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date: 30 March 2020


  • Sam Hitchmough


The African musical tradition featured the drum and included a host of other small instruments from xylophones to bells to thumb pianos Dancing was an integral expressive part of the music and songs would often assume an individual or communal functionality as in celebratory songs work songs and religious and ceremonial songs Ring dances often with musicians in the center of the ring surrounded by dancers who clapped sang and beat out rhythms while shuffle dancing around were found in many areas Melodic improvisation and a range of vocal sounds and techniques were common as was the pattern of a lead voice or solo alternating with a group of voices in reply an antiphonal style known as call and response West African nations from which slaves were predominantly drawn obviously had their own idiosyncrasies but there were certainly overarching characteristics that traveled the Middle Passage with Africans to America and ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895.

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