The origin of Folk Music begins the the African Slave Trade. As stated in the second chapter in African American Music, the authors mentions the creation of this music genre. In the text it says “Captains of slave ships, in fact, facilitated the transmission of African cultural traditions during the Middle Passage”. The captains use this tactic to keep the slaves in good health during the voyage and perhaps the slaves believed the music helped them survive. Maybe it made the process seem a little more bearable ,being able to play out the pain and use the music as a distraction. Folk Music developed as a result, it gave birth to an understanding of the past and future of African Americans on plantations to the civil right movements and beyond.
Elements & Commodifications:
Banjo– An instrument that originated from the Banjar from African Origin. It has one to six strings and long neck that resembles a present day guitar. It is made of animal skin.
Call and Response-A song which allows a singer or instrumentalist to make a musical statement that is answered by a separate group. The statement and answer sometimes overlap or they can stay separate in a recurring pattern.
Poly rhythm– Two or more rhythms played at the same time.It has multiple rhythmic structures with different pitches. Europeans referred to this element as peculiar and noisy,because it did not fit their music standards.
Patting(pattin’) Juba– It is a body percussion used to add depth into singing and dancing used by slaves
Hambone-using the body as an instrument that incorporates the slapping of hands against the lower half of the body including the hips and thighs.
The jig- Old Famous African Dance
Rap Music,Blues and Jazz all stem from Folk Music and are very prevalent in today’s society. All of these genres tell the many stories of African Americans over the course of several generations.
Human Beat Box– Formed by the human body used to mimic sounds in patterns,timbres that reflect the rhythm of the songs also very similar to Hambone.
Primary & Secondary /Performers:
Bessie Smith-(1894-1937)- Folk Singer and Jazz Singer.She was very famous in the Jazz Age during the Roaring Twenties for her singing and dancing. A lot of her talent developed from Folk Music she learned as a child. She and her siblings sang and played instruments on the streets to get money.
W.C Handy- (1873-1958)He was known as the “Father of the Blues”, and considered one of the most amazing songwriters in the USA. His dad was a pastor and she grew up hiding his music passion from. That did not stop him from traveling the South to learn and play folk music which transferred into the Blue’s.
Tracy Chapman-(1964-Present) A black folk singer and also has songs in the genre of the blues and pop. One of her biggest hits is “Fast Car”. She has won 4 Grammy’s from her work. Her mother despite being very poor bought a ukulele as a young girl and her music journey increased from that point.
Folk Music became a way to tell stories and share with generations of African Americans. This is important because documentation was limited from African Americans and their true history. History was intertwined in the culture of the Folk Genre. It is still relevant today. The instruments,hymns, and lyrics have still remained despite surviving 300 years of Slavery. Folk origins can be seen in Rap music, the blues, and Jazz.
“Bessie Smith.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 2 Mar. 2020, www.biography.com/musician/bessie-smith.
“W.C. Handy.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 28 July 2020, www.biography.com/musician/wc-handy.
“Tracy Chapman.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 20 Sept. 2019, www.biography.com/musician/tracy-chapman.
African American Music: an Introduction – 2nd Ed. Routledge, 2006.