originally posted by: Fylgje
a reply to: AudioOne
Do you have any audio links or written examples of this music from at least before the 1700's? Not to mention before the Irish were doing it before
The Irish brought it to the mountains of WV and Ky. My opinion of it is American blues is a derivative of that. Slaves were listening to the farmers
play it and it went from there. Then low and behold rock and roll was born but not before rock-a-billy.
While I am sure you know that recording has been only been around since the late 19th century, what we do have is a vast historical record
coupled with 100 years of research. The recordings we do have since the late 19th century, (along with the testimony of the musicians themselves,) is
enough to be able to piece together at least the skeleton of the narrative. Of course, European history and music was written in notation and the
written word, so we do know how things sounded like, what lyrics and instruments were used, to a great degree. After all, we are still performing
Motets written during the Renaissance.
First, we need to start with some nuanced definitions. Obviously, you did not mean that Bluegrass came before the blues, as the first mention of
blues being heard around the Mississippi Delta came from the late 1890's, early 1900's. The first notated blues was written down on paper in 1912, and
the first recording was made in 1920 by Mammie Smith. Bluegrass as a genre was developed in the 1930's and 1940's, from roots in what is often called
"Old Time Music."
Old Time Music was a combination of influences from Scottish, Irish, English AND African influences. One African influence that can be thought
of immediately is the banjo, which was a direct descendant of the African stringed instruments such as the Kora. This is not a matter of debate, there
are many historical references to people writing about slaves in the African Diaspora making and playing instruments that came to be known as the
Banjo. There are also testimonials of Old Time Music white musicians going and learning this instrument from local African Americans. During the
1800's, at the same time that Old Time Music was developing, there was also the development of African American Music that utilized distinctly African
elements universally found in every African Diaspora community, such as syncopation and call and response. The field hollers, spirituals, work songs
and ring shouts often sounded strange enough to listeners and musicians of European descent, (the same ones familiar with the music of the British
Isles,) that they would write about these differences in books which you can read now. They noticed the strange intonation, use of notes, and rhythms
that were abundant which were not part of the European canon. As all musicians seek to learn from one another, black and white musicians learned from
each other. There is a clear record of African Americans singing Protestant Hymns, (Fisk Jubilee Singers,) and utilizing European Harmony. At the same
time they tended to use a flat 7 and blue 3rd versus the common natural 7nth of European music. This had an influence on Old Time Music and later
Bluegrass, as you do not hear this blues 7nth nor blues 3rd in the music of the British Isles.
I would also like to add that in terms of the Old Time Music, British Ballads were hugely influential, with a high degree of British Ballad
songs still being sung in the Appalachian region when folk song collectors started traveling and recording collections of "folk" music. What we know
now however is that these "folk" musicians tried playing anything that they were exposed to.
People who were living at the time wrote of first hearing the blues in many regions of the Mississippi Delta starting around the 1890's. They
all stated that it is was a very different music from anything that they had heard before, and it was quickly becoming a craze. W.C. Handy (who
published one of the first blues in 1912) said that he first heard the Blues in 1904, played by a ragged African American at a Train station, and that
it was the weirdest music he had ever heard. Handy was a trained musician who was familiar with all the popular styles of the time, including English
Ballads and Irish music. Universally, writers living at the time wrote how different blues was from anything they had heard before.
Up to this point I have ignored New Orleans, which also developed music that influenced the music of all of the above. Marches were mixed with
African polyrhythms and syncopation to create diverse styles such as Ragtime and Early Jazz. These sounds also spread throughout the country. They got
mixed in with blues relatively quickly, and you can trace those elements through recordings. For instance, before Rock-a-billy, you can hear records
of Harlem stride pianists in the 1920s (on recordings from the 1920s) hitting those bluesy chord riffs that became part of early rock and roll and
rock-a-billy. Stride eventually became Swing in the late 20's and 1930's. Ragtime, Stride, Swing, and Blues became so popular that it was heard all
over the country in African American communities. At the same time, musicians learned from each other, so some African American blues players also
learned country tunes, and so called country players also learned blues. Still when you listen to their records, you can often tell more often then
not, who was in which camp because of stylistic traits.
Rhythm and Blues was getting electrified in the 1940's and it wasn't a big jump from those sounds to Elvis Presley.
As far as some of the other African origins that I described, you can read Gerhard Kubik's book, African and the Blues. It was written after 40
years of extensive field work in Africa, studying both the history of the blues and the different tonal and rhythmic systems of Africa. It makes the
necessary connections to both the pentatonic systems and Islamic Arabic singing. A wonderful example of this styles retention in the US is the youtube
video below. This was recorded at a Prison in the US in 1947.
edit on 21-5-2014 by AudioOne because: edit
edit on 21-5-2014 by AudioOne because: edit
edit on 21-5-2014 by
AudioOne because: (no reason given)