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The cultural imprint of Africa in the Americas

A black and white picture of Scrapper Blackwell wearing a white t shirt and holding a guitar.
Indiana Historical Society
Scrapper Blackwell

What would the Americas and the Caribbean be without the presence of Africans? We would not have rumba, cumbia, salsa, blues, gospel, or soul music; nor would we have zouk, reggae, meringue, jazz, mambo, cha cha, and many other hybrid rhythms we hear today.

The influence of that African presence is obvious in northern, southern, and central American nations and the Caribbean. The imported African culture stood the hardship of slavery; it also withstood the wrath of those whose agenda was a systematic genocide of the African people they forcibly brought to the Americas.

Today African popular music is on the rise all over the world and the fusion with other forms and styles is outstanding. History cannot hide the presence of Mother Africa everywhere around the earth.

Take a listen to five songs that highlight the influence of Africa on music across the globe.

"Kokomo Blues" by Scrapper Blackwell from South Carolina

Kokomo Blues

Scrapper Blackwell was an American blues guitarist playing a very distinct West African blues style. African influences can be heard in blues music from the American south. Many of the early singers were descendants of slaves and elements of their music reach back to African origins.

Naguya Nei by Paul Nabor from Belize

Paul Nabor - Naguya Ne (I Am Moving On)

Nabor is best known for the song "Naguya Nei," which translates to “I am moving on.” He is often credited with popularizing Paranda, a style of traditional Garifuna music. The basic rhythm can be heard in Garifuna traditional drumming styles that date all the way back to St. Vincent and West Africa. He was one of the most talented musicians of the genre.

Africa by Aurelio Martinez from Honduras

Aurelio Martinez -Africa - www.SoyGarifuna.com

This song was the intro for AfricaMix for several years. It is by Garifuna songwriter, singer, and guitarist Aurelio Martinez credited with transforming the music of the Garifuna from local curiosity to a global phenomenon. The Garifuna are a mix of people from West Africa, the Carib Islands, and Central Africa.

Cachon dice Elena by Paracumbe from Puerto Rico

Cachón dice Elena

This group’s musical styles and associated dances originating in Puerto Rico were developed by enslaved Africans. The drums speak with the voices.

Samba Malata by Lucila Campos from Peru

Samba Malato

She deserves a separate award for her extraordinary talent for interpreting Creole music that will never go out of style.

Emmanuel Nado is at the forefront of promoting African music and culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is from Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa, a country which for many years has been the crossroad of African popular music. As a journalist, promoter and radio producer, Nado is an active force in the African music scene in the U.S. In the early '90s, his published articles on African music and the artists were eye openers to many Bay Area African music aficionados.