African-American Music Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

music that we have in our list nowadays are quite more diverse than what we had few decades ago. Truly, in comparison to the past and present times, how music is defined have completely changed. Music is no longer just about the rhyming melodies and the rhythmic tones and sounds of the music instruments. It's also about the preservation of culture and heritage that we inherited from our ancestors.

One of our contemporary types of music is the African-American music. African-American music is a collaboration of the music of African culture mixed with the American style. The creativity this type of music offers is impressive because of its artistic delivery and renditions to its audience. The beauty of African-American music is not only visible in the music itself, but also in the performances African-American artists demonstrate. Usually, such artists exhibit strong and powerful voice when rendering their songs. Others, on the other hand, reveal a slow or fast danceable beats.

Examining the history and culture of African-American music is relevant to understand and appreciate the music itself. For all human kind, through music, we are able to express ourselves. Many of us also consider that music is a therapy, a medium that can soothe our soul in times of trials. This paper aims to make a research on the African-American music traditions. Further it also aims to provide diverse information about the subject,.

The African-American Music Elements

Heart and Soul: A Celebration of African-American music states that African-Americans have played a tremendous role in American music. Almost all popular music contains elements of African-American rhythms and culture.

One of the considered best form of music, since the earliest years up to the present times in America, is the African-American music. It is the pioneer of the different types of music such as blues, jazz, and ballads. Blues emerged from the religious songs of the blacks while jazz was popularized by the American blacks. These two types of African-American music then gave birth to the rock and roll era of the mid-1900s in which blues and jazz were combined, as well as the passion for rap music.

An important element of the African-American type of music is the artists that comprises the composers and the performers. They are the fundamental mediums of the positive impact brought by African-American music to the music industry. In many nations around the world, African-American music has become influential in the diverse aspects of the music business and industry. Most of the current development of different music type predecessors, if not originated, were partly inspired by the African-American music. Sometimes, they are considered as the pioneer of arts and music.

From the Heart and Soul: A Celebration of African-American, the diverse elements of African-American music can be summarized as the following.


Spiritual songs, known to have been part of the African heritage, are celebrated religious songs that were made prominent by the Southern American blacks. Often, this type of song is related to the relationship with the higher being - God. Today, spiritual songs is one of the famous forms in American music (Worldbook, 2002).


Blues was said to have originated from the slaves of the Southern America and was developed from the form of communication of the blacks in the southern states. Some of well-known artists of blues are W.C. Handy, Bessie Smith, and Ethel Waters. Blues has been an influential form of music to some rock, classical, and country music. It was in blues from which jazz was developed.


Jazz is a form of music, developed and originated from the United States, and influenced by the African styles. Hence, jazz takes the patterns of music known to had been established by African-Americans.

Rock 'n Roll

Rock 'n roll is another form of music influenced from the African styles. Although the known performers of rock 'n roll comprises black and white Americans, due to its nature of being developed from the blues pattern, black artists such as Chuck Berry have established popularity in the rock 'n roll domain.

African Diaspora Music

The African music can be found as entirely different type of music compared to our contemporary music. In social context, the African music serves not to produce harmonized sounds and melodies. Its goal is to express life in a musical aspect. The manner is to incorporate sound to particular meanings and make musical instruments part of the goal.

The African society takes music as an essential part of their lives. From birth of an individual, music may develop and will continue from his life's early stages into adulthood. In many of African society's activities, such as wedding, farming, fishing, etc., music is a fundamental element. Music is so natural for them that they have no particular name for music's art (Christo, 2000). The art of African music often comes along with other form of expressions such dance and poetry.

Musical instruments have a close link to African society. The dominance of musically inclined individuals is greater than those who show no bondage to the culture of music. Hence, in America, many of the African-American individuals exhibit passion and skills in music. The structure and characteristics of most African-American music influenced the styles and emphasis of other American music forms.

The influence of African-American music has gone the different parts of the world. The African-American music had built the identities of the African cultures. Its techniques transform other forms of music into partly African style, from which new patterns such as the R&B, soul, and rap music.

Black-Face Minstrelsy

Black-face minstrelsy was a form of entertainment by the white Americans in which they wear black-colored faces while mimicking and making fun of the African-Americans. Although, black-face minstrelsy is a direct mode of exhibiting racism, it had contributed in the popularization of African-American music because the minstrel shows provided African-Americans with opportunities to work. Survey of American Popular Music indicates the musical aspects of minstrelsy.

Minstrelsy had a tremendous impact on musical theater, both in the 19th century and after.

Main instruments included the banjo, the fiddle, a tambourine (larger & with fewer rattles than today), and the "bones." Bones were animal rib bones or hardwood sticks of similar size, a pair in each hand, held between the fingers and played with a rapid wrist action to produce a sound similar to that of castanets.

Minstrel shows provided opportunities for African-American performers to work.

The minstrel shows somehow show the admirations of the whites to the black culture. Numerous titles of African-American music were born from the minstrel shows and among the famous black performer of minstrelsy was Bert Williams.

Minstrelsy did not only reveal the beauty of African-American music. With the African-American music cultures, minstrelsy provided contributions to American music despite that the music in the minstrel shows is of black origin and depicts the black slavery in the southern states of America. Donald Clarke indicates the influence of black music in his Minstrelsy and the War

Between States.

Minstrel banjo players included Sweeney, Tom Briggs (who joined Christy's Minstrels and published Briggs' Banjo Instructor) and Frank Converse, who preserved the first piece he had heard played by a black musician. All of them freely admitted that they had learned from blacks, and the music they played included accents and additive rhythms that came partly from the playing style and were not obvious from the notation, like African drumming in the past and ragtime in the future.


The emergence of African-American music brought other groups of music that integrates the old styles with the contemporary ones. Currently, the American music mostly emphasizes African techniques that contribute to the success of the music industry. This includes forms of music such as rap, R&B, and reggae, which all are modes used…

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