Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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172 NEGRO FOLK MUSIC IN THE NEW WORLD
veloped (or not developed in a specialized or striking direction), such as scale and form, seem to have given way and to have been re­placed by features bearing the European trademark.
Anthropologists who have studied the relationship between African and American Negro cultures have often remarked on the great extent to which African features have remained in the Ameri­can Negro's musical repertory. At times this fact has been ascribed to the supposedly special native musical talent of Negroes, and it has even been supposed that certain musical features (emphasis on rhythm, call-and-response, and so forth) are part of the Negro's biological heredity. The question of basic musical talent is unsolved (but it seems unlikely that any racial group would have precedence in the inheritance of such a complex group of aspects of behavior as musical talent), and several studies have shown that the inheritance of specific musical features has never been proved. The explanation is probably much simpler. Music plays an important role in African Negro life and ritual, and as such has occupied a position of high value. It is not surprising that the Africans cherished their musical heritage when they were brought to the iVmericas. Also, music was in several ways more complex and more highly developed in Africa than in the Indian and Western folk cultures with which the Ne­groes came into contact in the Americas. Finally, the Negroes have not been in the New World so very long, and it seems probable that the more Negroes were isolated as groups, the more African their music remained. Also, the more closely a piece of music or a body of songs was associated with religion or ritual, the more likely it was to have features of African styles. But only occasionally, at least in North America, do the songs have elements of African languages; and there seem to be few melodies of African origin in the New World repertories.
Among the New World Negro populations, those of Haiti, the Guianas, and Northern Brazil (especially Bahia) seem to have folk music most similar in style to that of Africa. Jamaica, Trinidad, and Cuba are next, and the United States Negro music exhibits the few­est Africanisms. Usually, the Negroes living in the cities have become more acculturated and thus have lost more of their African heritage than those living in the rural areas, especially in the United States. But this is not the case everywhere, for the large Negro populations in Brazilian cities seem to have been sufficiently cohesive to retain a







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III