Call and response

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This article is about call and response in communication. For other uses, see Call and response (disambiguation).

Call and response is a form of "spontaneous verbal non-verbal interaction between speaker and listener in which all of the statements ('calls') are punctuated by expressions ('responses') from the listener."[1] It falls in the general category of antiphony.

In African cultures, call-and-response is a pervasive pattern of democratic participation—in public gatherings, in the discussion of civic affairs, in religious rituals, as well as in vocal and instrumental musical expression (see call and response in music). It is this tradition that African bondsmen and bondswomen have transmitted over the years in various forms of expression—in religious observance; public gatherings; even in children's rhymes; and, most notably, in music in its multiple forms: gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, hip-hop and go-go.[citation needed] In contemporary African American worship services, where call and response is pervasive, a pastor will call out to his congregants to engage an enthusiastic response. For example:

Can I get an Amen?
Raise your hands and give Him praise! or Give Him Glory.

Call and response is inherently connected to the historical African religious roots, which served as the foundation for African American religious thought and behavior. It was even noticed by slave masters as early as the arrival of the first slave ships in Virginia in the 17th century.[citation needed]

While slave masters worked diligently to convert their slaves to Christianity, the African slaves still practiced their own form of religious celebration which was called Slave Christianity. Several analysts[who?] assessed the ecstatic spirituality of these slaves and noted two major actions during this celebration:

  • Ring shout: a metamorphosis of exuberant song and dance at the height of tribal or religious celebration, with movement in a counterclockwise circle (the direction the sun moves south of the equator)
  • Call and response


  1. ^ Foster, Michèle (2001), "Pay Leon, Pay Leon, Pay Leon, Paleontologist: Using call-and-response to facilitate language mastery and literacy acquisition among African American Students", in Lanehart, Sonja, Sociocultural and Historical Contexts of African American English, Varieties of English Around the World, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company