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3 Music Genres Created by African Americans

Gabriella Dotson

1) Blues

Born out of Northern Mississippi in the late 1800’s, blues is a genre that was initially a folk music popular among slaves in the Mississippi Delta. During the great migration of black workers, the blues spread with it. It gets its name from its original association with melancholy objects and sounds. Blues songs are focused on pain of loss and injustice but also expressed the victory in outlasting these painful experiences. The main features of blues include: specific dissonant harmonies, syncopation, melisma, and flattened ‘blue’ tones. When the genre became mainstream in the 1920’s because of its AAB lyric pattern. Famous blues artists included B.B King and Etta James. Etta’s James songs "I’d Rather Go Blind" and "At Last" are famous in the blues genre.

2) Jazz

The genre of Jazz is said to be created by Buddy Bolden, a bandleader known as the “First man of Jazz”. Although Bolden is the “First man of Jazz”, the music we know as Jazz developed over centuries from West African rhythms combined with Western European harmonic structure through the slave trade. The rhythmic aspect of Jazz is from its West African roots but also some of its customary instruments, such as the banjo or guitar. The European influence became present when Jazz bands began to use more conventional instruments; string bass, piano, and trumpet. Per the melodies of Jazz, it is a combination of the African and European vocals created by slaves This genre can also be described as the combination of ragtime and blues due to its characteristics of original timbres, syncopated rhythms, and a range of degrees of improve. Even though it includes improv it is never fully improv, but also never fully composed. Jazz has been able to develop into multiple forms, like free jazz or swing, yet is always instantly differentiated from other musical genres. Famous Jazz artists include Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

3) Gospel

Created by Thomas A Dorsey, gospel is a religious genre of music that combines Christian praise with jazz and blues rhythms. Mr. Dorsey wrote many songs about the tragedies in his life and how his religion has and will help him through this. Gospel is commonly sung in African American Congregations during sermons with a very lively audience. This style of music invokes call-and-response and a like-minded choir. The purpose of Gospel music is to uplift Christian beliefs and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ through music. Famous gospel singers include Kirk Franklin and Tamala Mann. Gospel music and influence can be seen in other genres. Kanye West commonly uses the coals of gospel groups in his songs such as Jesus is King. Drake also uses gospel influence in his famous song "God’s Plan".

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