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Singing and Praying Bands

Predating blues and jazz, but now disappearing, one of the oldest African-American performance traditions is honored by the National Endowment for the Arts . . .

According to oral tradition, the bands began with secret outdoor meetings in antebellum times. Later, this tradition became a part of Methodist prayer meetings that began with lined-out hymns (a way of singing initiated by a leader who would chant a line of a song and the congregation would sing it back) and concluded with a form of ring shout that blended West African traditions of song and movement in a circle.

NEA site, with video and audio.

WBUR radio story.

Vimeo video.