Music from Africa to America

By: Lundyn Ross

The role of music in African Communities

The role of music in African American Communities

African people produced music by singing, dancing, clapping hands, stomping feet and more. Instruments such as the banja, djembe drum, the kora, and other instruments were used to create music.

 In Africa, music goes hand in hand with all type of events such as religious rituals, community gatherings and more. For example, singing was used while working in order to speed up time and practiced during healing and religious rituals. 

Music played an important role in the African American civil rights struggle during the 20th century. In the past, many African American artists use to challenge the fascination of African American identity. There have always been black musicians who regardless of too much commercial pressure insisted on remaining above and beyond. For example, Prince.  From the beginning of his career, Prince faced challenges with commercial autonomy while defying racial, gender, and genre norms with his unique music.

The repetitive chorus and call and response are the two most common musical structures found in African and African American music. The repetitive rhythm increased the intensity of their music such as the call and response. They use call and response to get the community involved in the song.

Ezekiel 1:1-3

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land”?

How did they "sing" in a strange land?

For Africans, the music or spiritual proved to be an innovative tool utilized to oppose unveiling savagery and the denial of humanity. In order to survive mentally and emotionally, strength was critical. In these spirituals,  they sang out their loneliness, struggle and  hope for a new and better life. However, these are not songs of vengeance or spite. Instead, they are songs of endurance and survival that represent a steady belief in their own humanity and demonstrates their faith in the ultimate victory of good over systemic evil.

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