The musical forms brought to the Americas by slaves from west Africa were generally functional: that is, they were used to aid in ritual, work, daily life, and war. Antiphonal singing also facilitated communication across distances.
You can hear the antiphonal quality in this work song of the Mbuti people (Congo).
A Hausa call-and-response:
Maasai schoolgirls in Kenya.
In the 1964 film Zulu, about the 1879 battle of Rorke’s Drift in Zululand (present-day South Africa), the use of antiphonal music in war is highlighted. The Zulus use music to prepare for war, to intimidate the enemy, to wage war, and, in the end, in a moving scene, to salute the victors.
What do you think the purpose of call-and-response form is in religious music?
Call and response in the spiritual “Job, Job.”
Call and response in a work camp song.
Call and response in a prison work song.
In August Wilson’s 1987 play The Piano Lesson, a character speaks of his stint in Parchman and sings a work song.
August Wilson was inspired to write his play, set in 1936, by this painting, “The Piano Lesson,” by Romare Bearden (1911-1988).
You can read the complete play here.