Category Archives: African-American Studies

African Diaspora Music

Question

Introduce your topic: What is the general topic(s) of your project?

Introduce your research question/problem: What specific issue will you be addressing? Clearly define what the project is really about.

Provide only as much background on the music, artists, history, and/or contexts of your specific topic as necessary for me to understand how your question and your topic relate to each other.

Clearly explain your research findings. Did you answer your research question? If not, what insights were gained or new questions posed? What did you learn?

Provide evidence of your claims.

Provide a conclusion that summarizes your argument, and/or provides direction for further questioning and research.

Minimum requirements for citations are these: 3 peer-reviewed articles, one academic book, one mass-media/print source, and one audio/video source.

Sample paper

African Diaspora Music

Research question: What are the general characteristics of African music?

Introduction

Music has been part of human life for centuries and has played an important role in transferring messages and information from one generation to another. According to studies, there are different genres of music across the world that are significantly influenced by the social and cultural background of a community. Research shows that the African music is one of the most popular music in the history of humanity. Research goes further to state that the different genres of music associated with the African countries and communities did not develop in a vacuum considering that they were substantially influenced by foreign music traditions. For example, most countries in the northern part of Africa can attribute the characteristics of their traditional music to the Greeks and Romans who once controlled the region (“Music of Africa – New World Encyclopedia”). Further studies show that each part of Africa developed traditional music based on foreign communities that occupied these regions which means that the continent is rich in different genres of music. While the north part of the continent was highly influenced by the Romans and the Greeks, the eastern part of the country that comprises of countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania was highly influenced by the Indian and Arabic cultures considering that Arabs ruled the region centuries ago. On the other hand, southern, central and west African music has been heavily influenced by North American and western Europe traditions and cultures (Malone 37).

Problem of statement

The music of Africa is as wide and varied as the continent’s many religions, countries, and ethnic groups. Studies have shown that the diversity of the African music largely comes from the vast cultures of the people in this region who have flowered in many indigenous forms as well as being shaped by external forces from other countries. Some scholars have gone forth to state that the different culture in the region significantly influences the different types of the music in the region and suggests that it is extremely difficult to create and develop similar music with similar characteristics. On the other hand, there are those who feel that irrespective of the different cultures that influence the different genres of music in the region,  there are a number of common characteristics and elements that separates the African music from that of other continents and other regions. Malone (73) feels that the idea of music in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa is different from that of other regions and cultures in the continent but bears similar characteristics to most of the music genres in other regions (Malone 73). It is the middle of this debate that the scholar finds it necessary to conduct this research to identify and describe the common characteristics that differentiate African music from other genres of music from the rest of the world.

Research objectives

The general objective of this study is to identify and describe the different characteristics that define and differentiates the African music from the rest.

The specific objectives of the study include:

  1. To Examine the effect of rhythm on the creation and development of the African music.
  2. To examine the effect of beats on the creation and development of the African music.
  3. To examine the effect of the call and response arrangement on the designing of the African music.

Research questions

  1. How does rhythmic culture affect African music?
  2. How do beats influence the African music?
  3. How does the call and response arrangement affect the African music?

Literature review

No music African music is more pure than the music that comes from Sub-Saharan Africa. Irrespective of the fact that most of the music in the region has been influenced by external forces such as traditions and cultures from other parts of the world, Sub-Saharan music remains quintessentially African. Research shows that the African integration of music with its social perspective identifies the basic social perspective, despite the diversity of the culture in the region and musical circumstances. In the same manner, the notion of rhythm is diversified owing to the different cultures in the region (Kindall-Smith, et al. 385). Further research shows that the rhythm of the African music substantially depends on the level of music, the general features of different African music traditions, the instruments used as well as the nature and style of vocals used in a song. According to Renzaho, et al. (595) despite the fact that all African music has different rhythmic structure, they have one thing common and that is the fact that they have a complex rhythm that is hard to comprehend.  In his study, the author concludes that rhythm is the base foundation of the African music and it is the rhythm that differentiates African music from the European music. Additionally, the author is of the opinion that the importance of the rhythm to the African music can only be compared with the importance of harmony to the European music. The western approach to rhythm is widely known as divisive since the music into standard units of time (Renzaho, et al. 599). Studies continue to show that African melodies stress the importance of rhythm even if African conceptions of tonal relationship might be off compared to that of the western music.  Notably, the African music is often made up of at least two rhythms. As a result of this technique used by the African composers, most of the western and European composers often describe the musical beats used in African music as fanatical. Additionally, they define African composers as rhythmic genius considering that it is difficult for outsiders or foreign people to understand how a song can have two different rhythms. Therefore, it is safe to state that one of the major characteristics of the African music is the use of complex rhythm that can only be understood by the native Africans (Renzaho, et al. 600).

