Slave Trading
Routes

 

So, the region we
are looking at mainly is western Africa, where most if not all of the slaves
imported into the United States, The Caribbean and South America came from.
There are two regions where it is thought that most Africans transported across
the Atlantic to the Americas and West Indies cane from, the first region is the
region known as Senegambia, this is the area that is made up of the Senegal and
Gambia rivers and the land mass that falls between them. The countries that
make up that land mass include Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Mali, and
west-central Africa, this includes Angola, Congo, the Democratic Republic of
Congo and Gabon. Around 50% of Africans were from the two regions. There were
also large numbers of slaves from what was called the “Slave Coast” which is
Ghana and its neighbouring country of the Ivory Coast. Finally, other slaves
came from what was known as the Bight of Biafra which includes parts of Nigeria
and Cameroon.

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Taking this into
account we can see that slaves came from many different countries with distinct
languages and identities. Although there are many similarities between the
music there are also differences. Whilst taking this into account it must also
be mentioned that   around 5 million Africans were transported to Brazil
and  4.5 million to the West Indies
with Jamaica alone having around 1.2 million. From
these places some of the slaves made the way to  the North American continent. So not only did
we have the  West African influence of
music, we also had the Eirpean  influence
dependant on where the slaves cames from and also the religious influence of
the primary religion of the countires that were most implicated at that time. It
is against this backdrop of widely different and interweaving cultures that we
must examine the history of spirituals and how they were influenced by all of
these ingredients. With those facts let us see how they  influenced the 24 Negro melodies of SCT with
his influences of Western art music and of his style and the style of his
teachers.

Slavery was
abolished in the America in 1864, the following is a map of slave states in
1860, this is just to hiughlight where the slaves were in relation to the
country.

 

The slaves having
been spread around the southern half of the Unted States, some coming directly
from West Africa, some coming from the West Indies and some coming from South
America and also the influences of where the slavers originally came from this
makes a wide repository for influence on the cultural make-up and the output of
the spirituals trha came from the slaves

 

West African Music

 

Before we look at
music in some depth from West Africa  we
must understand what characterises the music that was transported across the
atlantic to the americs. The are anumber of elements that one can use to
summarize music of West Aftrica

1.     
Rhythm – is probably the most
defining characteristic of West African music – with the dominance of the
cross-rhtym  and Poly rhythms

2.     
Rhythmic complexity – the
complexity of Rhythms this comes from the merging and amalgamation of the  two rhtymic elements mentioned above.

3.     
The fusion of music and dance
that is to say that music and dance in West African cultures were inseperable from
one another.

4.     
The use of percussion
instuments

These 4 elements
are evident in all forms of West African musictured Heavil.

What is a
Polyrhythm?

 “the
simulataneous combination of contasting rhthms in a composition”
(Encyclopeadia Brittanica).

These polyryhms
come and are in part due to the second elemenmt of West African music and that
is the reliance on percussion. There are many styles of drum and drumming which
are prevalent in the music of WesterAfrica. The use of percussion does not just
stop with the use of drums and drumming, the body can sometimes be used as an
extension of the percussion whether that is by the use of the clapping,
stampimng the feet or using the body as its own form of drum. When these two
element ar coupled together we then have the complex sounds that give us the
defining characteristics of West African music.

Music of the
Senegambia Region

When we talk about music of Wedt
Africa there is a wide span of people which that area encompasses. The
areaitself is divided into many different groups but the main ones in that
ethnic grouping are as follows:

·        
Mandinka

·        
Fula

·        
Wolof

·        
Jola

·        
Serer

·        
Sarahuli,

In the different ethnic groups each
of them have their own traditions in terms of both music and dance which are
affiliated to a  distinct instrument. The
music system itself was mainly an oral tradition and this tradition was passed
throough the use of Griots. Griots
were and still are essentially the keepers of history via songs and dance, they
had different names in the different ethnicities biut all were charged with the
same job. The job of a Griot was hereditary so you could only become a Griot if
your family were Griots. They used a variety of instruments to accompany them
such as the Kora from which the banjo an instrument often used by the slaves is
a descendant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

West African Dances

To understand
a little more about the rhytms and styles of the music of this area it is
smportant for us to understand about dance. Music and dance and inextibablly
linked to one another in West African cultyres.

