Our Contributions To Music
Without the eclectic influence of African slaves and the Americans who were descended from them, the music they take for granted today would not exist.  Jazz, R&B, Swing, Ragtime, the blues, rock and roll, rap and hip-hop would not exist. Without the influence that evolved from our culture the music would be boring.  

African rhythms evolved over a period of centuries  and was brought to the New World by slaves who were kidnapped from their homes. While laboring relentlessly in their masters' fields, we began to sing. It helped to take our minds off our plight, and these melodies gave birth to the blues. As the slaves became exposed to Christianity, spirituals took form. Their interpretation of holy music was much more emotional and energetically charged than that of the Caucasian community and gospel music was born. Although slavery was ended at the conclusion of the American Civil War, the Black community as a whole remained segregated with no more opportunities than before emancipation.   As a result, musically-inclined African-Americans continued to develop their own style of music.  Our music was a spiritural  release from our conditions.  The standards of harmony broke with the European classical design and even the more liberal sounds of the Romantic period. In addition, time signatures and rhythmic patterns were altered with syncopation. All of this eventually led to the development of jazz. As a result both jazz and blues can be directly traced to the African American community.

As the 20th century progressed, white musicians embraced jazz, and of course, by the mid-1950's rock and roll, basically an up-tempo form of blues, was born. From this, it is clear that American music was  influenced by the African-Americans.  While reggae, music comes from the Caribbean islands; we must remember that they too were colonized by whites and had a slave population that descended from Africa and was therefore influenced by African music. We must also remember that the West Indies and French Guiana had slaves from Africa so how much of the music of South America can also be traced back to African roots.  

As we begin the second decade of the 21st century, countless popular musical artists; past and present, continue to cite the African-American society's influence on their own material. If not for the guitar-playing genius of Jimi Hendrix, I shudder to think of just how stagnant rock music would be. 

We are a creative and talented people.

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This page was last updated: October 5, 2013