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Roots of rap--African musical influence in the Americas

Most West Africans worshipped in rituals using drumming, singing, and dance. During the period 1500-1850, some 10 miltion West Africans were seized and forced into slavery throughout the Atlantic region of the Americas. These people brought their religions and music with them. It is well know today ttrat African drumming influenced today's popular musical styles. Less well know is just what
that musical legacy is, and how


v. 11-96

il developed in Latin America

as compared to

English North America.

The Latin American slave trade lasted longer and was more active than the North American trade. Some 957o of enslaved Africans ended up in Latin America and the Caribbean. They were often the majority population, and even though they worked under barbarous conditions, they were reated as human beings, inferior perhaps but witlt legat rights to a secure family, property, and time for themselves. There were thriving communities of freed blacks, ftee mulattos (persons of mixed race) and escaped slaves. People of African descent performed every kind of labor and profession.

P. Pasmanick

In Cuba, Black people formed associations to practice their various religions. Lucumi people, from the Yoruba area of today's Nigeria developed the rites known a,s Santer{a, while ttrose from nearby Calabar practiced Abacud. Africans from the Congo river basin created Palo. These traditions--and others--are alive and well, with a wealth of ritual dance,
complex sacred music, and thousands of songs in afro+uban languages.
These religious associations (cobildos) were very private and sacred. Eventually a series of secular musical forms began to emerge, keeping certain essential elements of the raditional music. Aftocuban drummers invented congo, the Cuban

it around their ancient five-stroke clave pattem. Then they took ther clave rhythm and the three-drum ensemble and created the rumba family of good-time party music, wittr a vocal style srongly influenced by Spanish singing and the traditional African religious songs. Later still, styles such as son and mnmbo, using a slightly differemt clave atd,European instnrments, would evolve into the salsa so popular today.
carnaval rhytlm, basing In North America, the African slave trade was relatively meager and short-lived. Blacks were always a minority, and had no legal protection or social space to exist as free men and women. Atteilpts to maintain their languages and religions were suppressed. Without a stream of African-born arrivals to maintain specific cultures, ribal identities were lost. However, persons of African descent in the U.S. managed to reiain the key structural feahrres of their ancestral musical

* call and response (solo and chorus) pattern; solist often improvises clever topical verses and extended rhyme schemes * rhyttm as a number of fixed, simple patterns tlrat interact in interesting ways, uls well as improvisation on the structure * speaking styles with lots of rhythm and melody; talking becomes singing (James Brown, Barry White, rap) * rhytlm uses stressed upbeats over a steady pulse to create tension
From work songs to jazz, gospl to funk, these elements have contributed to unique artistic creations respected and imitated around the world. A recent manifestation is rapThip-hop, a modern high+ech music directly linked to Africa, the
mother continent. People interested in rap will benefit from understanding the greater historical context tlrc music springs from. With good music educators all learners discover aspects of the brilliant West African heritage that gives Afto-Latin and African American music their irresistable rhythmic drive, melodic sEength, and critical social awareness.

raditions. These include:

Integrating rap in the curriculum

.analysis of rhythms in terms of pattems *how many beats in one cycle, in 2, in 10; *reproduce orally and with instruments *reproduce with unifix cubes, on graph paper *compare rap bass pmwl rumba clave pattern (see below) .graph data on relative popularity of artists, records sold, themes of songs, etc.

Social Studies
.read, discuss selected lyrics, relate to perceived social reality .study Aftican roots of rap styles (rhythms, vocal styles, dance)

Language Arts
.consider rap lyrics; determine rhymes and near rhymes, use rhymes for spelling


.write andperform original raps

.create backgrounds, rhythm charts, visual art supports; videotape raps
Basic rap

2 + 3 + 4 o @ @ o



.syllabify words and determine stressed


syllables, write in a grid .read, listen to, and sing age-appropriate raps, then write original pieces

rumba clave

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7 + 8

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