Paul, here are some interesting things I've found recently that may help add to our understanding of the musical acculturation that was occurring in the South for two hundred years prior to published banjo music. As I continue to dig into this stuff, I find the picture seems much more complex than any simple attempts to segregate musical cultures would allow.
Here is another interesting link. A traditional work song from Scotland devised of short repetitive phrases and a kind of call and response.
In many areas of the Antebellum South and the Caribbean, Africans and African-Americans far outnumbered Europeans; I believe 10 to 1 in some agricultural areas. Though church music was to form an increasingly important interface between European and African traditions, it was not even legal to teach slaves about Christianity throughout most of the period of slavery. I think a case can definitely be made that African-American church music was a very complex mixture of African and European elements. That explains why early observers of African-Americans were disturbed to hear the rhythms and singing styles applied to songs they knew.
Paul, there are large populations of Santeros in the Caribbean- particularly in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Santeria is a widespread religion born from Yoruba African slaves in the Caribbean being forced to deny the religion of their homeland and being made to adopt Catholicism during slavery. Their orishas or gods took on the guises and identities of the various Catholic saints, thus the slaves were able to continue practicing their beliefs mostly under cover. I used to have some LPs of c.1940s-60s Cuban Santero religious music recordings. Alas, I no longer have them, but i imagine they are still offered either on lp, cassette, or cds these days. I bought mine about 30 years ago while living in Puerto Rico. They were rather upbeat chants and dances, with repetitive group vocals and lots of percussion. Awesome stuff, and clearly a blend of African with more familiar 'gospel' styles. No banjos, as far as I can recall. Maybe worth seeking out for general personal enrichment.
Wow. Beautiful documentary. It's wonderful to hear and see the Power of Music in bringing diverse peoples together and a living academic work that focuses on what was shared musically rather than on what was stolen by one group from another group. Roll Tide!
James Pentecost said: