African American Folk music along with the instruments primarily used for folk music were originally created by Africans. Africans used instruments like the djembe drum as a form of communication to their counterparts about the arrival of the king as well as other events.
However, with the rise of slavery and enslaved Africans being brought over to the New World, the plight of Folk music shifted. New elements were added to the complexities of Folk music such as polyrhythm, call-and-response, and pattin’ juba. These forms of rhythm add on an extra layer to the music itself while also telling a story about the everyday struggles of enslaved Africans in America and Black people during the Jim Crow era.
Since Folk music is something that is not thought of as being originated by Black people, there are no popular African American performers of folk music. On the otherhand, working class African Americans are the primary performers of folk music. This is evident through the rise of work songs. African Americans would often perform folk songs while doing laborious tasks like laying train tracks.
Enslaved Africans and African Americans during the Jim Crow Era often used Folk music as a form of meditation or relief. Therefore, they would use different elements like dancing or improvised lyrics (freestyle) to lighten their spirits. Folk music was a form of rebellion towards the racism they often endured without putting themselves in danger. They also used folk music as a symbol of spirituality or hope that things will one day get better.
Although within the same token, African American folk music is representative of the plight of African Americans within the current era. Africans originally created something which was eventually stolen and no longer attributed to their originators. It also in a sense connects to the how African people were stolen from their homeland and eventually lost their history which is evermore present in the current time.
In light of this though, Folk music exerts a lot of elemental influence on African American musical genres today. For example, freestyle, call-and-response, as well as the pattin’ juba are all heavily interwoven in rap and hip-hop. Spirituality and hope is present within genres like Neo-soul as well as being able to tell a story or communicate within both of these genres. All these elements coined by Folk music have been bred into the DNA of Black people since they were children and well before being aware of it.
Overall, African American folk music creation was an early form of art for African American. It helped us to navigate the trauamas of slavery and the racism of the Jim Crow era. It also represents the our plight in America within the same context. While we were the original creators of folk music, it is no longer attributed to us. Although its lasting effects still remain within our popular music genres today and have for many centuries.