What are the five cultures present in New Orleans

Rhythm is a major component of African music. Rhythm is actually a major component of African life!!! What our Western European ears used to translate as “savage drumming”, is actually a very sophisticated system of various rhythms all working together. Today we call these “polyrhythms”. These rhythms can b e so complex that our regular western notation system is incapable of even writing them down! Most African music, whether vocal, instrumental or strictly percussive (drums) has a very steady beat underpinning it. Africans brought their drumming tradition with them to the United States. However, many slave owners forbade drums and drumming because they feared the slaves were using the drumming to communicate with each other. Many believe that the slave uprising, Stono Rebellion in South Carolina in 1739 was coordinated by drum signals. After that many colonies banned the use of drums by slaves. But the rhythmic component of the music never left. It was just shifted to hand clapping, foot stomping and more rhythmic singing styles. There is virtually no line between performer and audience in African music . In many African cultures all the members of a village participate in parades or dances. That is not to say that there is no leader in these proceedings, it is just that these events are designed in such a w ay that the public in invited, even expected, to join in. In Western Africa the leader of songs and dances, along with being the keeper and teller of oral history is the “ griot ”. The griot is generally the most highly skilled member of the community and i t is his job to maintain the village’s oral history and traditions through songs, dancing and storytelling. There is no written tradition Songs and history are passed down orally. Most of these cultures didn’t even have a written language or written mus ic. We all know, and could sing “Happy Birthday” if asked. You don’t need the written music or lyrics. You have had them passed down from your “village”. You just know the song because it is part of your life experience. We all know the song and we all par ticipate in its performance.

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