The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States

The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States

The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States

The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States

Synopsis

The Power of Black Music offers a new way of listening to the music of black America, and appreciating its profound contribution to all American music. Striving to break down the barriers that remain between high art and low art, it illuminates the centuries-old linkage between the music, myths and rituals of Africa and the continuing evolution and enduring vitality of African-American music. Inspired by the pioneering work of Sterling Stuckey and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the author, advocates a new critical approach grounded in the forms and traditions of the music itself.

Excerpt

The calves follow their mothers. The young plant grows
up near the parent stem. The young antelope leaps where
its mother has leaped.

Zulu proverb

We carry with us the wonders we seek without us: there
is all Africa and her prodigies within us.

Sir Thomas Browne

I am a member of perhaps the last generation of African Americans whose parents and grandparents were intimately familiar with Br'er Rabbit, Legba, the Signifying Monkey, Stackolee, John the Conqueror, and other black folk characters and practices. My generation grew up hearing the tales of these and other African and African-American folk figures, and we actually saw the practice of some of their superstitions. My generation also had the good fortune of regularly hearing great songsters who trudged the streets of neighborhoods singing a cappella or accompanying themselves on guitar. I remember most poignantly Mr. B., a blind seller of boiled and "parched" peanuts who peddled his wares by singing street cries and blues as he walked the streets of my neighborhood in Lakeland, Florida, in the 1940s and very early 1950s. And each winter until I graduated from high school, in 1953, I saw the Silas Green from New Orleans show, which featured one of the great-

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