Islam, Blues, and Black Fiddling – a Bibliography

A number of Black and ethnically Arab scholars and ethnomusicologists have looked at the connection between Blues, Islam, and African American fiddling traditions and a handful of European musicians and researchers in the Blues have commented on the similarity of Blues as a modal system and how that might connect with Arabic Maqam and Indian Raga. This says a lot about the tools and background knowledge that researchers bring with them and why most [White] scholars and educators in American Music programs take a decidedly Anglo and/or Eurocentric [and Essentialist] approach to the Blues and those connections.

Many of the issues of this type of exclusion are echoed in my commentary and analysis about <Perpetually Foreign Music> and especially in my Early Black Musicians, Composers, and Music Scholars (505-1505 CE) piece, Slave Orchestras, Choirs, Bands, and Ensembles bibliography, and Arabic Music Theory (650-1650) Bibliography project.

This page is an extension of a MyBib page resource, Islam, African American Fiddling, and the Blues, which I’m no longer updating and which has limited functionality for annotations and endnotes. As with many of my other online bibliography projects this is an ongoing work and will be updated and annotated as I have the time.

Image: Mobile Strugglers, a Black String Band from Alabama active in the 1940s-50s.

PUBLISHED 7/1/2021; LAST UPDATED 9/11/2021


Abdullah, Z. (2010). Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195314250.001.0001

Baylor, L. (2013, January 2). The Islamic Influence on the Blues: Interview with Jonathan Curiel. Communicators Radio Show. https://youtu.be/i9McsxBbrMM

Borneman, E. (1959). Creole Echoes. Jazz Review2(8), 14–15.

Coleman, A. (2010, March). Fiddling in West Africa: A Conversation with Professor Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje. FolkWorks. https://folkworks.org/old-columnists/folk-beat-audrey-coleman/36482-fiddling-in-west-africa

Curiel, J. (2004, August 15). Muslim roots of the blues / The music of famous American blues singers reaches back through the South to the culture of West Africa. SFGATE. https://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Muslim-roots-of-the-blues-The-music-of-famous-2701489.php

Curiel, J. (2006). Saudi Aramco World : Muslim Roots, U.S. Blues. Aramco World. https://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/200604/muslim.roots.u.s.blues.htm

Diouf, S. A. (n.d.). African Muslims and American Blues. Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas. http://www.muslimvoicesfestival.org/resources/african-muslims-and-american-blues

Diouf, S. A. (1999). Sadaqa among African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. Journal of Islamic Studies10(1), 22–32. https://doi.org/10.1093/jis/10.1.22

Diouf, S. A. (2013). Servants of Allah. ; NYU Press. https://nyupress.org/9781479847112/servants-of-allah/

Diouf, S. A. (2017, August 22). Too African to Be Muslim. Process: A Blog for American History. https://www.processhistory.org/diouf-african-muslim/

Diouf, S. A. (2019). What Islam Gave the Blues. Renovatiohttps://renovatio.zaytuna.edu/article/what-islam-gave-the-blues

DjeDje, J. C. (2008). Fiddling in West Africa : touching the spirit in Fulbe, Hausa, and Dagbamba cultures. Indiana University Press.

DjeDje, J. C. (2016). The (Mis)Representation of African American Music: The Role of the Fiddle. Journal of the Society for American Music10(1), 1–32. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1752196315000528

Einboden, J. (2012). Arabic Slave Writings and the American Canon. Northern Illinois University: Department of English. https://www.niu.edu/arabic-slave-writings/index.shtml

Eyre, B. (2007, April 19). Afropop Worldwide | Africa and The Blues: An Interview with Gerhard Kubik. Afropop Worldwide. https://afropop.org/articles/africa-and-the-blues-an-interview-with-gerhard-kubik

Farmer, H. G. (1924). The Arabic influence on music in the Western Soudan. Including references to modern jazz. 158–159.

Garnier, D. ‘Jalma. (2007). The Musical and Cultural Roots of Louisiana Creole and Zydeco Fiddle Traditions. Routes to Roots, Volume 2http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/creoleroots.html

Jenoure, T. (2008). The Afro-American Fiddler. Contributions in Black Studies5(1). https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cibs/vol5/iss1/6/

Khan, A. (2019, March 5). New Play “American Griot” Explores Blues Music’s Muslim and African Roots. Religion News Service. https://religionnews.com/2019/03/05/new-play-american-griot-explores-blues-musics-muslim-and-african-roots/

Khan, S. A. (2019, April 11). Muslims Arrived in America 400 Years Ago as Part of the Slave Trade and Today Are Vastly Diverse. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/muslims-arrived-in-america-400-years-ago-as-part-of-the-slave-trade-and-today-are-vastly-diverse-113168

Kubik, G. (1999). Africa and the Blues. University Press Of Mississippi.

