Behind Bars

Soul Music

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

From the time the first Africans set their feet on this New World, they brought their rhythms and beats along.

In every land they were shipped to, new music emerged, songs fueled by love and longing; fear and dread; tribulation and triumph—the long thirst for freedom.

They danced in chains—not in happiness but in struggle for survival. Their shackles became the tinkling accompaniment of new melodies, and while the beat of the drum became a capital crime, their bare feet banged against the earth; and they sang songs to ease their sufferings and to pass the long days of bondage.

From Afrobeat to Zouk—literally from A to Z—Black musicians have made the world dance to their distinctive sounds.

From mournful dirges of Negro spirituals, to ragtime, to jazz, to rhythm and blues, soul, black rock, disco, salsa, reggae, meringue, rap, reggae ton and to the next music form that emerges, Africa has shown her many faces and voices in startling creativity.

June is Black Music Month, but not an hour passes that isn’t filled with the music of Black people, causing hearts to soar and heads to bop., June 5, 2010