Ring Shout

The Ring Shout in America

The Musical Communication

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If you go to a Christian church, you might have seen or heard of something called a praise break.  But do you know the origin of it?  The Ring Shout began in the 1840s and originated in Central and West Africa by African slaves.  This is a ritualistic dance that used unique sounds, movements, and rhythms to communicate.  It was created for a couple of reasons: for slaves to communicate with each other if they spoke different languages and to make it evident that God was in the present, past, and future.  They were also coded spirituals.  Most of the spirituals were religiously based and were most of the time call and response.  Though there were specific words that went with each song, the words were nowhere near as important as the spirit in which the sounds were uttered.  They used dance, drum, and song to communicate with each other effectively without their slave masters knowing.  In addition to communication, ring shouts were also a way slaves maintained their cultural identities in America.  Being forced into America, slaves would have to adapt to American ways but this is one thing that helped them stay true to themselves and their culture.  In a traditional ring shout, the slaves would form a single line and move around in a counterclockwise direction while drums are being played in the middle.  In addition to the other uses, they believed that they could evoke their ancestor’s spirits.  It was named ring shout because rings seem to have no beginning or end like the dance.  And the word shout refers to dance, music, or a combination of the two.  When the slaves would have church services, they would ring shouts.  This would connect them to their shared past and troubled present.  This tradition is still used today in certain religions like Christianity as seen above.    

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