African American Vernacular
Works of the African American Vernacular Culture When thinking of musical genres such as Jazz, blues, and hip-hop, most Americans do not realize that they are the essential components to the evolution of African American Vernacular Literature. In fact, It Is the key factor that brought African American culture Into the limelight In America. Since the first black peoples In America were slaves, and were not allowed to read or write, the African American Vernacular Traditions began as completely oral communications in the form of church songs, blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and hip hop.
The African American Vernacular began as Spiritual and Secular works, which portrayed the struggles of the slaves and black population over the centuries. Through the years, African American Vernacular has advanced into the most widely listened to musical genre in America’s youth today. The African American vernacular “consists of forms sacred-?songs, prayers, sermons-?and secular-?work songs, secular rhymes and songs, blues, Jazz, and stories of many kinds It also consists of dances… ” (Gates, McKay 6).
Traits that suggest that a work Is of African American culture consist of : Call-response patterns, dance- eats, and most Importantly, Improvisation. (Gates, McKay, 6). The earliest form of these spoken traditions are known as spirituals. African American slaves are reported to have sung these religious songs since the beginning of slavery. Slaves sang these tunes all throughout the day to provide a mental escape from their current state and to explain their sorrows and hardships (Gates, McKay, 8).
The slave masters thought the slaves were singing these songs through their forced belief in the Christian religion, but they actually contained codes that referred to the slaves obtaining freedom. I’m trying’ to make heaven my home” is a common phrase in spirituals, as in City Called Heaven (Gates, McKay, 11). After Spirituals came Gospels, which were nearly the same as Spirituals, but more geared to the acceptance of Christianity. They are so similar that some songs can be considered both Gospel and Spirituals.
Gospels were very specific toward Jesus rather than broader Like Spirituals, almost Like a communication with God. Gospels became popular in the sass’s and introduced the usage of instruments. They were the first to be marketed and are still being written and composed today in modern hurries. Gospels also heavily influenced the development of the blues. “… To term a poem or work of fiction a ‘blues piece’ or to note blues influence within it is to associate it with modern black American vernacular expression at its finest” (Gates, McKay, 49).
The blues originated in Louisiana at the beginning of the 20th century. Although they were derived from Spirituals and Gospels, only one person sings, rather than an entire chorus. An interesting aspect of the blues is the call and response between either the singer and the chorus, and the singer and an instrument. During these call and response sections with an instrument, the Instrument tends to mall not only the tune, but also the tone of the vocalist. They do not mention anything sacred; therefore they are secular, unlike gospel and spirituals.
Instead, it explains earthly troubles and hopes for better days. It is a way considered the father of the blues because he compiled the first idiomatic pattern for blues song, which consisted of 12 bar forms, three lines and four beats in each. Ere first and second lines were identical, with the third line completing the thought. Gates, McKay, 48). Although this is a common pattern, it is not required in a blues song, nor does it define a blues song. The blues also has a great deal on Improvisation, which gives it an important African American characteristic.
Blues was also one of the major genres that inspired the works of Jazz to be born. Jazz also began in the first few decades of the 20th century, and was not only influenced by the blues, but also “ragtime, marching band music, opera and other European classical music, Native American music, Spirituals, work songs… ” (Gates, McKay, 64). Jazz was created to encompass the many aspects of urban America, pacifically the train. The locomotive represented moving away from old slave territories, images of trains from old spirituals, and the Underground Railroad (Gates, McKay, 65).
It is also described as “Jam-session-like talk” that drove people to get up and dance (Gates, McKay, 65). Like the blues, Jazz uses call and response and call and recall between the singer and instruments to create a conversation-like sound. It also uses improvisation, which is characteristic of African American vernacular. Lazy artists understand and base their works off the fact that things Just might not urn out how they want them to, yet they still celebrate life and possibilities (Gates, McKay, 65). Rhythm and Blues came onto the scene thanks to the marketplace rather than musicians.
