TRADITIONAL AFRICAN RELIGION CEREMONIES

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A Brief History of African Music through The Colonial Period Music before the 20th century was very different when compared to the music of the 21st Century. There were distinctive occasions for each type of African music. West African music, the African Diaspora, and the music of the Colonies each had different musical instruments. West African music was the music of the African people before the Europeans captured and sold them into slavery in the Americas. It was unique in the manner in which it was played as well as the reasons why it was played. West African music was documented around the 1600's when explorers wrote journals about what they had found while traveling. Every West African village had its own professional musicians and singers who would perform for the community.

Musicians were idolized in their villages. They normally sat with the king or chief because of their elevated status. West African's made music for ceremonies surrounding agriculture, the crowning a new king or chief, and the reenactment of an important event that happened in the past. Special kinds of music were played during war ceremonies, hunting excursions, and other victory celebrations. Hunting songs, war songs, and boating songs were performances of men. Music performed by women was associated with children, young girls, and funerals. An example of a festival the West Africans celebrated was called the "Annual Customs of Dahomey". This was a festival worshiping the king of their capital. The West Africans also had music for litigation. They would come before a judge and sing or chant their argument. Dance was also a big part in the music of West Africa. Dance was performed at ceremonies surrounding fertility, death, worship, adulthood, and other kind of certain concerns of the village.

Mainly the West Africans used percussive instruments. These drums came in all sizes ranging from ten to twelve inches to ten to twelve feet. Their drums were made out of hollowed out logs and gourds with a tight skin over the hollow. They also used idiophones to make music. They used a variety of bells, castanets, gongs, and sometimes they made small xylophones or small pianos. Aerophones weren't as prevalent as the percussions or idiophones. Some explorers made small flutes, horns and trumpets from elephant tusks.  These instruments as well as the drums were used as "talking instruments". Chordophones were exclusive in Africa. West Africans didn't have many harps, fiddles, or musical bows. When they did they were made out of gourds and deerskins with holes.

Fiddles were made from cow or horsehair for the strings and a narrow box made from alligator skin. Harp strings were made from the roots of a palm wine tree. During performances on-lookers often participated by clapping their hands, tapping their feet, and dancing. They shouted encouraging words or words of disapproval to the performers indicating whether they enjoyed the performance or not. Call-and-response was big in West Africa. There would be a lead singer with a few others would act as a chorus to the one lead singer. That lead singer would sing a refrain while the others would almost sing back to the lead singer while singing their refrain. This call-and-response technique was representative of poetry as well as music.

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18th century[edit] In the late 18th century folk spirituals originated among Southern slaves, following their conversion to Christianity. Conversion, however, did not result in slaves adopting the traditions associated with the practice of Christianity. Instead they reinterpreted them in a way that had meaning to them as Africans in America. They often sang the spirituals in groups as they worked the plantation fields. Folk spirituals, unlike much white gospel, were often spirited: slaves added dancing (later known as "the shout") and other forms of bodily movements to the singing.

 

They also changed the melodies and rhythms of psalms and hymns, such as speeding up the tempo, adding repeated refrains and choruses, and replaced texts with new ones that often combined English and African words and phrases. Originally being passed down orally, folk spirituals have been central in the lives of African Americans for more than three centuries, serving religious, cultural, social, political, and historical functions.[2] Folk spirituals were spontaneously created and performed in a repetitive, improvised style. The most common song structures are the call-and-response ("Blow, Gabriel") and repetitive choruses ("He Rose from the Dead). The call-and-response is an alternating exchange between the soloist and the other singers. The soloist usually improvises a line to which the other singers respond, repeating the same phrase. Song interpretation incorporates the interjections of moans, cries, hollers etc... and changing vocal timbres. Singing is also accompanied by hand clapping and foot-stomping. Suggested listening: Spirituals [3] 19th century[edit] The influence of African Americans on mainstream American music began in the 19th century, with the advent of blackface minstrelsy.

 

The banjo, of African origin, became a popular instrument, and its African-derived rhythms were incorporated into popular songs by Stephen Foster and other songwriters. In the 1830s, the Second Great Awakening led to a rise in Christian revivals and pietism, especially among African Americans. Drawing on traditional work songs, enslaved African Americans originated and began performing a wide variety of Spirituals and other Christian music. Some of these songs were coded messages of subversion against slaveholders, or that signaled escape.

 

During the period after the Civil War, the spread of African-American music continued. The Fisk University Jubilee Singers toured first in 1871. Artists including Jack Delaney helped revolutionize post-war African-American music in the central-east of the United States. In the following years, professional "jubilee" troops formed and toured. The first black musical-comedy troupe, Hyers Sisters Comic Opera Co., was organized in 1876.[4] In the last half of the 19th century, U.S. barbershops often served as community centers, where most men would gather. Barbershop quartets originated with African-American men socializing in barbershops; they would harmonize while waiting their turn, vocalizing in spirituals, folk songs and popular songs. This generated a new style, consisting of unaccompanied, four-part, close-harmony singing. Later, white minstrel singers adopted the style, and in the early days of the recording industry their performances were recorded and sold. By the end of the 19th century, African-American music was an integral part of mainstream American culture.