African Roots

by: Sierra Foster

Describe the role of music in African and AA communities. Give examples.

Describe the way music is created, performed, and experienced in African and AA communities.

In the African and African American communities music served as a multi faucet for various agendas from the beginning of time using their creativity to make music with no instruments or resources. Many may have connected it to its negative connotations of when they were forced to dance to music on slave ships to exercise the human cargo in order to reduce the mortality rate during the Middle Passage and even Frederick Douglass said “slaves sing most when unhappy”. At a point the Jamaican slave owners had banned trumpets and drums due to their fear of rebellion. However others used this as a form of rebellion and found joy in it through creativity, which brought them together. An example of this is the Stono Rebellion, an 18th century revolt where slaves danced and beat drums. It also was just a way to express joy and express themselves for religion, celebration, or just to form unity.

Throughout the African and African-American communities the creativity proved to surpass anything ever seen and had established most of the genres that we know today. Music was created when there were no instruments that were thought to be necessary to create the music at that time. African Americans still proved the true depth of their imagination by creating music with the use of their bodies. They did this by transforming their bodies into percussion instruments with dances such as Juba, Hambone, Patton, Tap Dance, and Beat Boxing. The performances of these dances consisted of many rhythm changes, call-response, and improvisation which created much engagement for those experiencing it.

Describe ways in which the described timbre in Africa and AA music differs from that of European-derived traditions.

Identify the two most common musical structures found in African and African American music. In what ways do they reflect the communal and interactive approach to making music?

The timbre in the African and African American utilizes numerous different sounds and sometimes does have an extremely distinctive sound. This timbre can be found in Jazz or Gospel music with the different sounds and instruments that make up the music piece. The Europeans were said to have perceived this sound as “weird, noisy and wild”. European music was seen as very uniform and consisted of precise and consistent rhythm, which was very different from the syncopation in African American music.

The two most common music structures found in African and African American music are call-response and syncopation. These elements both show how African Americans were able to create their own sound with call-response acting as an eliminator for performer and audience, creating an entire experience for all those taking part. The syncopation and its different moving aspect also prove the absolute creativity of the African people as a whole  with their ability to take various polar sounds to create a soulful piece of music.