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African american music and acculturation - Essay Example

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African american music and acculturation

Despite the fact that West African music differed from one region to the other, all cultures within this region shared sufficient features that enabled them to constitute a heritage that was identifiable as African when they were trans-located to the New World (Jackson 25). From the accounts given by early traders and explorers, it has been deduced that music was a lifestyle of these West Africans. It was used to enhance rituals, worship, provide recreation, and as a means of communication. These cultures shared a characteristic feature in integrating music with dramatic elements and dance. When they were enslaved and stripped of their community and families, their rich stories, customs, traditions, and music remained with them and were passed the new generation. On arrival in the new world, they were designated as heathens and the clergymen of the time were compelled to convert the Africans to Christianity. This religious conversion acted as the first instance in which the Africans were exposed to European music with the singing of hymns and psalms (Jackson 25). They often gathered, on Sundays, to make music, sing, and dance. The first all the black worship churches were established in the 18th century with Reverend Allen Richard realizing the importance that music held for the people, publishing a hymnal for use by the Africans. These black churches provided the people with opportunities earlier denied to them, for instance the experimentation with religious music from set pieces to formal anthems and lowly spirituals (Jackson 27). The 18th century also saw the establishment of the camp meeting that was an interracial revival with all black meets being sponsored by the black churches afterwards. Camp members took to adding their own choruses or verses to traditional European hymns with the first documentation of the ring shout, an African religious dance ceremony with European infected lyrics, happening here. A number of white American writers described this ring shout in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Paul Marshall, in his description of a dance with European melodies accompanied by movement of feet that glided forward without leaving the ground (Jackson 28). To the accompaniment of European hymnals with added verses and choruses, the dancers would do a flat-footed glide that was punctuated by stamping, an African dance style. The influx of free blacks and slaves from Santa Domingo in 1804 during the Haitian Revolution carried with it the Voodoo practices. However, it is believed that these were in existence much earlier in Louisiana as an institutionalized ritual worship cult movement since there had been importation of slaves as early as the 16th century from the West Indies. These ceremonies were centered upon the worship of Damballa the snake god, also called Da, via dancing, singing, and spirit possession. One myth held by the Dahomeans held that Papa Legba was the chief of all the Voodoo gods; he became the first god to master the skill of music and that all human musicians took after him and were considered his offspring. The connections between papa legba and blues and jazz musicians have been found to be far reaching and complex (Jackson 36). In fact, there is very little doubt that Papa Legba has morphed into Pa Pa La Bas when ...Show more


It is a common occurrence when cultures intermingle. This process is particularly apparent in the development of African American music, in which African sounds and social values mixed with those of Euro America and Caribbean cultures. Musical acculturation is mostly enabled by colonial or political domination along with the social unrest that follows…
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African american music and acculturation essay example
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