How banning the African drum gave birth to American music | Chris Johnson | TEDxHudson

How banning the African drum gave birth to American music | Chris Johnson | TEDxHudson

Translator: Tijana Mihajlović
Reviewer: Denise RQ When I was in graduate school
working on the doctorate, I eventually reached the point where you have to decide
on a topic for the dissertation. The dissertation, or thesis,
or book has to be original and it has to make
a contribution to the field, in my case, American studies. I didn’t know what I was going to do,
although I had one idea: I thought of creating a study
of the drum, the African drum, and how it was used in early America. There is a cliche in American history that the African drum was banned,
prohibited in early America, because it was thought that the drum was used as a tool
of communication in slave revolts. Think of an object, a cultural object,
that has been banned, taken by one group from another group. Can you think of any examples? Books have been banned over time in various places. The phrase “banned in Boston”
comes to mind. Alcoholic drink was banned in the early 20th century
during Prohibition. In Western Europe,
the Jewish Torah was banned, taken from public view. In the British Isles, bagpipes were banned by the English
against the Irish, long ago. I took my idea for a studying of the drum
in the Americas back to my professors and they said, “No, Chris, you can’t do a study
on the drum in the Americas. There’s no evidence. There’s one example,
you know, the guy up at Yale. Everyone uses his quote.” Well, after two years, I had found over 140 personal accounts and over 563 citations of the use of the African drum
in the Americas. Many people wrote
about African-American culture generally in the early Americas: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Hector St. John de Crèvecœur
in his “Letters from an American Farmer”, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens,
Rudyard Kipling, among others. I’d like to share three examples with you. Sir Hans Sloane was one of the creators of The British Museum. This is his writing. Have a quick look. In the 1700s, he was physician
to the Duke of Albemarle in Jamaica and during his time there wrote about African slaves
that he saw performing. Notice here towards the bottom, he says, “It was thought to” regarding the use of the drum
in relation to war. Also the word ‘thouls’;
it’s just a part of the drum. Colonel Edward Marcus Despard
was sent by the British Crown to Honduras in 18th century
to assist with the settlement there. He also wrote an account
and here, in the middle of the page, – take my word for it – (Laughter) he writes about how a group of slaves
were playing a gumbe drum and caused a stir in the town. In the 19th century, Benjamin Latrobe, who was an architect,
a surveyor, and an engineer – he helped design Washington D.C. – visited New Orleans and created
drawings of the drums he saw there. He also drew
other instruments that he saw. Here on the left
is an early version of the banjo. The banjo isn’t an American invention. The banjo uses
drum technology and its construction. Here, a skin is stretched over gourd
and neck is attached with strings, an African style sculpture at the top. My research showed that there were many non-violent uses
of the drum in the Americas, such as for weddings, at Christmas time, for harvest festivals, to signal an arrival, and for dance. Oh, and the war drum – there wasn’t any. Of the approximately 250 revolts in the Americas during the slave epoch, how many used drums? Two: one in Louisiana,
the other in South Carolina. So, the drum was banned, although the ban didn’t work. But the drum was banned. The situation led
to the creation of surrogates, substitutes, other instruments used
in the place of the drum, such as tambourine, bones, the banjo, and fiddle. Imagine being a slave. You have few personal items,
your time is not your own, and you do really hard work. The instruments African Americans used then had to be small,
lightweight, and portable. After Emancipation, African Americans got their hands
on many more instruments, particularly those of the marching band. The marching band and its music
was a kind of a popular form in the late 19th century; brass instruments,
woodwind instruments, and percussion. In the early 20th century, black players began to experiment with the form and the instruments. They also began to improvise. Picture the instruments,
the percussion instruments, of the marching band: bass drum, tam-tam, snare, and cymbals arranged on the floor not so that one person
could play each instrument, which is the case in a marching band, but so that one person played all of the instruments. This innovation led to the development of one of the most important
instruments in music today, the drum set. By the way, this is a photo of Max Roach. So it was that a simple musical instrument made of wood and skin that was loved by many
and taken away, returned, and was the cause, the catalyst
of something amazing. Thank you. (Applause)

67 thoughts on “How banning the African drum gave birth to American music | Chris Johnson | TEDxHudson

  1. Thanks for posting this. This is the exact same discussion/evidence that I use in my drumming classroom. Great to see that others are asserting the history. I will now use this video in my class to give more confirmation.

  2. Wow I loved your explanation and detail of this important topic. Beauty is only skin deep ha that is drum skin.

  3. many things are wrongly (my opinion) banned today. It depends on the ruling culture of the time.

  4. This was so informative. I loved this. Wow, who would've thought improvisation would lead to the invention of the drum-kit. You learn something new everyday.

  5. there is not such a thing as the African drum? there 100 s of different drums on the African continent. Just in my tribe, we have two major drums.

