Let’s talk Black History: The sounds of souls in unison

Art of black American Jazz musicians playing together. For African American Music Appreciation Month (June).


Art of black American Jazz musicians playing together. For African American Music Appreciation Month (June).

You might know artists like Beyonce, Tupac, Lizzo, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and more. But have you also heard of Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, or Louis Armstrong? 

When Africans were first taken to America, they brought instruments with them like the “Banja” or “Banshaw” also known as a banjo. They also had things like drums and percussion instruments. They would use them to communicate, but sadly some slave owners banned  them in many plantations by the 1700s. 

During slavery, early African-Americans would work the fields and sing songs of liberation, their faith, and freedom. Slaves may have derived the songs from their home language. The Africans would later adopt the religion (Christianity) of the slave owners and took it as their own

They would sing songs in the field in the hopes that God would hear their prayers called Spirituals. These beautiful melodies were also used as communication with others. Some used music lyrics to plan to escape and seek freedom.  Songs like ‘Wade in the Water’ or ‘Steal Away’ were songs that used directions and a plan to flee North. After the abolishment of slavery, Spirituals changed into another form of music called Gospel, and creators used this chance to express sadness and despair. Those songs were called the ‘Blues.’

Art of Black musicians play music like jazz or swing (http://www.ebonyglenn.com)

Jazz was born somewhere between 1895 and 1917 and was heavily influenced by blues and ragtime having similar tunes and rhythms. New Orleans was the place jazz originated and was played from time to time in clubs and/or parades. Jazz uses ‘call and response’ rythme where one instrument (ex. The voice) answer another. Unlike the Blues, it expressed many other emotions other than sadness. You can hear the songs of pride, pain, and power from Jazz and the tune they play.

After Jazz, came Rock and Roll. Elvis Presley is usually the first thing that pops into mind, but there were many rock and roll artists that were way more talented than him, but weren’t given the proper recognition due to the color of their skin. It all begins with Chuck Berry, the creator and father of rock and roll. He is a great example of a man deserving of the hall of fame. Popular styles like country and the blues change their sound into something incredible with the sound of newly made electric guitars and a steady drumbeat. Rock music took a turn with social change going around in the conservative age.

Slowly Rock was dying out and Disco was born. Around the late 60s/early 70s it involved African-American and Latin musicians and secret parties thrown in an underground gay community of New York. And after the release of Saturday Night Fever (1776) popularity grew for Disco and made artists like The Jacksons; Earth, Wind & Fire; and others turn to the genre.

With all the effects of African-American community, we were able to get all the genres and songs we love and listen to now. But it is good to think back to all those moments that inspired us to carry this line of music and create new music.

Happy Black History Month from the Bash Cub!