Jazz is a form of American music which began in the 20th century though it has some of the elements of songs which had evolved in the late 19th century. It originated from the African Americans who were living in the southern parts of United States. Jazz is a combination of African and European traditions of music. Jazz developed mainly due to the cultural experiences which were being experienced by the African American as a result of slavery. Jazz is believed to have originated from the slave songs which the African Americans used to sing while working on the plantations.
Music marked an important part of the lives of the African Americans and greatly influenced the American music industry to this day. The rhythms of ragtime were expressions of perseverance and the passion for the African Americans or the slaves to get freedom. During this period, also blues had been introduced which were songs that reflected the tribulations and trials of slavery live. Cultural experiences that the African Americans went through formed the themes of most of the songs . A brief history of African music
In the African culture, music is highly esteemed and forms part of the daily life of a native African. The rhythm used in African songs and the pitch makes the African language sophisticated especially for accurate translation by non Africans. Music in African culture since time immemorial was and is still widely used in ceremonies and celebrations. Songs are sung by clapping, dancing and singing natural responses. Most of the African songs are call and response songs and this is done on varying degrees thus resulting to hetrophonic results.
Unlike in western music which is characterized by complexity and polyrhythm and also polymeters, African music often evokes response of physical movement and at times calling for conscious response altering. Africans adopted the European 2 and 4 bar format beats which led to the evolution of syncopation. This syncopation made the audiences to clap their hands, dance and even tap their feet with such emotion which had not been experienced before in American music. The African music transformed the American music industry to this day .
Roots of jazz music In the wake of 16th century, Europeans were using African slaves as laborers as well as their servants. Europeans had settled in the western hemisphere where they were setting up shops. They had also settled in the south and central parts of America as well as the northern parts which were commonly referred as new word (today’s United States). Slaves were mostly situated at the Caribbean where they got exposure to the music styles of the European music and also the western instruments which were being used in those areas.
The culture of South Americans also influenced greatly the African slaves who were spending most of their time in the islands waiting to be bought and taken to the Caribbean islands . During the 16th century, slave trade had not reached the northern parts of America but in 1610, the first group of slaves was taken to North America through New Orleans ports. In Orleans, the slaves were taken to the southern plantations while some of the wealthy Orleans purchased some of the slaves.
In south Orleans, Christianity had taken root with Catholic Church being dominant. This gave the slaves exposure to the Christian activities and immediately a chord was formed between the slaves and the church. This was mainly influenced by the similarities which existed between the African ritual and the Catholic Church practices. It is also believed that the call and response known as the Gregorian chants used by the catholic church also contributed greatly to the form of music that developed among the African slaves.
Exposure to the western music and their instruments and also the Catholic Church practices and the experiences the slaves were undergoing in the foreign land led to the evolution of a homogenized cultural music. The songs were used by the African slaves to ease the pain they were going through while in slavery . Slaves also used music to tell stories of their ordeals, to celebrate and also as a means of looking for relief in God. The resulting culturization of the slave music formed the basis for their songs of the already settled Americans which they marked as their “own new music”.
Work songs, spiritual songs and hollers became the starting point of gospel music which was mainly extracted from the New Testament. Story telling blues were also formulated during this period and these are believed to be the roots of the jazz music. The blues consisted of soulful flatted notes and a syncopated rhythm which evolved to be the ragtime music. This form of music was becoming popular mostly in America during the period. The freeing of slaves after the civil war led to public awareness of the existence of blues as well as jazz music which had the origin of the African slaves thus a black culture.
However, before this time, slaves who were living in New Orleans used to meet at Congo square where they used to do and dance to music and also to compete musically. The band which won the weekly competition was given sponsorship to an establishment which was organized by the black musicians. These bands formed the initial origin of jazz in the northern America. Due to their influence in New Orleans, the black musicians were offered jobs in whore houses in story Ville which ensured they obtained a living in this place .
Though after the civil war most of the African slaves were freed and allowed limited access to education, finding a decent job was difficult since the rate of discrimination was still very high. New Orleans provided a working environment for the musicians which could be termed as being “supportive” which made this place to become the hot spot for music such as blues and jazz. Increasing awareness of this forms of music also formed the center for the “American” music especially in the United States.
During this period, cheap pianos were being sold thus the black musicians had access to them mostly in the whore house especially in New Orleans. The pianos helped in providing rhythmic and also harmonic basis for bands to perform spontaneously for their clients. A single musician could also sing using the piano thus increasing the popularity of African jazz and blues. Solo artists were performing for the saloons and also bordellos . The first recognized and accepted form of jazz style to be performed in the United States was done by the small black marching bands which were from New Orleans which was later branded the Dixieland.
