Friday, August 26, 2005

Brian Eno, at one point in his book, A Year With Swollen Appendices, speculates that over 50 percent of all top 40 hits in pop music have demonstrated the call and response pattern of African music, gospel, etc.

The influence of Africa upon the various musics of the 20th and 21st centuries can't be overstated. From the African Diaspora we got the blues, (Corey Harris's Mississippi to Mali is a great exploration of what happens when a blues musician goes back to Africa. It's an amazing album.), jazz, arguably rock&roll, disco, funk, and from disco and funk we got the various subgenres of electronic music, i.e. techno, house, etc. Eventually, certainly by the mid20th century, there was a resurgence in the power of the drum. When the African peoples who were taken in bondage into America were brought over here, their native musics, most notably the drums, were outlawed. They made do with what instruments that the Americans had, such as guitars and so on, often playing then 'wrong' as it were, or playing these instruments with a perspective from their own musical traditions. In other words, a guitar might be played at times in a more rhythmic fashion, like a drum, as is often done in blues. Or a trumpet might be played in a similar way, as is sometimes done in jazz.

And of course, there were those artists during the 20th century who actively sought out this vein of musical heritage, this motherload from the motherland, as it were, and worked in it. Such as the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Or Herbie Hancock. Or Pharoah Sanders. I'm sure there are many others I'm leaving out.

Anyway, not sure what my point is, other than pointing out this hidden influence that most people don't think about.

And of course, the anthropologist in me is just reminded that we ALL come from Africa.

Some of my favorite parts of pop music are the subtle bits when there are horn sections replying to the singer in the background, much like a call and response pattern in African music.

Want to listen to some good African music? Go here. Afropop Worldwide used to be a cool radio show on NPR, and now it's a website. Some of my most fond memories of hanging out with Clint in Fayetteville were times when we were just driving around in his car, and Afropop Worldwide just happened to be on NPR. We'd just be groovin', two white dudes boppin' our heads to grooves from the motherland.


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