Religion & Music by Sefanit Abbi

While religion was, and still is, a huge part of African culture already, the ability to share one’s faith, lifestyle, and culture was enriched by using tools such as music. Ultimately, music is what helped keep religion alive in African countries due to its ability to bring people together, allow people to freely worship, and preserve African cultural heritage.




 The importance of religion was emphasized in African cultures by way of music, ritual, and dance. Rhythmic pastimes became a symbol of community to the African people as well as a symbol of solidarity. One example of this is the ring shout. The ring shout called for its participants to gather in a circle with drums while members would participate in vocal praises as well as hand clapping and knee slapping. It is traditions such as this one that has allowed religion and music to thrive throughout the African Diaspora. Melodic gatherings continued to be the norm throughout genarations. It became a sort of universal language throughout the continent. Every region had hundreds of different languages so the common denominator became rhythm. The need for music and religion became critical when slavery began. 

The long and dangerous  journey from Africa was full of misery, fear, greif, and despair. Men, women, and children were shackled, beaten, and tormented the entire duration of the trip. When they reached their new land, their only form of communication became music. They adopted traditions similar to the ring shout in order to express their emotions and continue their worship. Traditions involving both music and religion became the beacon of light for enslaved people, sort of like an escape from the gruesome reality they lived in. Ultimately, traditions and rituals in African cultures became not only a part of life, but something that has been passed on to each and every generation. These practices helped Africans and African Americans through the hardest times in their lives. Without these forms of expression, it is hard to say what the world would look like today.

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