Social Characteristics of West African Music


a) African music is functional.

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b) Music is organized as part of all social events.

c) Dance and music are inseparable.

d) There are no spectators in West African society.     

African Groove Music





Latin Music

Brazilian Music


Oral Tradition


a) African music is not written but memorized and learned by rote.

b) Musicians play an important role in African society


“Self-Pounding” African Instrument


Rhythmic Idiophones


(What Kind of rattles do they have and what do they do?)

Played by being shaken, or rattled.

Primary rattles: Held in the hand and played.

Secondary rattles: Worn on the body and activated by body movements.

Concussion Idiophones
Are Struck
Friction Idiophones
Singing Bowls
Blown Idiophones

 Cultural heritage brought from Africa by the slaves was freely maintained for a longer period of time on the Islands and

in South America. This was due to…


a. Absentee landowning.

b. A lack of interest in leisure activities.

c. Frequent influxes of new arrivals from Africa.

d. High proportion of blacks to whites


“Bahl ‘Oman Bahl”


• Jamaican work song

• Steady rhythm after a slow intro.

• Song has a functional nature.

• Call and response form


“Georgie Lyon”


• Jamaican work song.

• Call and response form.

• Rhythm is syncopated.

• Strong accents.

 Slavery In The U.S


• In the 1600’s slavery was given legal sanction.

• The specific system of slavery varied from colony to colony.

• The lives of slaves were governed by these systems

 Northern Colonies Slavery


• Slavery was limited by legislation and existed on a very small scale.

• Slaves generally lived and worked alongside their masters

 Southern Colonies Slavery


• Slaves social environment was governed by farms and plantations.

• Slaves had limited contact with slave holders.2

• They were able to develop their own social structure within that environment.

Slave Music

• Music was multi-functional.

• In the early days it was more African than American gradually transforming into African-American forms.

• No distinction between sacred and secular music.

Characteristics of work songs


• Mainly rhythmic to accompany work.

• Short phrases.

• Solo and chorus follow each other instantly (call and response).

• African music.

• Words and music improvised.

• Work songs remained relatively untouched by European Influence

 Examples of work songs


• “Ain’t I Right”

• “Carrie Belle” (boatman’s song)

 “Field Hollers”


• The earliest of African-American songs

Characteristics of African-American Vocal aesthetics


• Use of falsetto.

• Use of Vibrato.

• Tone quality not “pure”.

• Use of slides and note-bending

 Examples of Field Hollers


• “Hallie, Come On!” (woman’s field holler)

• “Chickens Done Crowed” (sunrise holler)

 “Go to Sleepy”


• Children’s lullaby.

• Notes are swung.

• Very strong rhythm adds to swing feel.

• Scoops and slides in the voice add another dynamic to the song

*Recreational Secular Song

“Hambone, Hambone”

• Children’s pattin’ song.

• Hambone is the art of percussion you create by slapping your thighs and chest in rhythm.

• Call and response used

*Recreational Secular Song

“Black Woman”


• Same vocal techniques used.

• Vocal range is expanded.

• Call and response between voice and guitar.

• Guitar uses the same techniques as the voice


*Recreational Secular Song