Mandinka

Sewruba

This is
a  traditional  Mandinka dance and also it refers to a drum
and drum rhthym. IN this particular dance there is normally a singer and tthree
drummers. There is the expecxtation that any of the assorted crowd would then
join in at any refrains. This is in a call and response style and bears some
similarities with the call and response stylke of SpritualsSewruba is a popular traditional Mandinka dance which dates back to years. The
three drummers play different style drums one short, one medium and one long and
they sometimes emply the kora.

Fula

Nyamakala

Nyamakala is a popular traditional
Fula dance. One of their famous instruments is called riti. This Fula
fiddle is played like a violin to produce hauntingly melodious sounds. Among
the top performers of this genre is Pullo Balde, born in Fulla Bantang in the
Central River Region of the country. This incredible star was a Fula Gawlo,
an itinerant performer who graced the occasions of his patrons accompanied by a
band of Fula instrumentalists and dancers.

Wolof

Mbalax

 The Mbalax means rhythm is Wolof. The dance
itself comes from a long tradition from the ancient kingdom of Sine. The Wolof
people then took the dance outwards to the further reaches of the Sine Kingdom
and by this method the dance became popularized. The dance itself is a mixture
of drumming, a womerns chorus and a stringed instrument called the xalam. The xalam is an stinged instrument with
usually 5 strings that looks like a lute, the drums consist of a drum ensemble
made up ofd 7 differnent drums which are all pitched differently and drum
called the tama. Where we see the
closeness to Spirityuals is in the way the songs were used. The songs were used
as work songs .

 

Jola

Bugarabu

Bugarabu is a Jola dance that is performed on several drums of various pitches,
played all at once by a single drummer. The medley, according to many, embodies
the spirit of joy and humour. While women clap their hands, sometimes amplified
by clap sticks made from palm branches, dancers spring into the circle
spontaneously. Among the top performers of this genre is Siaka Bojang, whose
skill in playing the genre was legendary. In terms of instruments, the simbing
is believed to be an earlier version of the kora used by the Jolas and
may date back to the 13th century. It resembles the kora in shape but has a
curved shaft and only six strings.

Serer

Njuup Ndagga

The Serer people are known
especially for their vocal and rhythmic practices, which infuse their everyday
language with complex overlapping cadences and their rituals with intense
collaborative layering of voice and rhythm. Each motif has a purpose and is
used for different occasions. Njuup is a traditional Serer dance and the
progenitor of tassu (or tassou), used when chanting ancient
religious verses. The griots of Senegambia still use it during marriages,
naming ceremonies or when singing the praises of patrons. Among the most
popular Serer medleys is ‘Jilor Sabar’, in which the richly beautiful sound of
traditional instrument are apparent in addition to the guitar. The Serer guitar
is heavily influenced by the Wolof mbalax rhythm, which gives the Serer
guitar a unique spark that is different from the Western guitar tradition.

Currently, a number of emerging
artists happily blend traditional instruments such as the riti, tama,
kora and sabarr with modern instruments such as the electric
guitar, organ, drum and bass to create unique melodies. Their musical approach
has taken on a different dimension, transforming traditional genres and giving
it a more widely appealing sound. In this way, the ancient traditions of
Gambian music continue to survive today

Serahuli

Molo Music

This is the traditional music among
the Serahuli (aka Serahule or Sarahuli) community. The molo is a
single-string lute played with a horsehair bow. It is reportedly the mother of
string instruments in the West African sub-region. However, the rich musical
heritage of the Serahuli encompasses their great skills in combining
instruments of completely different genres to produce a harmony. Its players
are expected to have diviners’ powers. This is why molo playing is
related to divination and spiritualism. They also use local flutes (aerophone)
and drums (membranophone) to accompany the traditional Serahuli dirges
extolling manhood and religious piety. Also, djembe drums are the basic
and most familiar instruments among all the ethnic groups including the
Serahulis.

 

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