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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Azizi African American Secular Folk Songs (149* d) RE: African American Secular Folk Songs 14 May 05

As context to this discussion, I offer this very interesting essay on
African retentions in Louisiana

Here is one excerpt from that article:

African cultural retention abounds in the region and is taken for granted when not appropriated for sale to the public as a variant of so-called "mainstream" culture. The banjo, for example, is commonly considered European and is a staple of Appalachian culture that is usually associated with Whites. History, forgotten or distorted, has removed this instrument from its original cultural base. Joseph Holloways' book, Africanisms in American Culture presents an argument, in an essay entitled "African Heritage of White America," which ties the instrument and its playing technique to Senegambian music. In New Orleans, the late Danny Barker brought the instrument back into prominence during the career.

There are many commonplace musical links that demonstrate elemental ties to African culture. Ululation (yodeling), improvisation, the use of call-and-response and syncopation are characteristics of African music continent-wide. The use of a 17-21 tonal scale is common to African music whereas European music utilizes a 12-tone scale. Scholars and musicians involved in research are finding African music far more complex, harmonically as well as rhythmically, than previously noted. Far from being primitive, African music is considered to be advanced by those knowledgeable of its origins. Diminished tones utilizing the minor mode, as found in today's blues, typify the diversity found within the world's oldest music tradition.

Some years ago, Dr. Hashimi Maiga (a native of Mali) played a tape and asked me to identify the player. I totally blew it, identifying the player alternately as John Lee Hooker or one of the other musicians out of the Delta Blues genre. The guitar player, rendering centuries-old Malian melodies on a contemporary instrument was Ali Farka Toure. The question that has bugged me since hearing that tape is, "Was the 'first' person to play the blues in this country playing a familiar tune from his homeland on a new instrument?"

Hashimi reminded me also that the entire region, at the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade was still known as Mali, then a remnant of a civilization that had endured for more than a millennium. This area included all of the aforementioned African nations, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana and others. This made me mindful that the modern geographic designations are the results of the European division of Africa for the benefit of those colonial powers that wrecked the continent.

Dr. Ibrahima Seck, a native of Senegal, has long been fascinated by the cultural links that exist between his country and Louisiana and has studied these for years. In an effort to bring the information to people on both sides of the Atlantic, he created the Bouki Blues Festival, which is scheduled for January 2002 in Senegal. Music and scholarly presentations on the links are a part of the program for the festival."


This article also talks about other examples of African retention such as the processional tradition, masking, food and architecture.

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