Folk Music: Pattin Juba

KaChelle Humphery

Folk Music: Patting Juba

Folk music was created by the enslaved people when they were brought to America as a method of coping with their new realities. A common myth is the assumption that folk music was started by Europeans. Folk music was a part of the everyday lives of the enslaved people. Folk music was not only a type of music, but it also included many dance forms and body percussion. One example of this was the patting juba which was common in enslavement and was used to accompany singing or dancing in the folk genre. It is  described as “striking the hand on the knee, then striking the hands together, then striking the right shoulder with one hand, and the left with the other.” This dance form was also done while singing and required a tremendous amount of rhythm and focus. It was a true skill. However, it was frowned upon by many Europeans and seen as sinful behavior.

        The patting juba was a way for enslaved people to make rhythms with the absence of their African instruments from the motherland. Drums were not permitted for fear of sending secret messages through the rhythm; however, enslaved people were able to make rhythms nonetheless. One important performer included Danny “Slapjazz” Barber who performed the patting juba. The patting juba was popularized by minstrel shows; however,  they were offensive and highly stereotyped. It is important to recognize that this body percussion was utilized throughout all the years of enslavement and even went on to influence modern day tap dance, in that they use their bodies and feet in order to create a rhythmic beat. Many people competed to see who could do the best patting juba which was a way to make some money. It has also influenced both stomp and step, dance forms. As it was a way for modern blacks to pay homage to where they came from, and how their ancestors created music. The patting juba was an interesting dance form.


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