Gates’ and Wilson’s Theories on African Diaspora Musics Essays

Gates’ and Wilson’s Theories on African Diaspora Musics Essays

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Gates’ and Wilson’s Theories on African Diaspora Musics


Some scholars theorize that the Middle Passage to the Americas was so traumatic that most African influence was eradicated, and that few traces of Africa exist in African-American music. This “cultural tabulala [sic] rasa” theory is rightfully rejected by many scholars (Wilson 3). The inflow of African people to the New World was brought on by the existence of slavery, and resulted in the creation of a sort of extension of the African continent in a different hemisphere. In his article “The Significance of the Relationship Between [sic] Afro-American Music and West African Music,” music scholar Olly Wilson refutes the tabula rasa theory, and provides extensive examples of the ties that continue to exist between the two distant geographical regions. Another prominent scholar who recognizes the integration of African elements in American musics is Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Though his much deeper and more analytical approach to African musics is divergent from Wilson’s, both scholars acknowledge African diaspora musics and examine them in different ways based on different criteria.

Cuba is considered one of the places where African music has been most fully preserved. Within this island nation there exist many secular and religious genres of Afro-Cuban music. These genres are associated with the spread of palo monte and santeria—two of the many neo-African syncretic religions in the New World (Den Tandt and Young 251). The idea of syncretism—a mixing of the beliefs or practices of different groups—is very popular in many aspects of analysis of the New World’s Africanization. With respect to religion, the term refers especially to the combining of characteristics of native...


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...racteristics of and approaches to African and African-American music. Gates advocates a deep examination of the music—a literary-style analysis exploring layers of meaning within music, intertextualities, and modes of expression.

Works Cited

Den Tandt, Catherine and Richard A. Young. “Tradition and transformation in Latin American music.” The Cambridge Companion to Modern Latin American Culture. Ed. John King. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. “The Signifying Monkey. A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism.” New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Rodriguez, Omar. “Emancipation: the Caribbean Experience—Afro-Cuban Religion and Syncretism with the Catholic Religion.”

Wilson, Olly. “On the Significance of the Relationship between African and Afro-American Music.” The Black Perspective in Music 2 (1974), 3-22.

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