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Slave music can be grouped in three major categories: religious, work, and recreational. African traditions and Christianity inspired religious songs; work songs eased the burden of hard labor and helped slaves synchronize group tasks, encouraged slaves during long hours of physical toil; it kept their spirit up and could work harder and longer. Recreational songs mostly were played on string instruments; in their free time slaves listened and danced to the music. The lyrics of the slave music were simple; it expressed their hardship, sadness, and feelings (“Understand Slave Culture Through Songs”). They lyrics were repetitive which appealed to their educational levels. Slaves used music to protest against slavery by ridiculing their masters in songs. For example, a group of slaves witnessed their master falling from his horse, which was turned into a song with thinly veiled lyrics and sung by all the slaves in the field the next day as he rode by (“The New World” 1). It was mentioned above that salves did not pay much attention to the lyrics; however they were expressive that promised a better world in this and the next life. For example (Faigin 1), There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. One of these mornings bright and fair, I’m gonna lay down my heavy load. Gonna kick my wings and cleave the air, I’m gonna lay down my heavy load. Nat Turner was born on October 2, 1800, and was hanged on and skinned on November 1832 (“Net Turner’s Rebellion”). After the Nat Turner revolt, strict curfews required slaves to show passes in their travel from one plantation to another. At that time, slaves expressed their emotions through the following lyrics (Faigin): Run nigger,...
This essay approves that American slaves found music as a mode of communication and expression. Slave music can be grouped in three major categories: religious, work, and recreational. African traditions and Christianity inspired religious songs; work songs eased the burden of hard labor and helped slaves synchronize group tasks, encouraged slaves during long hours of physical toil; it kept their spirit up and could work harder and longer. Recreational songs mostly were played on string instruments; in their free time slaves listened and danced to the music.
This report makes a conclusion that American slave culture flourished over three centuries. On one hand, their hard work built the economic foundation of the country; on the other hand, they faced whippings, beatings, executions, and rapes. Even in this atmosphere, slaves developed their own culture, which was based on a variety of African tribal customs; story telling and enthusiastic group worship. In the American society, they were prevented from reading and writing. So they did not have a mode of communication. They compensated it by embracing a different form of communication; music, the concept that they brought from their homeland. Thus, music became a vital part of the American slave culture. It bolstered their spirits, gave hope, and strength in their daily lives that mainly consisted of hardship. Eventually, their songs became descriptive that provided them with directions on how to escape to freedom.
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