The Legacy of African Music within African American Music

1.       Every community in the world has a personal relationship and experiences music differently. Music is exceptionally significant in African culture as it is a means of cultural and communal expression and sustains the African community. Music exists within almost every aspect of life in Africa. Religious ceremonies, weddings, children’s births, rights of passages, etc., are all celebrated with music. Traditionally, Africans have used music to tell stories, pass along traditions, and pass the time while performing manual labor.

        Unsurprisingly, music has a vast presence within the African American community as well. During slavery, enslaved Africans continued the tradition of work songs as they toiled in the fields. Ever since slavery, music has remained a strong tenant of the Black American church as music has always served as a means of remembrance of our history, hope, and escape. 

1.       Both the African and African American communities use various kinds of instruments to form the foundation of music. These instruments are from locally sourced materials and the use of one’s own body to create rhythm. Both communities tell stories and history through music with various rhythms, harmonies, and percussive instruments. Both communities perform music alongside dancing. The African and African American communities both experience music as a form of community building and sustaining culture.

1.       Timbre differs starkly between communities of African descent and European music because classical European music emphasizes the downbeat. In contrast, music of African descent emphasizes the upbeat and is much more layered than European classical music. 

1.       The two most common musical structures found in African and African American music are call and response and repetitive choruses. This is reflected well in the Black American spiritual Wade in the Water. Usually, one person will often sing a verse followed by a larger group responding, and the verses repeat throughout the song. These structures exemplify the vital role that music plays in building and sustaining community, as everyone has a role to play within them.