The Creation and the Revival of Negro Folk Music

African music, as described by J.H. Kwabena Nketia, contains a lead singer, call-response phrases, repetitive choruses, and rhythmic structures. However, after the many people of Africa were forcefully transported to different parts of the world from the indies to America,  they had to adjust to the new customs, cultures, and sounds. Many gradually learned to combine the music and cultures of the Europeans with their native sounds. This acculturation mixed with the cultures of the native Africans, eventually led to folk music, and the beginning of African American culture itself.

A major influence to the American folk music revival, Odetta Holmes, was often referred to as “The voice of the civil rights movement”.  Beginning her musical career as a part of multiple musicals, she later found her calling for folk music in the 1950s. In 1961 referred to her as “the queen of American folk music”. That same year, her duet with Harry Belafonte reached number 32 on the UK singles chart. Not only was she a key member of American folk music, but she also influenced many other artists, including Bob Dylan, who stated that, “The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta.”, Maya Angelou, and Janis Joplin.

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Francesca Small & Tamia McLaughlin

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