Afro-American people had inherent talent to sing and dance, just as their ancestors in Africa, and they used verbal or the oral tradition to convey their history. Back in the days when slaves were sailed to the new land, they were far away from their hometown, and they were not allowed to use their own languages. The pitiful slaves were cut from their roots; accordingly music and dance became the only links with Africa and their native culture. They integrated their own traditional culture with the culture in this new land, and developed a new culture —Afro-American culture, which contributed to the uniqueness of Afro-American culture. During those bitter times, black slaves used music and dance as ways of entertainment and outlets of their feelings. But later, they got freedom, so a great deal of black people crowed into northern cities to find jobs. Their new lives were still hard and bitter, and music and dance remained the only vent for them to express their dissatisfied feelings and sadness. Later, some talented black people even took music and dance as their profession, and music and dance became commercial tools from the individual amusements.
The Popular Afro-American Music
By the early 1900s, Blues, which was influenced by African American spirituals, ballads, and work songs, had emerged as a category separate from folk. Because of sufferings from the oppression of the while people, the original style of Afro-American music was full of grief and plaintiveness, which was the keynote of Blues.
Blues belonged to the folk music of the black people, which came from the south of America, especially the Mississippi Delta. Now, nobody knows the exact time of its forming, but generally this kind of grieved melody followed the first group of black slaves to the new land. In the beginning, the slaves who lived in the south just got the inspiration from their African ancestors, and got the themes of Blues from their everyday life. Although it’s always so dolorous that it could moved everyone, the slaves just took it as one of the methods to express their feelings in the heart, but not as the way to get others’ sympathy. It was owing to this kind of attitude and purpose that Blues had such a strong vitality.
3.B. The Essence of Afro-American Music
During the history of struggles of Afro-Americans, they dreamed to get a better prospect under new circumstances and with the social progress, but were disappointed with social reality. They got rid of oppression of planters, but suffered the exploitation by capitalists once again. They got less improvement in their living condition and status. They were always the grass root in America. They could not afford the entertainments of the mainstream society, so they created their own ways to enjoy themselves. In that way, Blues, Jazz, Rap & Hip-Hop emerged. These pop styles of music reflected the feelings and desires. Afro-Americans took themselves as one composition of American society, they wanted more equal rights and respect; they desired to get identity by the white people; they expected to make improvements in their lives. They still struggled for what they desire. Just like Martin Luther King, Jr. claimed that they have a dream—dream to be treated fairly. Although Afro-American music suffered exclusion and suppression initially, their emotional style and free spirit became the power of the popularity of Afro-American music, which was just the soul of Afro-American culture. Because of its unique charm, Afro-American music entered the mainstream society, and got identified. The Afro-American culture spread its influence by the popularity of its music. As a matter of fact, the culture reflected incompatible consciousness of Afro-Americans. There was a double-consciousness for them: they were Black people, but most important they were Americans. So they wanted to get self-identify from the society, and their culture gave the way to fulfill it. Therefore, on one side, Afro-American culture put emphasizes on Blackness; they pursued the independence of their culture by esteeming the soul and tradition of the culture of the black people; on the other side, they absorbed more meaningful elements from the mainstream. In a word, Afro-American culture was not a pure African culture, but the blending of Black people’s culture and American culture under the new circumstances, which was root of the popularity of Afro-American culture and its charm.