to make a mockery of our music, the white man would put on a show in which they would paint their skin black, and sing and act in the way a black man would if he was performing. Through this the white man felt as if he had power and that we would feel less of ourselves. These performances allowed the white man to make money by putting our race down. Without black creativity and power, many genres of music may have not been made. They took our music and claimed it as their own as they did to the Native Americans with their original land. They did this because they were envious that all they could do is attempt to put us down, but we refused to stay there. We continued to rise and keep ourselves empowered. We educated ourselves, we celebrated our culture with joy and remained loyal to each other no matter what. Although they try to dehumanize us we must continue to be strong and show that we are more than they label us as. 

The Banjo: An instrument that has been reclaimed.

The banjo is one a common known instrument that actually originated in Africa. When slaves were brought to America, the banjo was brought along with them along with the fiddle and dance. The traditional banjo typically has a large head, a skin covering (in contrast to today’s plastic covering), and 4 large strings. The banjo was used to make music in order for the africans to dance. The white man reclaimed our banjo and took what was modernly known as folk music into “bluegrass music.” The music transitioned from cultural African music into music that was “developed” in the mountains. This music consist of strings and our fiddle. The same fiddle that the white man was intimidated by, especially if a run away slave could play it. Nowadays our people cannot just walk up into the mountains and play our beloved banjo without the white man being puzzled. We are not welcomed, which is crazy because we introduced these people to our sacred instrument. First they mocked us for our performance, then they took the banjo and repurposed it. 


Despite the blatant disrespect that African Americans have faced with since the beginning, we have always found a way to rise above it. They have tried to strip our dignity but have failed miserably. As black people we must continue to educate ourselves. We must reveal the true nature of this country because many are ignorant to the raw and evil history of America. It is important that we take pride of who we are and to celebrate our origins. We must take ownership in our banjo, our fiddle, and our stolen ways of life. We must overcome these things and it is essential that we prosper. Although they have tried to kill our souls, we are more alive than ever. We must do everything with a passion. We must reclaim what is ours and make sure that the history is not written only by the white man. We must expose the truth. 



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