Rhythmic Rebellion

February 3, 2019

 

 

Africans are unique in the contributions they have made to the history of music in the west. Although I think its an over simplification, we are told by music historians that where as Europeans have been responsible for harmony it is the African influence that has led the innovation in the rhythms we hear in main stream popular music.

 

A classic example is what the slaves did to European hymns. It has been documented in the USA as well as the Caribbean islands that Africans were very inventive with the rhythms of the European hymns so that many songs would no longer be recognisable once altered sometimes resulting in folk spirituals. 

 

When many people from west and central Africa were taken as slaves, their European and Euro-American oppressors attempted to crush African cultural and musical values. At times, resources for self-expression were scarce and so for the African the whole body came to be viewed as a musical instrument. Innovations such as pattin’ juba, the juba dance and the hambone became popular ways of supporting the music. Other innovations include tap dance, step dance and human beat boxing. 

 

Instruments for slaves were banned in many places in America and the Caribbean at different points during the mid 1700s. This was because some would use instruments as a means of communication and could incite rebellion. The innovation of body percussion demonstrates how determined Africans were to express themselves through music.

The instinct of Africans has always been to resist oppression of any kind. Lack of resources was no hindrance to the creation of great art. The African creation of body percussion, tap dance and beat boxing demonstrate this.

 

 

 

 

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About Black Music History

Matthew Williams MA, PGCE, LLB is a PhD research student at the University of Bristol. He began this initiative in February 2017 in order to aid his studies. It has since blossomed with an online following on Instagram of over 15,000 followers. He continues to document on social media when he is not studying or working.

 

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