Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Resourceful Origins of Gullah Music

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Music has its place in every culture. The ancestors of the Gullah embraced the "medicinal" feelings they siphoned from the music they made in the fields and during their religious ceremonies. For the slaves, the drum was the focal point of the music - and in certain ways it was even used as a communication device.



Slave owners feared that the slaves could use their drums to conspire and plot plans of escape. Due to this, Africans brought to America were not allowed to have drums. As a result of the necessity for a beat in African and Gullah music, it is said people would bang walking sticks on the wooden floors of their buildings in order to take the place of a drum.

The use of a walking stick to create a drum beat is a terrific example of how resourceful the Gullah ancestors were. They would fill the air with music by using things they had laying around, including making shakers out of hollowed out gourds. Clapping and singing were another way to create music. Singing was one of the main forms of music for the slaves in the low lands because it was allowed by the slave owners.

One of the most interesting musical practices of the African slaves, that is still carried out today, was the ring shout. The ring shout is a religious ritual straight from Africa, which consists of clapping, shuffling, stomping, and revolving around in a ring shape.

The history of Gullah music is extremely rich and has a deep connection with its African roots and ancestors. In fact, much of the music that we listen to today, including Jazz, blues, ragtime, gospel and 'soul music', would not even exist had it not been for the influence of African and Gullah music on the world.
 
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