This jazz style was used in funeral marches. This music was based on the western music beat structure which was mixed with traditional marching using brass brand instruments. The black musicians then broke into solos which were improvised around a theme which was melodic and this was done simultaneously. Joyous celebrations then followed the burial as they celebrated the new life of the deceased. The improvised polytonality belonging to the native Africans was widely recognized in the structures of the population of the whites in the United States.
During this festival or burial march, coronet, trombone, trumpet, drums and clarinet instruments were being used. Another instrument which was used was the banjo which the Americans had adopted from the instruments of native Africans. As such, almost all of the American music was rooted or has its originality from the Africans who were mostly slaves. African culture provided a rich music background which was easily and quickly adapted by the Americans. Jazz was one of the most predominant forms of music which the population of the United States imitated from the Native Africans .
Despite the wide acceptance of jazz in New Orleans, it was not regarded as legitimate music especially by the music industry in Chicago and New York among other parts in the United States. During the 19th century and early 20th century, the center for fine arts in United States was located in New York and it was supporting only the highly educated and widely traveled musicians. This “high society” usually considered musicians and artists from Europeans music school. However, during the civil war era, black influence in the music industry started to creep slowly to the entertainment scene in New York.
This was aided by the formation of minstrel show elements like the vaudeville and others. Ragtime was introduced in the United States which combined the blue tones and syncopation utilization but it was resisted. The “polite” society highly resisted this form of music terming it to be vulgar, suggestive and filthy. It was refereed to as African belly dance and was dismissed as the edition of orgies from Africa. These people also viewed it as a sex dance thus increasing their resistance and they advocated for its banishment from a society which was “polite” .
During this period, most of the blacks were migrating to New York City thus increasing the influence of ragtime and dance hall music and the shows as well. A recording industry was also introduced in this city where most of the black musicians were migrating to record their songs. This place was later named Harlem and it opened the stage which led to an upheaval in the music industry of New York as well as the whole world. This formed a major historic part of the music industry in the United States and the origin of jazz music in New York City and the larger United States.
In some parts of the east coast, jazz and blues were not recognized as being legitimate despite its influence in New Orleans. This place like the New York was inhabited by the high society people of the east coast. A group of whites citing the name original Dixieland jazz band recorded the first jazz in New York in the year 1917. Being white, the band tried to commercialize the viability of jazz music and in so doing; they visited Europe with their new format of Dixieland. This group is today credited for the spread of jazz to most parts of the world.
However, despite their visit to Europe in 1917, jazz music had entered Europe in 1914 through black musicians. Europeans were less discriminatory on racial basis and were paying the black musicians better than in the United States. The black migration to Europe led to the establishment of the “hot club” which was located in Paris. African musicians thus contributed greatly to the history and evolution of music industry in Europe as well as in Americas . In 1924, jazz was presented to the high society of New York during a contest.
The performance of the jazz band was stunning to the American people although it was criticized by one of the personality known as Martin Williams who was highly respected and a jazz critic. This performance made jazz to be more accepted in America broadly than during the first attempt. The era of post First World War led to high migration of most black musicians to Mississippi from the South and they went up to Chicago. This led to Chicago becoming a jazz’s and blues center in United States in the 1920’s.
The south side of Chicago was mostly occupied by blacks some of them musicians who had migrated form south. During this time, the whites who were living in the northern parts of Chicago learned about jazz sounds thus there was competition between the northern white jazz musicians and the southern side black musicians. This competition was usually supportive and friendly. These musicians were also given exposure through the advent of commercial radio and a recording industry. Afro American influence had also been made valid thus giving the musicians a wider scope for their careers.
However, there was a segregation system in the United States which was unfair to the blacks. Despite this segregation system, the music of the blacks and the whites reduced the boundaries which had existed before and this ultimately led to the development of Chicago blue scenes in the 1930’s. This also led to development of urban blues in some parts of the United States. Jazz music which was originally from the African slaves and the later migration to various parts of the United States helped in the establishment and growth of the music industry in this country as well as the whole world .
Conclusion African music had a great influence and it formed the foundation of most of the Americas music. Slavery and the later migration were some of the major factors which contributed to the development and the spread of jazz music as well as other forms of music like blues. The rich African culture and music background combined with their experiences while in slavery as well as the influence of western culture and their instruments gave rise to the introduction of jazz music which has continued to be one of the most sought music.
Apart from the influence that African Americans had on the American music, this music also changed the entire music industry in America and in most parts of the world. Introduction of jazz music and other African styles led to a complete overhaul in the music industry in America and also in Europe. Furthermore, jazz music helped in bridging the gap between the blacks and the white especially in Chicago. African American music has played a major role in the music industry in the United States and is credited as being the root of most of the music styles in this country.
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