"How Can We Sing a Song of the Lord in a Foreign Land..." By: Trinity Seegars

When African slaves were brought to colonial America, they brought with them rich cultural traditions and languages. Upon arrival they found themselves in a foreign land, who’s inhabitants sought to essentially strip them of their individuality. Despite this,In various contexts, slaves continued to practice African traditions in both original and modified forms. The languages they spoke, the religions and folklore they practiced, and the music and dances they performed for nearly three centuries in the United States suggest to a modern audience that the institution of slavery did not destroy the cultural legacy of slaves or erase the memories of an African past.

                                                    Music In African and African-American Communities

"The music of Africa is big sound; it's the sound of a community" Fela Kuti

Music plays many roles in the lives of African people whether it be religious gatherings or extracurriculars. Music in Africa's early history was often associated with the royal court, where various professional musicians served as part of the royal entourage. Rituals such as weddings, healings, and religious gatherings are also often accompanied by music. Aside from holidays, music also accompanied various occupational activities in both the US and Africa.

" when words fail; music speaks"

Music has an innate ability to reach down and wrap its-self around an individual, embracing even the most tortured of souls. be it joy, grief, love, or hate; music can express that of which can't be plainly stated in conversation, bridging the gap between one narrative and the other. Modern black music, while still used fro cultural traditions and self-expression, is now often used to express cultural concerns and cultural pride.

Timbre in African and AA Music

Timbre is defined as the quality of sound that distinguishes different voices or instruments from one another. The quality of sound is often regarded as one of the primary elements of African and African American music, and it has been criticized by cultural outsiders. Individuals who have traveled to the continent often describe the sounds they hear as either wild or crude. In many outside accounts of the unique timbres of African music instruments are given human-like qualities with the musicians having the ability to make them “speak”. African American musicians share this ability using sound-altering devices such as mutes, bottlenecks, Leslie speakers, fuzz boxes, and synthesizers

Musical Structures In African and African-American Music


Call-response is prevalent in both early and modern accounts of African musical performance. ethnomusicologist Ruth Stone describes an instance of observing field workers sing in which the soloist would start a verse and the the rest would respond. this 'call-response' structure serves as a foundational aspect to performances of twentieth- and twenty-first-century forms of African American music.

Syncopation and Polyrythms

Perhaps the most noticeable feature in African and African American music is its rhythmic complexity. in black music , rhythm takes place over melody. From a European perspective, the shifting of "normal' rhythm is called 'syncopation'. Polyrhythm, the layering of different rhythms, is prevalent in sub-Saharan African ensembles that utilize various percussion instruments and melodic instruments. Polyrhythmic structures are also found in African American music, children's social songs, jazz, funk, and gospel.


The following is an example of call-response in african-american music


The following is an example of polyrhythm in african american music

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