  6. I know that he's dropping dimes…but that fact that he ain't got a belt on is really irking me.

    Plus he got the swag of the doctor on ST Voyager.

  7. There is not only a lack of evidence, this is getting way less of a response than it should. The influence of banning the drum staggers the imagination, once he explains it.

  8. Interesting review of the history of African drums and drumming in the Americas, and how it influenced American music and its instrumentation. .

  9. It couldn't have been an African drum. Simply because why would they let slaves bring entertainment? It was the Real CopperColored American Indians Drum.

  10. Very informational and nice! I really like the way he explains and speaks slowly so people can hear and comprehend at the same time.

  11. This dude really chilled me out the way he speaks and the pace at which he does so is great! Insightful talk also

  12. I am pretty sure if anyone banned that drum it is because it is so intellectually stunting to call that art that it prevents ambitious people from Striving/thriving.

    But of course I don't know.

    And it was a tool of communication. It encourages cultural pride. A pride in uncivilness/uncultivated minds.

    I'm being mean. But I'd tell him to learn an instrument … Something that was a marketable skills. Instead of beating a diaper.

  13. Thank you for helping me understand that the drum is our form of book ,art and language,culturally speaking!??

  14. Dear Dr. Chris Johnson i really commend your well articulated presentation that is loaded with a lot of information to feed upon. May i point out that there's No "War Drums" because it is not the object or the seize of the Drum but the Beat , the sound of the drumming that dictates War, Dance, celebration or Funneral.
    In this you exposed how the modern drumset came about – Thank you Very much!!!

  15. And there’s a Jamaican that is still one of the best drummer in the world! What will be again and there’s nothing new under the sun. Full circle ⭕️

  16. Boring and shallow lecture no matter what anyone have to tell me here, simply not good enough!

  17. This should be titled "how banning the African drum HELPED give birth to American music". No one is denying the massive contribution of africans/african americans to the history of American music….however…to take 100% credit for it is just absurd.

  18. New Orleans (& Congo Square, in particular), have often been cited as links to Africa that enabled the survival of African culture, in the diaspora; (With Louisina being colonized by the French, a different set of laws applied to enslaved Africans (which, in many instances, did not initially ban the use of drums, such as at Congo Square, in New Orleans, where the former slaves were allowed to gather, to dance, drum, and practice their culture, on sundays).

    There were times, during Louisiana’s early history, when the drumming in Congo Sq was quashed, by local authorities (particularly, following the Haitian revolution, which was especially significant, as thousands of former planters/ plantation owners, were forced to relocate/emigrate from Hispaniola/ San Domingues (now, the Dominican Republic &?Haiti).

    Likewise, in many other parts of the African diaspora (particularly, throughout the Caribbean, and in the areas now commonly referred to as “Latin” America), Local governance under different colonizing powers (other than the British) gave rise to a different set of laws/rules governing slaves that some historians say were more “laissez faire”, less bent on control, and more culturally tolerant – allowing for the survival (& perhaps, the transplanting) & resurgence of African culture – If we examine the music & culture of nearly every Caribbean country, we see a similar cultural history, where African elements have flourished and become a significant part of those cultures, and their music;

    Likewise, we see this in the Carnival culture of Brazil (especially, in the Bahia region), and throughout “Latin” America. In the US, that link to Mother Africa, no doubt, played an enormous role, in the music that came out of New Orleans, and Louisiana (not only the birth of Jazz, but also of Rhythm & Blues, and much of the music that would eventually come to be known as Rock’n Roll).

  19. I would have been thoroughly impressed if he had a concluded with a picture of Warren baby dodds from New Orleans that played with King Oliver in Chicago…one of the great drummers of all times… And he was also the first drummer to record drum solo albums for instruction

  20. The drum also played a very significant role in religion and spirituality. Hence the Shango/Orisha rhythms of Trinidad and the use of drums in other Yoruba derived faiths of the Caribbean.
    I am inclined to think that banning drums had a lot to do with Christianity and suppressing other religious beliefs.

  21. ”The Negroes… formerly on their Festivals were allowed the use of trumpets after their Fashion, and Drums made of a piece of a hollow Tree, covered on one end with any green Skin, and stretched with Thouls or Pins. But making use of these in their Wars at home in Africa, it was thought to much inciting them to Rebellion, and so they were prohibited by the Customs of the Island.”

    Sir Hans Sloan’s, 1689

    see TedxHudson: “How banning the African drum gave birth to American music” by Chris Johnson

  22. The prohibition against wearing tartan and playing bagpipes were part of the penal laws introduced by the Hanoverian British Government after the failed 1745 uprising in Scotland and the UK and aimed specifically at breaking those Highland clans who had supported the previous Jacobite dynasty in their attempt to regain the thrones of Scotland & England (not all clans supported the Jacobites). So it was definitely in Britain but the ban was not introduced in Ireland which was also part of the UK at that time.

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