African & African American Music Discography

Project by Group 4:

Lailah McCuiston

Kayla Ary

Darlene Nawuridam

Valencia White

Amaya Thompson

Quinci Nesbitt

Keris Lewis

The purpose of this project is to create an annotated discography of several African American musical genres, all in regards to defining and illustrating the concept of timbre.

Timbre is the character or quality of sound . It distinguishes the difference in pitch, intensity and sound production; such as the difference between a voice or other musical instruments. Examples of timbre are the five-voice types: soprano, mezzo, alto, tenor and bass (all of which are used to identify tone in voice).



Gin and Juice by Snoop Dog


This song is in a G Major Key and all throughout it you can hear light synth sounds all throughout the song. Some horns can also be heard. The song starts with a drum loop and a synth bass playing three different tones of notes. During the chorus, you can also hear horns.

Hey Ya! by Outkast


This song begins with a mixture of a guitar and a drumset. This mixture allows for an upbeat and happy flow. The melodic chorus goes in tandem with the drums keeping a light and fun tone. The drums and guitar keeps a steady beat throughout the entire piece to further the upbeat feel.


Let’s Stay Together by Al Green


This song begins with a light cymbal sound and a heavy saxophone sound. These two sounds repeat for a few seconds and then are accompanied by Al Green’s breathy and falsetto voice. The combination of the light and heavy instruments and the vocals give a feeling of sympathy to the listener. Al Green’s light and airy voice sound like he is singing softly to a lover throughout the song.

Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight & The Pips


“Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips is a soulful piece filled with hearty, deep beats and smoothy sung by the warm voice of Gladys Knight. A soft but clear jingle cuts through the heavy beats in a steady rhythm. Knights’ melodious voice changes tune towards the end, utilizing call and response until the end to create a high energy ending.


It Don’t Mean a Thing by Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington

This is an upbeat and lively jazz song with Ella Fitzgerald singing and Duke Ellington on the piano. Duke Ellington’s piano adds to the energy as he floats across the keys with an alarming and impressively fast pace. Ella Fitzgerald’s ability to scat truly stands out; her improvisation creates an element of fun to the song.

The Man I Love by Sarah Vaughn


The song starts off with a somber-sounding orchestra that matches the theme of the song. Sarah Vaughan joins the strings with a longing tone, her voice vibrates and rifts which matches the orchestra perfectly. The trumpet and piano play softly in the back and compliment the richness of the strings that the orchestra provides. Vaughan uses her own voice to play with the melody and spectacularly embodies the emotions of missing the one you love.

Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday


The low piano sound that begins the song does not prepare the listener for the sorrowful and haunting vocals Billie Holiday presents. As the song progresses, the piano accompanies the vocals with a heavy yet still low sound. The B-flat key accompanied by Holiday’s raw yet smooth sound gives the song a dark and chilling feel. Holiday’s voice overpowers the piano making sure that the lyrics of the song are not ignored. The low piano sound and Billie Holiday’s vocals create a mournful tone and a low timbre.


I Smile by Kirk Franklin


The song starts with two leading Timbres; one is a high pitch brass sound and the second is melodious humming harmonizing with the first brass sound. As the lyrics begin the timbre switches to a lead piano followed by a beat with snaps. The two sounds increase in intensity as the song reaches its chorus this gives off a sharp and edgy feel. Throughout the whole song, there are hints of a trumpet and a snare going hand in hand with the beat keeping the overall mood of the song upbeat and cheerful.

Oh Happy Day by The Edwin Hawkins Singers


“Oh Happy Day” is a gospel arrangement recorded by the Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1968. It is characterized by call-and-response and a low-to-high vocal elevation of the choir. The vocal section of the piece create the main musical “instrument”, but tambourines, a piano, and bongos are present in the composition. “Oh Happy Day” begins with the slow and joyful, but low, timbre of a piano and the hollow clapping of bongos. The lead singer enters by blending softly with the instruments. Once the choir enters, however, the lead singer’s voice, along with the instruments and the voices of the choir, begin to get louder by each line. Finally, the pianist hits a deep, rolling key, and the choir plateaus for the chorus at a loud, high note. The metallic sound of tambourines are added to create a full effect. The same deep, rolling key that started the chorus ends it, and the call-and response begins again to restart the song. This time, the tambourine also elevates in sound with the rest of the instruments.


The Sky Is Crying by Elmore James


“The Sky is Crying” by Elmore James is a blues standard recorded in 1959. The song features James’s vocals and five instruments – the slide guitar, saxophone, piano, drums, and bass – which are layered to create a complex composition. The song starts off with the high-pitched, squeaky sound of the slide guitar and, then, enters a soft, quiet background instrument – the piano. Layered between the slide guitar and the piano, the drums enter in a rattling timbre to prepare the listener for James’s vocals. As soon as James starts singing, the saxophone is added to the complexity of the composition. The saxophonist matches the beat of the drum in a bright, soulful timbre. The bass is lost in the layers of the composition and is, therefore, indistinguishable.

I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta James


“I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James, released in 1967,  is deemed as a Blues classic. James sings of heartbreak, addiction, and the hardships that entail, which is a common topic in Blues music. The song uses the Call and Response musical style to narrate the pain being portrayed within the lyrics.The background tracks are ad-libbed to respond to the main track. The song opens up with an uppity sounding horn followed by a slow paced beat. Prominent instruments heard throughout the song is an electric guitar that maintains along with the deep blows of the trombone.  The timbre of James’ voice in the song distincts it from other songs within the genre but her soulful voice singing in a tone of sadness is what makes it a distinguishable classic.

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