Call and Response: Rhythm and Identify Unifying a Culture Together

Looking deep into the content we’ve learned and discussed thus far within this course, our reading and learning of the Call and Response anthology has educated me in a lot of different facets outside of my current knowledge behind African American culture  a handful of my peers were also intrigued by the influence of music impacting African American culture, but I felt that the video presentation of Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon was a perfect visual representation of the magnitude music has upon one culture.  Through the readings we’ve been analyzing and learning from, the visual presentation told us a lot about how impactful music can really be, whether it be the composition in which it was written, the rhythm, the contagious energy of uniting those beside you, and allowing you to be heard in an area of silence and isolation.  This is displayed through history itself in protests, church, and other events that unites a culture and bands together which is a beautiful sight and a solid representation of it’s impact, especially when referring to its transition into literature.

When we refer to the Title ”Call and Response”, one could acknowledge the nod to the world of music, as call and response in music terms refers to a solo demonstration of a certain phrase, while the response is the ensemble following up with that next phrase.  Similar to that representation, call and response is enabling unity, and telling a story about heritage and culture to the audience, giving the audience the response.  I found that Call and Response and the texts we’ve read thus far truly garner an aesthetic approach versus belletristic.  The content being explained and taught relies heavily on the anthology and the response of the reader.  With a greater focus on the presentation of the culture and experience more than the literature aspect of all of it.

For a reference, if we look at Barkley Brown’s African American Women’s Quilting, we get visual, and foreign linguistic demonstration on how quilting is a good portion of African American culture and its definition to its respected heritage.  We can identify this in the text where it states, “Wahlman and Scully argue that African-American quilters prefer the sporadic use of the same material in several squares when this material could have been used uniformly because they prefer

variation to regularity” (Brown, 923).  The key word that speaks for itself is variation over regularity, that each color, knit, and patch has its own individual identity and makes its unique to any other culture existing.  It’s supported later in the text where it describes the off-beat patterning that reflects the multiple rhythms and patterns within a controlled design.  I found this information  fascinating as rhythm seems to be a prominent factor in this culture’s congruence.  We can see in the visuals how scattered the creativity is within each square in the quilt, with different shapes almost defining each person’s story behind its creation.

This outside text supports the idea of identity being a big factor into the governing aesthetic in the Call and Responses anthology.  Each distinct individual detail reflects the identity of African American culture and what it means to be a part of it, and spreading awareness and unity along with it.  When reading through Call and Responses early subtopics, oral traditions were a dominant aspect of African American cultures and explained above, whether it be voiced through dance, song and basic oral discourse.  This can be explained in Call in response where it explains, “There, and in otherwise secret and forbidden gatherings, they could exchange stories about African life, create new lore about their American experience, and express these reflections in dance and song.  Usually, they sang two types of songs—religious and secular—although one kind of music was not necessarily exclusive of the other” (11).  We learned about the anguish and brutal torture slavery brought to innocent African American lives; with that being said, this type of musical discourse was so pivotal to this culture and helped each person involved tell their story and unify each other together, which is powerful in it of itself.  

Chiming into the spiritual significance that influenced and built on African American culture, biblical narratives shed light on instances of hardship that are shared and amongst many.  In an excerpt from Banna Kanutes Sunjata, we get an instance of a similar story between Sunjata and a heroic biblical figure like Moses.  While this excerpt talks about the conflicts experienced by Sunjata, this is immediately followed up by Go Down, Moses which is displayed to tell a similar story with a biblical approach, to empathize the multiple instances of religion being parallel with the situations and lives of those going through pain, struggle, and injustice.  From my perspective, these excerpts were very emotional, yet hard for me to understand and comprehend by its language and presentation.  Ultimately this is something I’ve never particularly read before.  I don’t find myself as invested with religion currently, but that doesn’t mean understanding one’s religion or beliefs is not possible.  However, I strongly value the way of telling a story and the influence religion can bring to storytelling and the culture itself, which I love.

The Call and Response approach to our studies of African American Culture is very insightful, as there are multiple instances of music and rhythm that are huge compositions to the body of African American culture.  I found that rhythm itself is not just tempo, harmonies and an ensemble but rather the flow and spreading of unity identity to a culture enriched in emotional and vivid stories and experiences that are individually special that gain more significance when told and passed to those engrossing in learning or being apart of the history of the culture itself.  There is and still a lot that I honestly don’t quite understand but that’s ok.  Being open minded and hearing and reading the stories and history, is what is expanding and growing my knowledge about the culture itself.  I found the spiritual, musical, oral, and artistic foundations of this culture so distinct that separates its importance from any culture I’ve learned about so far.  The rhythms we’ve heard and learned is only destined to change over time and the more I engross myself in the history of the culture, the more I will find the rhythm to change and shine.

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