African American Culture

African American Culture

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African American Culture


This is a religious song sung by the black people in the southern part of the US and are often influenced by African melodies. The spirituals are typical working songs and often content stories and persons from the Bible. Many of the slaves, in fact, thought of themselves as modern children of Israel who were looking for freedom. The songs first become well-known outside the southern states when the slaves were set free from slavery.

The blues is extremely various type of music, and it has many different musical expressions. The musicians often created an individual style of blues when they performed. It has also given a lot to the development to jazz and it's not rare that jazz musicians bring an element of blues into their music. In addition to this, some of the classical, and many rock, folk and country music compositions also show traces of blues.

The blues lyrics are well-known for their reflection on loneliness and sorrow, but humorous reactions to life's trouble is also common.

Blues probably developed after the Civil War from short solo calls which were called field hollers. These field hollers were used as communication among the black workers on the plantations in the South. Later, a "down-home" blues developed from this into the blues we know today.

When the blues became more popular in the early 1900's, W.C. Handy began to perform blues songs in public. Bessie Smith, of the 1920's, is counted one of the most talented blues singers, and she and other famous singers, helped the blues reach a larger audience.

The history of jazz began on the late 19th century and it was influenced by black American music, African rhythms and European harmonies.

One of the most important factors in jazz is improvisation, to create a song impulsively. This is a skill held high of the characteristic jazz musician. The musician isn't just a performer, he is a composer too, and this is what makes every performance of jazz different.

Syncopation is another key word in jazz, the musicians break up the regular patterns; they make them uneven and mix the parts of the song in unexpected ways.

In the beginning the jazz was preformed by black Americans who had little experience in playing western music. Later, as the popularity grew, the sound was influenced by musicians with other backgrounds, like classical or formal. The development of new instruments and different techniques has also done a great deal for the sound of jazz.

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Rock and roll
Rock is one of the most popular music types, and it comes in many different shapes.

From its origin, in the 1950's, rock and roll was party music that appealed to the youth. It celebrated the young, and described all the ups and downs, joys and problem of this period.

Many parents dismissed rock as something inappropriate and a threat to society at this time. But by the 60's, rock and roll had earned much more respect, also from the parent generation. By the end of this decade the music had moved away from its root in the blues and country and the next decade rock music became more popular than every and it influenced every bit of popular culture from films to fashion. But as the rock became more accepted it lost much of its rebelliousness which had originally given it its power with the youth.

The roots of the rock music can be found in the blues' lyric and guitars and in the spirit of traditional country music, also some parts of jazz and pop music can be heard in the rock sound.

Chuck Berry was the first great rock and roll artist. His feelings and youth problems are expressed in his lyrics and he has become a major influence on later rock performers, f.ex. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Little Richard is another great influence in Rock and roll, especially his performance styles. His energetic and colourful stage performance was a model for performers who followed.

In rock and roll the racial differences in the US was erased. If featured black artists, as Chuck Berry, who were influenced by white musicians, and vice versa with Presley and Buddy Holly, who adopted styles based on rhythm and blues. With the rise of rock and roll, black artists appealed to both black and white audiences.

The most popular new music genre from the 80's and 90's was the rap music. It is generally spoken fast rather than sung and is performed with a rhythm rather than melody.

Rap first developed in the 70's in New York and spread fast in urban areas, mostly among African American teenagers. After this it was spread all over USA, and many people believed that rap would replace rock, but the rap song lyrics cause controversy. The lyrics often promote racism, violence and discrimination towards women.

Rap music's greatest inspiration came from DJs in Jamaica. They talked or toasted over the record they played in the clubs. In addition to this, a Jamaican born DJ is often said to be the one who introduced Rap to New York.
The earlier rap had more party spirit, but later more serious rap who took a look at social issues among black people became popular. The acts Public Enemy and Ice Cube have made these radical forms for rap more well-known. The style gangster rap has also become well-liked the later years.

Famous rappers today are Dr. Dre, Beastie Boys and Eminem.

Famous African American writers are late 18th century writers as Phillis Wheatly and Olaudah Wquiano to more modern authors as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Walter Mosely, who is being ranked among the top writers in the USA. It is popular to write about the role of the African American in the American society, and within these topics like racism, slavery and freedom.

The literature has, like the people, changed over the centuries. Before the Civil war, the focus was mostly the slavery. In the beginning of the 20th century books started to confront the racist attitude towards the African Americans. Later many authors wrote about segregation and Black Nationalism, especially during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's.

Toni Morrison was born in February 1931 in Ohio and she is one of the best authors in the world, she has also won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her best-known books are The Bluest Eye, Beloved and Song for Solomon. What characterize Morrison's writing is that the story's have epic themes and well-described African American characters.

Maya Angelou was born in April 1928 and she is an American poet, she also had an important role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Angelou is particularly known for her autobiographical writing, her poetry and collections of verse. She was the second person who ever was requested to read her poem to a US president.
She has been honored several times by different academic institutions such as Yale University, Rockefeller Foundation and University of Ghana. She has also been recognized for her achivements in music and theater.
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