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African American Music History

As a kid when most of us loved dancing to the tunes of Michael Jackson's Thriller, we knew nothing about the music history which paved the way for its creation. But now we feel amazed after realizing that the music which made me dance has a background which was born almost 500 years ago when the Africans were forced to migrate to America.


It seems that the world has termed it as African-American music history- The history of how African sounds entered mainstream American music and the transformation of original African musical styles and instruments which still continues.

With the dawn of blackface minstrelsy in the 19th century, the Afro-American influence on American music began which later became an integral part of American music culture. America witnessed the emergence of Christian revivals and pietism during the Second Great Awakening in the 1830s and songs containing coded messages.


Some of the songs by enslaved Afro-Americans which indicated the subversion towards slave holders of that time even signalled escape to the slaves. The African American music soon began to spread after the Civil War.

As time progressed African-American music saw the blues and jazz gaining popularity in the 20s, the 50s startled by the invention of rock n roll, album music controlling the music industry in the 70s giving opportunity to young talent, hip hop spreading across the country in the 80s and the rap and R & B in style in the 90s.

The heart and soul of African-American music are the enduring rhythms played by musical instruments which create a fusion of polyrhythmic impulses which has enriched the world music history.

The African musical instruments like the drums and trumpets which could make declarations and send warnings were so powerful that they had to be strictly controlled.

History recalls that once the plantation owners fearing a revolt had destroyed the musical instruments. They believed that the instruments could talk by imitating tonal inflections of spoken languages and play coded messages like the 'Army is attacking'.

Field hollers, work songs, call and response, blue notes, antiphony, homophony, polyphony, heterophony, multi-part harmony, improvisation, swung notes syncopation, special vocal effects, percussion and vernacular progressions are some of the features and historic traits which are common in african American music style.

Well, the list of musicians in black American history is quite lengthy but the names of Stevie Wonder, the multi instrumentalist; Howlin Wolf, exponent of urban blues; R & B superstar, Usher; Timbaland, the singer cum producer and Michael Jackson now falls under the category of black leaders in history responsible for social change.

Today, the African-American music is not confined to any particular group or region. The whole of United States celebrating the Black history month every year in February and new generation African American singers like Rihanna, enjoying the peak of success after selling 12 million records worldwide are evidences of the significance of african American music in this 21st century.

This site covers all areas for Music History of the World.


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