#2 West African Music
West African musical traditions gave birth to the blues and jazz. These few examples of recent recordings from Senegal give a taste of the sensibilities inadvertently imported into the Americas through the slave trade.
Note the singers’ melodic styles, rhythmic vitality and flexibility, call-and-response textures, the religious, work and social milieus of these excerpts, featuring praise singing, work songs and marriage celebrations. Music is clearly interwoven with everyday life.
The Music of the Diola-Fogny of the Casamance, Senegal (Smithsonian Folkways)
Music of Sierra Leone: Kono Mende Farmers’ Songs (Smithsonian Folkways)
Africa: The Sounds and Music of the Congo (Monitor)
Chokwe songs and dances with various drums from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola (ILAM)
Roots of the Blues (New World)
A typical day for slaves …
‘An hour before day light the horn is blown. Then the slaves arouse, prepare their breakfast, fill a gourd with water, in another deposit their dinner of cold bacon and corn cake, and hurry to the field again. It is an offense invariably followed by a flogging, to be found at the quarters after daybreak.
The hands are required to be in the cotton field as soon as it is light in the morning, and, with the exception of ten or fifteen minutes, which is given them at noon to swallow their allowance of cold bacon, they are not permitted to be a moment idle until it is too dark to see, and when the moon is full, they often times labor till the middle of the night. They do not dare to stop even at dinner time, nor return to the quarters, however late it be, until the order to halt is given by the driver.
Finally, at a late hour, they reach the quarters, sleepy and overcome with the long day’s toil.’
Solomon Northrup, Twelve Years a Slave (1853)
If not toiling in the tobacco plantations, cotton plantations or farms, some ex-Africans lived in urban areas, working as servants, coachmen, gardeners or tradesmen.