After World War II, black dance music became popular and began to appear all over the world in dance halls and even variety shows. By the sass’s, records were being produced and even worked up for “cross-over marketing to white audiences” (Gates, McKay, 69). R&B music combined blues, Jazz, Latin and gospel, and was influenced by blue-mood crooners, gospel and blues stoppers, and a chapel singers who created a style called dodo-hop (Gates, McKay, 69). The Mouton label developed a group of singers in the sass’s to increase record sales to teens.
This group of talented artists included The Jackson 5, the Temptations, and Martha and the Vandals. As many know, Michael Jackson from the Jackson 5 would go on to be a mega pop artist, possibly the most influential of his time. R&B can be described as blues like with sentimental songs, or upbeat and cheerful, such as Martha and the Vandals’, Dancing’ in the Street. Another highly famous singer, Retreat Franklin was influential in the Rhythm and Blues frenzy. With her song, Respect, came a complete protest to the man’ as well as men in relationships.
With songs and groups such as these, Rhythm and Blues shed even more light on the African American vernacular culture. The most recent African American influenced craze is Hip Hop. It is inspired by many of the same cultures such as Native Americans Caribbean and Europeans. Otherwise known as rap, hip hop is a type of “stylized talk between verses that is characteristic of blues and rhythm and blues song forms” (Gates, McKay, 78). It can be traced back everywhere from black preacher’s sermons, to game chants, to barber shop arguing.
It also derives from the banter of disc Jockeys who spoke over the recording they were spinning (Gates, McKay, 78). It also has traces of scat singing In the late ass’s hip hop became popular underground in New York City, and finally it was recognized by producers. It’s unique way or using sound systems as instruments by scratching and spinning records made it highly marketable. The first song ever released was Rappers Delight by Sugar Hill gang (Gates, McKay, 79), which traveled all over the world, creating a sensation. This is where the title ‘rapper’ came from, although most artists still prefer hip hop or M.
C. Hip hop today influences violence, verbal and physical, and can be crude and ‘Lugar at times as well. Hip hop artists argue that these themes only echo current Issues in the U. S. Culture. Political agendas and views are also placed into these Norms such as “racial profiling and other forms of harassment that our nation is still struggling to address” (Gates, McKay, 79). Rap also supports graffiti, as well as sets new trends for dress, hairstyle and formal writing (Gates, McKay, 80). Hip Hop explains the struggles of African Americans in America, Just like spirituals and work songs did for the slaves.
For instance, in 1982 Grandmaster Flash & Ere Furious Five recorded The Message, which depicts the hard life of a young African American man trying to survive in America. “l can’t walk through the park cause it’s crazy after dark/Keep my hand on my centaurs they got me on the run/’ feel like an outlaw/Broke my last glass Jaw/Hear the say, Mimi want some more? /Living’ on a seesaw/ Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge/lam trying’ not to lose my head/ Say what? /let’s like a Jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder/How I keep from going under” (Gates, McKay, 84). This verse vividly shows what disadvantaged African
Americans have to struggle for safety and even survival in their neighborhoods. He goes on to explain how it is hard to be stay sane while in a situation he has no way of getting out of. This song has become widely popular again since the release of Happy Feet, the movie, released in 2004. In the movie, the baby penguins are supposed to sing a song that comes from their heart, which their mates will be attracted to. One baby penguin sings The Message as his mating call. Ludicrous released a song in December 2004 called The Potion. He incorporates his own verses, as well as a work song from when the slaves were working in the fields. Is song is called Pick a Bale of Cotton. Ludicrous uses the work song, “Jump down, turn around to pick a bale of cotton. /Jump down, turn around, pick a bale a day. ‘ Oh Lordly, pick a bale of cotton! /Oh Lordly, pick a bale a day! ” (Gates, McKay, 40). Then he comes in with his own verse, “Still working like a slave/ Learning tricks in the trade in the ghetto state of mind till I’m rich and I’m paid [picking records/Like cotton in the thick of the day’ Ludicrous is comparing his life of producing records and earning his living in a competitive industry to the slaves working in the cotton and hay fields.