According to Kindall-Smith, et al. (380), most of the African music fall on what is widely known as the off-beat. According to the authors, the African music is widely influenced and characterized by the nature and the speed of the beats of the music.  The articles go ahead to give an example of Agbekor which is one of the spectacular African dance which can be played both in slow and fast variations. To maintain the African culture, the dancers or the performers of this type of dance must change from one variation to another in the course of their performance (Kindall-Smith, et al. 380). Notably, most of the African music is widely defined by four beats of the rattle pattern. These beats comprise of the primary beats for the performers and the audience to clap their hands; the beat of the drum of the master drummer playing the music as well as the performer’s basic stepping which is steady to the beats of the song. The author concludes that based on the notation, it is safe to state that none of the drums in the African music play a dominant fee beat on the first and third rattle beat. However, the song’s free beat influences the second and fourth rattle beats. Therefore, to understand the African music, it is necessary for an individual to understand when the composers are playing around the beat, or when playing on the offbeat (Kindall-Smith, et al. 374).

Another significant characteristic of the African music is the engagement of the audience during the performance in the call-response management. According to Locke (25), while different rhythms in a song may identify a panorama beat, in most of the African music, there is an overriding aspect of repetition created from an overriding conversation with a clear defined alternation. This conversation in the song swings back and forth from solo to chorus to an stressed instrumental response. This back and forth arrangement which is often embraced by the audience is widely known as the call and response arrangement or ethnomusicology which is common in most if not all African music (Locke 22). Despite the fact that this arrangement is also present in some of the western songs, in African music, the chorus is a rhythmic phrase which recurs regularly. The author concludes that the rhythms of the lead singer vary from that of the respondents. Therefore, the repetition of the response is widely used by most African composers to create a rhythm and harmony for their music.

Research findings

Based on the above-detailed discussion, it is safe to state that the research fully answered the research question. Based on the above details it is easy to point that one of the most important characteristics of the African music is the complex rhythm. The study shows that unlike the western or the European music that substantially emphasizes the importance of harmony, most of the African composers find it easy to develop sophisticated rhythms to preserve the African culture. In most of the traditional African songs, composers used more than one rhythm to their music to identify themselves with a particular group or region in Africa (Locke 35).

The study also emphasizes the role and importance of the beats on the creation and development of the African music. According to the study, African music often has four rattles of beat that include the primary beats for the performers and the audience to clap their hands; the beat of the drum of the master drummer playing the music as well as the performer’s basic stepping which is steady to the beats of the song. Notably, these beats determine the speed of the music as well as the variations that must be performed in the course of the song (“Music of Africa – New World Encyclopedia”). Finally, the call and response arrangement widely known as the repetition defines the African music considering that it helps to involve the audiences in the performance of the music. Unlike the western music that has simple ethnomusicology, African music is defined by the variation of the rhythm of the lead singer and the respondents. These findings show that the study fully answered the research question and attained the objectives of the study to determine the primary characteristics of the African music.

Conclusion and recommendation

Based on the study, African music is used to preserve different African cultures which in turn leads to the composer of different genres of music in the continent. Despite the diversity in culture and ethnic groups, there are three common characteristics that different African music from the rest of the music. These characteristics include complex rhythms, musical beats, and Ethnomusicology. However, it is worth noting that different cultural groups in the continent have varied effects on the nature of the music, but for music to qualify to be associated with Africans, it must have the above-identified characteristics (Locke 16). Besides, it is through music that most African communities are able to preserve community heritage as well as traditions and teachings from one generation to another.

Recommendation

  1. The above results were obtained from a limited scope and field of study considering that most of the data collected and resources used in the study originated from North Africa. Despite the notion that Sub-Saharan African which is mostly made of the North African countries has the pure African music, other regions have African music that can be studied to identify its characteristics. Therefore, future studies should widen the area of study.
  2. The study widely concentrated on three major characteristics. However, based on African studies, there are more than ten elements that characterize the African music, thus differentiating it from the rest of the world. Therefore, future studies should seek to widen the scope of the study to include more components that define the African music.

Works Cited

Kindall-Smith, Marsha, et al. “Challenging exclusionary paradigms in the traditional musical canon: Implications for music education practice.” International Journal of Music Education, vol. 29, no. 4, 2011, pp. 374-386.

Locke, David. “Simultaneous multidimensionality in African music: musical cubism.” African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music, vol. 8, no. 3, 2009, pp. 8-37.

Malone, Bill C. Music. U of North Carolina P, 2008.

“Music of Africa – New World Encyclopedia.” Info:Main Page – New World Encyclopedia, www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Music_of_Africa#Form.

Renzaho, A. M., et al. “Maintenance of traditional cultural orientation is associated with lower rates of obesity and sedentary behaviours among African migrant children to Australia.” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 32, no. 4, 2008, pp. 594-600, doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.2.

