Call and response

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Call and response is a form of interaction between a speaker and an audience in which the speaker's statements ("calls") are punctuated by responses from the listeners.[1] It falls in the general category of antiphony.

African cultures[edit]

In African cultures, call-and-response is a widespread 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: blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, jazz, hip-hop and go-go.[citation needed] Many work songs sung on plantations by enslaved men and women also incorporate the call and response format. African-American Women Work Songs incorporate the call and response format, a format that fosters dialogue. 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?" or "Raise your hands and give Him praise!"

Call and response is inherently connected to the historical African roots, which served as the foundation for African American cultural traditions. The call and response format thus becomes a diasporic tradition that is rooted in traditional African cultures but similarly helps to create a new, unique tradition in the United States. This speaks to the particular culture that was created by African people who were forced to come to this country during slavery.[2]

While slave masters worked diligently to convert their enslaved individuals 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. One was the call and response; the other was the 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).

See also[edit]


  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, archived from the original on 2007-12-14
  2. ^ Epstein, Dena J., Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1977.