African Musical Elements and American Musical Culture

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  3
Wordcount:  568 Words
Date:  2022-06-20


African slaves used music to retain the connection to their culture and as a tool to protest inhumane conditions. African-American music characterised by call-and-response, riffs, and polyrhythms structure. They used drums to communicate in a coded message to plan revolt from slave masters. These musical innovations by slaves paved the way for artistic change by African American, community and it has influenced the music industry in the US. The adaptation of Africa system of music occurred in churches. Improvisation, rhythms, harmonies, and melodies became the heart of invention of Jazz. In this case, improvisation is embellishment around a song original melody and polyrhythm is the overlapping of various rhythmic patterns. Call and response style is when a dance leaders shout a statement, and the audience shout back.

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Part A


The element involves various rhythms which are unexpected and make a piece of music off-beat. In jazz, syncopation is the break of the course of rhythm or engagement of pulsing stresses where they are would not normally occur. Syncopation appears in jazz by playing rhythms against each other. At that instance, jazz gets its swing, the feeling which makes listeners want to dance. For instance in the jazz version of the song "When the Saints Go Marching In" there is an element of syncopation. The song has intermediate rhythm and syncopation.


Improvisation is the primary style in jazz. However, this takes concentration and skill. Improvisation allows communication between players referred to as the call-and-response pattern (Gridley 2). The three methods of jazz improvisation include motivic, melodic and harmonic. The improvised melody occurs by the use of syncopation, slurs and alternate notes to form new tune in new ways. Improvising harmony employs tone and chord centres to inspire new soloing. In Coleman Hawkins song body and soul the pianist plays the four-bar introduction, and at the ninth second, there is solo with three introductory notes. At the fifteenth second, drum cymbal enters lightly emphasising the backbeat and at 0:51 second, "A" modulation leads to the bridge, in the distant key of D major. At the 1:11 improvisation is securely in double-time, moving in 16th notes, twice as fast as the accompaniment. There is improvisation at the 1:46 by use of sequences: short melodic patterns repeated on different pitches.

Part B

It is true that jazz is listened to and played by people of all ethnicities and culture. After reading these articles, I was left wondering why people like jazz. I believe the answer lies with the four primary elements in music, melody, harmony, tone and rhythm.

Jazz was started in New Orleans in the 20th century. Its origins are in musical practices of Europe and Africa (Gridley 3). From Africa, jazz got blues which is its quality, rhythm and feel and culture of playing instruments as an addition to the human voice. From European music, Jazz got harmony, which is chord which accompanies the tunes and instruments as many of them originated in Europe. Musical improvisation came from Africa and Europe. In New Orleans, these four elements came together because the place was a meeting point for people of different ethnic groups and it was a city where musicians had the chance to play music together and learn from each other.

Works Cited

Gridley, Mark. A Concise Guide to Jazz. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2014. Web. 24 June 2018.

"Coleman Hawkins-Body and Soul 1939.Wmv." YouTube. N.p., 2011. Web. 24 June 2018.

Cite this page

African Musical Elements and American Musical Culture. (2022, Jun 20). Retrieved from

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