The Beat Goes On

What Is The Significance of Folklore?

Folklore music encompasses the experiences and traumas of slavery. Folklore music has its roots in Africa deriving from African Folktales that were used as a way to pass down oral traditions. Folklore music can be seen in present day and allows for the descendants of those formly enslaved to connect to their ancestors. 

Beliefs, traditions, and communal stories have been passed down from generation to generation by way of mouth in the Black community. The element of folklore has been used as a mechanism to document history.

Posted above is a popular folklore story told to children about how we receive our wisdom. This story stems from the Ashanti people of Ghana. This is just one of the many examples of how unexplained situations were explained and passed on.

How Did These Stories Stay Alive During Slavery?

1619 was when the first enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of the city of Jamestown in Virginia. Slavery had physical, mental, and emotional impacts on Africans, but the effect that slavery had on African culture was massive. Africans were prohibited from practicing their culture and were forced into an environment where people from different tribes spoke different languages. It was a time of chaos, but African Americans overcame even in these challenging times. Native Africans kept their languages alive through folktales.

The ways of communicating through folklore eventually developed into ways to document ones experience through slavery. A shift occurred in folk music that allowed for the history  of enslaved people’s stories to be recalled. They began using storytelling as a means of sending coded messages of meeting times and providing encouraging stories about the overthrow of their slave masters and the longing for freedom.

Developments of Folklore Music

Developments continued in Folklore music by introducing Call & Response. This was a pivotal interaction that occurred between the lead singer and the audience. The lead singer would sing a phrase that the audience would then respond to. These songs were ways to pass time during the long work days on the field or as a way to send coded messages. 

Another important characteristic of folklore music is the Banjo. One might consider this instrument to have its roots in white America but in reality this instrument has its roots in Africa. When enslaved Africans were brought to America, they were able to continue the tradition by creating their own. The Banjo has grown to become an instrument that represents African Americans resilency and the ability to overcome. 

Modern Day Folklore

Folklore can be seen in today’s music through African American Rap/Hip Hop and Gospel music. These songs incorporate the call and response characteristics as well as storytelling in music to convey a message. Regardless of the genre of music African American folklore can be heard throughout.


Folklore music was truly a powerful tool. From the creation of this music, African Americans are able to have a personal connection to their ancestors by singing the very songs that documented their hardships in slavery. The music continues on today and serves as a reminder of the those of paved the way for modern day music. Having these cultural ties allows the Black community to have a sense of pride and feelings of belonging in understanding our past dispite what history may tell us otherwise.

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