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African American Studies

The Discipline and Its Dimensions


Nathaniel Norment, Jr.

African American Studies: The Discipline and Its Dimensions is a comprehensive resource book that recounts the development of the discipline of African American Studies and provides a basic reference source for sixteen areas of knowledge of the discipline: anthropology, art, dance, economics, education, film, history, literature, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, political science, science and technology, sports and religion. African American Studies defines bodies of knowledge, methodologies, philosophies, disciplinary concepts, contents, scope, topics scholars have concerned themselves, as well as the growth, development, and present status of the discipline. African American Studies validates that African American Studies is a unique and significant discipline—one that intersects almost every academic discipline and cultural construct—and confirms that the discipline has a noteworthy history and a challenging future. The various bodies of knowledge, the philosophical framework, methodological procedures, and theoretical underpinnings of the discipline have never been clearly delineated from an African-centered perspective.

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11. African American Music


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African American Music

Mate Masie “What I hear, I keep” Symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and prudence

The African Antecedent

The role of music in the traditional African context is simultaneously complex across time and space and related to the cultural commonalities inherent in the range of African cultures. From their eastern African origin through the Nile Valley Plateau, cultural rhythms of the Africana experience were often transmitted through various mediums, music being one prolific method. Through migrations and other physical changes on the continent, populations began to inhabit areas with attendant climactic and environmental differences. However, the adaptation to these various environments preserved much of the same or related Africana cultural characteristics. This chapter briefly explores the meaning and purpose behind the music that arose from various African cultural contexts prior to the intervention of Europe. It can be argued that music was one of the areas that was generally uninterrupted by European and/or Arab colonization under the continent, despite attempts to suppress Africana ways of life in general. Music, whether in the form of instrumentation or via vocalists, became one of the principal ways by which Africans “wrote” their histories, preserved their cultures and maintained a sense of identity.

The scholarly study of music follows a traditional methodology of examining both the content as well as purpose of music in various societies. At another level, studies also explore the technical aspects of music as...

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