Related:

Political Implications

Political Implications

Question

we have discussed some of the developments in African American music (spirituals, to folk, to blues, to classical music, etc.) and changes in ways that musicians are portrayed, and also how they portray themselves. In terms of aesthetics, the music has changed from being an expression of hope and grief to being employed as a medium for raising African American culture and garnering respect within American society as a whole. With the rise of jazz and soul in the context of civil rights, music became a means for personal expression and self-realization by creating an aesthetics that—at times—was no longer offering itself for approval from white audiences. In each of the above examples, music and musicians were used as political tools with often very different objectives.

Your assignment is to write 300-500 words on the political implications of your chosen topic (politics defined as discussions, confrontations, activism, resistance, etc. regarding power dynamics in society—gender, race, class, police, religion). Does your topic transcend politics? Does it confront injustice, give voice to the marginalized, dictate musical, social, or consumer behavior? Take a position and defend it using examples from readings and discussions from class, as well as your own experiences.

Sample paper

Political Implications

Since the ancient days, man has been known for his creativity and innovative ways of doing things. One way that he used to express his creativity is the composition and the use of music to pass messages and express his feelings and point of views. According to history, the earliest form of music to be created and developed by man was drum-based, percussion instruments being the most readily available at the time. However, with the evolution of man and the introduction, humanity has continued to show his creativity and ability by utilizing music to enhance the quality of his music and to ensure that he can get his message across a wider range of audiences that the early days. Studies show that music is an art and a cultural activity that uses organized sound to pass messages. Despite the changing times and the nature of music, some things remain constant, and they include the pitch, rhythm, dynamics and sonic qualities. This assignment will identify and describe the role of music during the civil rights movement.

Given the importance of music in the society, several studies have gone forth to invest their time and resources to evaluate the relationship between music and politics. According to these studies, the very nature of politics is like music that is rooted in conflict and harmony.  However, despite the strong relationship between the two concepts, it is worth noting that music transcends all politics and nations given the fact that it is universal. Most scholars such as Adams (2014) are of the opinion that the universal language used in music transcends politics, all nations, nationality, and colors as well as creeds as artist try to create a family environment where all people of all ages and genders can enjoy and thrive.  However, it is worth noting that during the civil rights movement, the civil rights movement used music to confront injustice and give voice to the marginalized. According to authors such as Buck (2018) has gone forth to identify some of the songs that were widely used during the civil rights movement to call for equal rights for all races and the eradication of discrimination in the United States. The author has gone forth to identify songs such as which side are you on, this little light of mine, this land is your land and down by the riverside as well as we shall overcome as some of the popular songs used to fight discrimination and slavery in the US.

Given the universality of music, most politicians and political advocates find it easy and fundamental to use music to inform their followers on their plans and to pass messages on the direction of their political ambitions. Further research on the relationship between music and politics show that compromise and the interplay of the physical and mental well being of an individual are at the center of the music (Quinn, 2013). Similarly, politicians believe in compromise as well as the use of physical and mental prowess to attain their objectives. As a result, music has been widely used in political rallies to confront injustice, give voice to the marginalized or change consumer behavior. Furthermore, given the fact that most social phenomena attain national acknowledgment, popular music can be utilized as a vital socio-political indicator of struggles and what people need (Ellis, 2016). Therefore, it is safe to state that music has been used in the past to move mass audiences, thus making it the best political tool to pass messages.

References

Adams, M. (2014). Music and the Play of Power in the Middle East, North Africa and Central     Asia. Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, 11(1), pp.129-132.

Buck, S. (2018). Civil Rights Music: The Soundtracks of the Civil Rights Movement By Reiland             Rabaka. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016. 272 pp. ISBN 978-1498531788.   Popular Music, 37(02), pp.312-314.

Quinn, I. (2013). Twentieth-Century Music and Politics: Essays in Memory of Neil Edmunds,                 edited by Pauline Fairclough. Ashgate, £58.50. Tempo, 67(266), pp.95-97.

Ellis, D. (2016). The Art of the Possible: Politics and Governance in Modern British History,                   1885-1997: Essays in Memory of Duncan Tanner. Twentieth Century British History,                   p.hww057.

 

Zydeco  Music

Question

my project is searching for Zydeco, which is a style of new orleans Jazz. .

When and/or how did the music begin? Is it connected to a political/philosophical ideology or associated with a political/philosophical movement? Is it a recent phenomenon?

Sample paper

Zydeco  Music

For decades and centuries, music has been part and parcel of the human being. Over the time, humankind has developed different styles and genres of music for different purposes and occasions in his life.  One of such music genre that has been instrumental and important to the human race is the zydeco. According to research, zydeco is a musical style that originated in southwest Louisiana in France (DeWitt, 2012). According to the artists, this genre of music largely borrowed styles from other already established genres of music such as blues, rhythm to create something that was special and popular among the original inhabitants of Louisiana. According to history, this genre of music was introduced in the early 1920s considering that first zydeco song was recorded back in the year 1929.

