Africa (William Billings)
"Africa" is an 18th-century hymn tune by American choral composer William Billings, who worked in New England.
Billings wrote "Africa" some time before 1770 and included it in his first published hymnbook, The New England Psalm Singer. Later he revised it, publishing a new version in his The Singing Master's Assistant (1778). He made additional revisions, publishing it again in Music in Miniature (1779). The latter two versions are performed today.
The name of the hymn is, as far as scholars can determine, completely arbitrary. It reflects the practice of the time to give names to the tunes (or melodies) of songs. Billings also wrote "Asia" and "America" tunes. More often, he applied the names of (arbitrarily chosen) New England towns to label his tunes.
Version of 1778.
Musically, the work is notable for the parallel descending thirds and sixths that shift from part to part. Some renditions of this hymn (for example, the practice of Sacred Harp singer) follow a practice recommended by Billings They include male singers on the treble, singing an octave down, as well as female singers on the tenor part, singing an octave higher.