For the African-Americans brought against their will to America as slaves, music must have represented the only part of their culture that they could hang on to, and which could not be forcibly taken away from them. Because of that, I think their musical traditions must have been enormously important to them on their long sea journey, and later as they tried to survive in a foreign land. Whilst at sea in particular, I think the music would have provided strength and support, as a way of keeping memories of loved people and places alive. Such reminders would have provided a small measure of comfort to combat the physical, mental, and emotional hardships of the brutal conditions aboard the slave ships and the horrors they witnessed. In a similar way, the music would have helped them to keep their memories of home alive when everything around them seemed hostile in their new “home”. By sharing music – singing aloud – memories could be passed on and comfort could be shared, with the music helping these people to form a sense of community, culture, and togetherness.
In my own life, music has always served a similar purpose. This was particularly the case when I left home and started my degree in a new and unfamiliar place. Although this situation cannot even begin to compare to the experiences of the African-Americans kidnapped as slaves, many of the emotions were the same: loneliness, fear and uncertainty, and home-sickness. As an antidote to these negative feelings, I spent many evenings walking and listening to music on my headphones. I chose, not the music I loved myself, but the music that my mother liked. This was the music I had been listening to – sometimes grudgingly – since I was a child, and now that I missed my home and my family so much I found that it was this music that made me feel better by reminding me of the bonds of family and the memories we shared. I learned that music is a powerful medium for memory, and for that reason this is still the music I turn to when I need comfort.
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