ISO African music

Three examples of African music’s influence on American music come to mind, fairly specific examples. They all come from Cuba.
The first is the arrival of Chano Pozo in the U.S. just as Dizzy Gillespie was creating the form of jazz that would take over from Big Band and New Orleans jazz to form the base of most contenporary music. Gillespie describes how he and Pozo, riding in the back of the bus [tour bus, not what you think, although Pozo met his end b/c he tired of Jim Crow on their travels and stayed in Harlem where he died in a bar fight], pounding out rhythms on their suitcases. Thus the deepest rhythms of the African Diaspora, known in Cuba as Abakua and in Calabar [Cross River state in Nigeria] as Ekpe [Cuban Ekwe], for Pozo was a member the Abakua society. Incorporating those rhythms into American music was Gillespie’s achievement that will eventually be entered into the cultural history books.
Some years later, in the 50s, a White Cuban band leader quite at home with the African rhythms of his homeland, found himself as a lead character in the most famous television program ever, I Love Lucy. Almost any American over the age of 50 knows Babalu Aye, the song Arnaz sings and whose rhythm he more or less taps out on the conga slung over his shoulder, comparsa style. Yet they no doubt believe the song is in Spanish when in fact it is in Yoruba [known as Lucumi in Cuba] and is a hymn to a major deity in the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santeria. In this way, Americans were directly exposed to the deepest traditions of African origin in the whole of the Americas.
According to a wonderful episode of Afro-Pop, the Cuban ’son’ came into American music and formed the rhythmic basis of early rock and roll. The three beats of the son supplied the rollicking swing of the rock and roll of Fats Domino and so many others of that era. As more and more Whites took up rock and roll and the term Rhythm and Blues was reserved for music of that type in the Black African tradition, that early feel was elaborate beyond recognition but remains not only in rock and R&B, but also in Country & Western and popular music generally. Movies like Hair Spray and The Blues Brothers hip a new generation to this music.
About 1959 I blindly ordered a record from the Ethnic Folkways label titled Drums of the Yoruba. I swore it sounded like someone had pulled a bunch of pots and pans out of the cupboard and sent them clattering to the floor. I persisted and began to hear patterns. Then I encountered Yoruba students and Ewe and Hausa students at AzSU and we became friends. They helped me understand the rhythms and the Pentecostal churchI began attending helped me feel the rhythms. Nevertheless, seeing and hearing African music in performance was very difficult to secure. Now I sit in front of my computer as I type and watch one of many hundreds of visual recordings of such music.
Here is just one:
The opening piece sounds just like that record of long ago.

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