Martinelli, F. (2019). Survivals from Arabic in Blues Texts as Proof of Influence of Islamic Civilizations in African-American Music. Current Research in Jazz; https://www.crj-online.org/v11/CRJ-ArabicSurvivals.php

Montes-Bradley, E. (forthcoming documentary). Black Fiddlers: String Band Music in Black America, from colonial Williamsburg to the Carolina Chocolate Drops. [documentary film]. Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/borges/black-fiddlers

Morrison, M. D. (2020, December 28). “And then to consider the ‘run’ in relation to Muslim vocal practices that many of our ancestors descend from (as I was reminded and talking with @AsiaLeeds about the other night).” Twitter.com. https://twitter.com/DrMaDMo/status/1343743441726038018

Nawaz, A., & Nagy, L. (2019, April 23). How the Autobiography of a Muslim Slave Is Challenging an American Narrative. PBS News Hour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/amp/show/how-the-autobiography-of-a-muslim-slave-is-challenging-an-american-narrative

Rashid, H. (n.d.). Muslim Voices in America: The Making of a Modern Music Scene. Asia Society. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://asiasociety.org/muslim-voices-america-making-modern-music-scene

Salah, M. (2020a, May 18). Blues and Jazz .. An international music story with Arab and Islamic roots | tellerreport.com. Www.tellerreport.com. https://www.tellerreport.com/news/2020-05-18-blues-and-jazz—-an-international-music-story-with-arab-and-islamic-roots.HJgnt24eoI.html

Salah, M. (2020b, May 18). البلوز والجاز.. قصة موسيقى عالمية ذات جذور عربية وإسلامية. Aljazeera.net; Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.net/news/arts/2020/5/18/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B2-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%A9-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%82%D9%89-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B0%D8%A7%D8%AA

Salah, M. (2020c, May 19). CEAAT Arabistas Iberoamérica Prof.Tadmy. M.facebook.com. https://www.facebook.com/ceaat.arabistas/photos/a.117161466328452/267229711321626/

Shibli, F. E. (2007). Islam and the Blues. Souls9(2), 162–170. https://doi.org/10.1080/10999940701382615

Silpayamanant, J. (2020a, September 11). When I first heard about Rhiannon Giddens’ opera about Omar Ibn Said…[thread]. Threadreaderapp.com. https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1304338377827852288.html

Silpayamanant, J. (2020b, October 31). This paragraph in Dr. DjeDje’s interview says so much, and am really looking forward to her book African American fiddling!…[thread]. Threadreaderapp.com. https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1322359299230846976.html

Silpayamanant, J. (2020c, November 10). Re-reading this and thinking about it in light of Dr. Jacqueline C. DjeDje’s work researching the little known African American Fiddling traditions and all the early Blues violinist recordings that we have…[thread]. Threadreaderapp.com. https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1326130875877224448.html

Silpayamanant, J. (2020d, November 10). Islam, African American Fiddling, and the Blues, MyBib. https://www.mybib.com/b/w8WADB

Silpayamanant, J. (2021a, February 7). One of the things I’m learning while working on this Arabic #MusicTheory Bibliography (650-1650) project is how Anti-Blackness is a feature of Western Music Theory [thread]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/Silpayamanant/status/1358553291962089477

Silpayamanant, J. (2021b, March 8). …a number of ethnomusicologists & historians have made the connection between Islamic music/vocalization/string playing & the Blues [thread]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/Silpayamanant/status/1369045688022106113

Spitzer, N. (1999, December 28). Violin Sing the Blues for Me: African-American Fiddlers 1926-1949. NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1068455

Spoleto Festival USA. (2019a, July 30). Making an Opera: Who Was Omar Ibn Said? Spoletousa.org. https://spoletousa.org/blog/about-the-opera-who-was-omar-ibn-said/

Spoleto Festival USA. (2019b, August 26). Making an Opera: Meet the Co-Composer, Michael Abels. Spoletousa.org. https://spoletousa.org/blog/making-an-opera-meet-the-co-composer-michael-abels/

Thomas, P. (1993). Islam’s contribution to Jazz and Improvised musics. Rubberneck15, 8–15.

Truelsen, K. (2018, February 27). Pick 5: Black Fiddle Traditions in Early Commercial Country Music. Birthplace of Country Music. https://www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/pick-5-black-fiddle-traditions-early-commercial-country-music/

Webb, C. T. (2016, July 9). An Interview with Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Professor Emeritus of Ethnomusicology at UCLA. Signifying Scriptures. http://www.signifyingscriptures.org/an-interview-with-jacqueline-cogdell-djedje-professor-emeritus-of-ethnomusicology-at-ucla/

Wells, P. F. (2003). Fiddling as an Avenue of Black-White Musical Interchange. Black Music Research Journal23(1/2), 135. https://doi.org/10.2307/3593212

Wyatt, M. (n.d.). Violin, Sing The Blues For Me: African-American Fiddlers on Early Phonograph Records. Old Hat Records. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from http://www.oldhatrecords.com/ResearchAAViolin.html