The Songs of Black (women) Folk: Music, Politics, and Everyday Living

Posted: April 10, 2012 in Female Blues, Rasheedah Jenkins

Author: Rasheedah Jenkins

Source: Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College


In this study, the author uses folk music as the primary interest and chosen location to acknowledge Black women’s participation from beyond the margins. The study reveals that folk music is as a lens into the myriad ways in which Black women have translated vernacular traditions into a means to deconstruct the master narrative as well as interrogate racist patriarchy.

Specifically, this study examines how Nina Simone, Tracy Chapman, and Lauryn Hill have appropriated the folk aesthetic as a vehicle for social activism and cultural autobiography.

The study broadens the scope of folk music by discussing the Afro-American oral tradition, cultural experience(s), and political practices. It traces the tradition from its early forms such as hollers and sorrow songs to blues and rap, its latest evolution. It delineates the roots of Black folk music as both balm and battle cry during periods of social upheaval, since the music has long provided a living record of African American struggle. In particular, the study address how Black female performers have appropriated the folk aesthetic as a means of political expression, ethno-autobiography/documentation, and for community/nation-building projects.
The scholarship on American folk music has marginalized Black folk music and musicians, or discussed it from a masculinist perspective, thus emphasizing only the Black male contribution. This study corrects this imbalance by focusing on the African American female contribution within the Black folk music tradition.



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