Worship and Music - Ethnomusicology


Master of Arts (MA)


Katherine Morehouse


Caribbean, Children, Culture, Diaspora, Florida, Songs


Anthropology | Ethnomusicology | Music | Music Education | Social and Cultural Anthropology


How does a child gain a musical identity? Music resides in the depths of personhood. Even before birth we are all touched by its power. Music is a language in that it communicates--thoughts, feelings, desires, information, and more. As children grow physically and mentally, they also grow musically. A person's musical development will be directly influenced by their culture and family. The following qualitative study looks at the form and function of children's songs, specifically children's songs from the diasporic Caribbean culture in South Florida. Twenty-one interviews, including 53 participants, were conducted to see how children's songs might play a significant role in preserving and developing culture. The data is grounded in the views of the participants, and the individual families and their experiences were prioritized in the final analysis. The purpose of this study was to understand the motivation of children's songs from various culture groups and the importance that these songs played in the lives of the children. The nuances within a family unit can be extraordinarily diverse, and therefore, the research to follow may be the beginnings of a theory for family and music. Families use children's songs for multiple purposes including: preserving cultural heritage, comforting their child, teaching skills and knowledge, and expressing affection. When speaking exclusively of parental motivations for sharing and teaching songs with children, the following classifications have been given: to teach, to affect emotions (including entertainment), to preserve tradition/culture, and to bond or show affection. Family motivations for teaching songs to children appear trans-cultural. Although the styles of music and the language of various cultures may be different, the messages and purposes are often the same. Ultimately, the role of family and society in a child's life are incalculable. In teaching their children's songs, parents not only pass on their culture, but they also pass on a part of themselves. Families attempt to preserve a legacy within their progeny, and parents display their love for their children by filling in the spaces of childhood with fragrant musical repertoires.