This genre music is widely associated with French ideologies considering that it is French settlers Louisiana Creoles brought this genre of music in New Orleans. History continues to show that for almost a century, Louisiana Creoles enjoyed a private lifestyle, thriving, educating themselves without the governing body and customizing their camouflaged community. Within this time, the French cultural practices had widely spread in New Orleans making it easy for the indigenous people in the region to easily adapt this genre of music (Fontenot, n.d).  The spread of Zydeco in the region can be easily detected in the titles of the songs, lyrics and bluesy vocals.  There are those of the opinion that this music was essentially created as a result of a synthesis of traditional Creole music. However, to make it more suitable and fitting to all communities, the music has rich attributes of Cajun music, African-American traditions, R&BS, jazz and gospel music. It is, therefore, safe to state that zydeco is not a recent phenomenon, but has helped to preserve the traditional practices of the original inhabitants of Louisiana (Fontenot, n.d).

 

References

DeWitt, M. F. (2012). Zydeco. Oxford Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.a2225932

Fontenot, K. S. (n.d.). Zydeco. Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. doi:10.5040/9781501329203-0026018

Related:

To what extent was the Blues genre helpful among the African Americans in fighting for liberation and equality?

African-American Studies

Question

After reading the John Chernoff chapter on African music and the Kyra Gaunt chapter on musical blackness, I want you to reflect on the idea of culturally or racially coded musical styles. What makes a particular piece of music stylistically African? What makes a piece sound “black”? Or “white”? Or “Russian”? For this assignment, you are asked to listen to a recording of music that might be classified as “African American” (hip hop, R&B, blues, jazz, trap, etc.) and identify the specific musical elements that contribute to its musical identity. Words like “soul” and “groove” aren’t precise enough—think about timbre, scales, ornamentation, instrumentation, ensemble interaction, etc. There are no right or wrong answers, but I will be looking for a thoughtful interaction between you and the piece of music you select for this assignment.

Sample paper

African-American Studies

For centuries and decades, music has been used to pass messages as well as promote interaction and integration among communities and countries.  However, it is worth noting that the different elements used in a different genre of music give it the unique culturally and racially coded music. One of the notable unique characteristics of African music is it rhythm. According to A. M Jones, rhythm is important to the African music as harmony is important to the western music. This shows that rhythm is one of the important element and characteristic of African music that helps to differentiate it from other genres of music.  Further research shows that harmonic potential of tones used in African music substantially differentiates this genre of music from other music from other regions. Notably, this music has fixed intonations of specific intervals and is often moved by chords or melodies.  The rhythm of African music is often defined by tapping a foot or clapping as most of the audience attempt to separate the music into easily comprehensible units of time and indicates when the next code is likely to come (Hickey, 2012). Unlike the African music, the western music uses rhythm as a secondary element as they take harmony and melody more seriously. Furthermore, African music is also known to involve a lot of drumming thus differentiating it from other genres.

One of the known African-American music in the world today is the Jazz music.  Jazz can be described as a genre of music that originated in New Orleans and is widely associated with African-American back in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. However, to many Americans and people around the universe believe that jazz is American classical music.  After carefully listening to this genre of music as well as analyzing the elements used in this kind of music, below are some of the elements that defined this kind of music.

  1. Melody – according to most musical analysts, the melody is one of the important elements of a song. In other regions, the melody is often referred as the tune. The melody of any songs helps to determine the pitches and notes of a song and how they are organized to form a shape or a pattern (Hickey, 2012). Each note in the jazz music is given a duration that depends on the rhythm of the melody.
  2. Harmony – the harmony of any music is often determined by the vertical combination of pitches often in a group of three tones. The common terms of harmony include chord and triad. Chords are often used to harmonize a melody by providing accompanying notes that blend with and support the melody (Hickey, 2012).
  3. Key – musical key focuses on grouping together pitches into families. Each key family is comprised of all the notes with something common among themselves. A good musical key should always have a common scale. A scale is made of a series of notes in which the first and last are usually the same organized to a particular pattern.
  4. Rhythm – rhythm describes the way time applies to music. The notes of the melody have rhythm since they have different lengths. It is worth noting that different songs have different rhythm depending on the pitches and chords of the music. From the above discussion is it clear elements of music is important in creating best music.

References

Hickey, M. (2012). Musical Elements. Music Outside the Lines, 105-128. doi:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199826773.003.0006

Hickey, M. (2012). Big Elements. Music Outside the Lines, 129-146. doi:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199826773.003.0007

Related:

To what extent was the Blues genre helpful among the African Americans in fighting for liberation and equality?