Significance of Song and Dance in Amiri Baraka’s Home on the Range

Amiri Baraka in Home on the Range had introduced a song and a dance that play a very significant role in reinforcing the theme of the play. Like his many other plays, song and dance has become an integral part of the play and indicates at a vital turn that is exclusive of this particular play. Dance in Amiri Baraka’s plays has a ritualistic significance. Like the play, Slaveship, dance in Home on the Range highlights the roots of African culture and its significance in the lives of the Negros.

The Black Criminal who has entered the White family with the objective of looting, while taking control on the White family members, starts humming the beautiful and melodious song, “America the Beautiful”, written and composed by Katherine Lee Bates. This beautifully American patriotic song not only depicts the great beauty of America but also the spirit attached with the land. The Black Criminal, though started with it, quickly switches over to another very powerful song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” composed and sung by the Blacks. It was embraced as the Black National anthem. The song is a prayer of thanksgiving of fruitfulness and freedom. The Black Criminal probably sings this inspirational song to draw inspiration from its powerful lyric and organise his objectives of gaining prominence in White culture by overturning the power struggle. The song also embodies Afro-Americans’ desire to break free from the slavery that they had were conditioned to think and internalise as encrypted on their fate. Therefore, when the Black Criminal sings this song, he not only tries to motivate himself to achieve his objective with which he has visited this place but also indicates a remarkable twist that he is about to bring. The Black criminal by insisting and almost forcing all the members of the White family to sing this Black National Anthem, actually tries to highlight on the role reversal of the Whites that he is trying to achieve. The Whites’ singing of this song can be symbolically treated as their acceptance and assimilation of the African culture; a move that actually brings their culture and power related with it towards a fading end.

The Black Nigger Dance too emphasises on the slow but subtle acceptance of the Black culture by the White family. Dance is an essential part of Afro-American culture. It signifies the inversion of the normative trend where the Blacks tried to assimilate the culture of the Whites to make some space for themselves in the society. The fact that the Head of the family and his daughter is so absorbed and possessed by the charm of the dance that they get lost dancing it for hours signify their gradual loss of power. The dance in a way is symbolic of the fall of the whites and the rise of The Blacks. Thus, the dance serves two vital functions. First, it invites the members of the audience to act out the aggression and violence. Secondly, with its unifying force, it also celebrates the spiritual restoration of the Black criminal and the Black crowd. The final scene suggests that the primal energy of the Afro-American Black people is in the process of being reasserted. The song, ‘Lift every Voice and Sing’ and the Nigger dance actually help the readers to identify Amiri Baraka as a rebel writer with revolutionary aims and objectives and his play, Home on the Range as one of his revolutionary plays.

Hence, the music and dance in the Nigger party can be interpreted as a form of protest as it subverts the normative notion of assimilation of American culture and celebrates Black Nationalism.


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