The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History From Africa to the United State. – Review – book review
Dale Edwyna Smith
The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History From Africa to the United States by Samuel A. Floyd Jr. (Oxford: 1995. $30)–With a tip of his hat to music historian Eileen Southern and to Amiri Baraka (whose 1963 Blues People remains a classic on black music), Floyd makes his case that black music in America owes more to African than to European influences. The inclusion here of a history of African music and its “transformations” (updating Lawrence Levine’s classic Black Culture and Black Consciousness) is particularly useful. Floyd concludes that an undiluted black “core” culture has been responsible for perpetuating and creating music from a mostly African source, striving to break down the barriers between “high” and “low” art. He also finds that the interaction between musician and audience (“call and response”) has been critical to the reservation of African influences.
Dale Edwyna Smith is an assistant professor of American history and Afro-American history at Washington University in St. Louis. Her articles have appeared in Southern Review and Belles Lettres.
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