The Ring Shout

Elements of African music during enslavement have been passed down and are still prominent in modern African American music.

Drums once served as the backbone for enslaved Africans to remain connected to their roots while in America. Once drums were banned after The Negro Act of 1740,  Enslaved Africans turned to other methods of expression. Many of vocal techniques and structure found in today’s African American music derive from the hymns and spirituals of enslaved Africans.  

When evangelical Christianity was introduced to enslaved Africans, they developed the ring shout as a way to practice their religion without the presence of slave masters.  

The Ring Shout was traditionally danced around a drum in the center, in a call and response style of singing, with a stick hitting the ground to keep tempo.

The Ring Shout symbolized strength, unity, and was believed to bring protection and to conjure the spirits of enslaved African’s ancestors.  

The many musical components of the ring shout work together to create layers and texture in the sound. 

Riffs, moans, grunts, and shouts are all music elements of The Ring Shout that are still seen in today’s African American music, especially Gospel music, and in hymns sung in many Black churches.  

The term shout is considered to be a religious expression of emotions that words cannot express.

Pictured above are The McIntosh County Shouters, they are also the performers in the YouTube video.  

They have been practicing The Ring Shout since the 1800s and it has been passed down in their family from their enslaved ancestors. 

They have received numerous awards for their effort in keeping this cultural tradition alive. 

The Ring Shout was a way for enslaved Africans to merge their past worship practices with their new normal and limited resources in America. The musical influence of The Ring Shout is still present in modern African American culture as well as places of worship. Groups like The McIntosh County Shouters, and others, help keep this tradition going and educate the younger generations. 

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