FROM SLAVE FIELDS TO RAP SKILLS: A Journey Through Black American Music.
The Africans brought with them sounds of their ancestors as they came ashore to this country. Polyrhythms and work songs were parts of their heritage. As slaves labored in the fields, the music became a way of adapting to a new language, a new religion and a new, but difficult way of life. Often times the songs were a means for them to communicate with each other and express their troubles and hopes for a better life. It has also been said that some songs were used to signal the flight to freedom. Examples of these songs are " Swing lo Sweet Chariot" and " Steal Away." These songs were sung to notify the slaves that the " Underground Railroad," conducted by Harriet Tubman, would come through tonight.
A unique kind of song grew from the experience of the Africans brought to America in slavery. That unique song was the African American spiritual. The old spirituals had no known composers and were not written down. They passed from generation to generation of singers and are still sung today. These songs originated in the South before the Civil War. Some spirituals are slow and full of emotion. Others are lively, with strong rhythms. Spirituals can be sung by one person alone, or in call and response form, like many African songs. My favorite spiritual is " Every time I feel the Spirit." The words the to chorus goes like this " Every time I feel the spirit moving in my heart I will pray." However while rehearsing my speech, these words came to mind in the tune of that spiritual. " Every time I thought of speaking before you today I would pray. A prime example of how we use a song to depict our feelings.
Now from the spirituals and work songs came the birth of the blues. The blues is a style of music that began in America in the early 20th century. Most blues songs tell of feelings of loneliness, sadness and lost love.