Blues Then and Now - The History of the Blues (Chapter 1, page 2 of 5)


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Chapter 1

With the added minor notes, the posture of harmony becomes blue, which results in blue tonality. In most American black music, mainly in jazz and the blues be it vocal or instrumental, blue tonality can he heard. The field hollers, work songs, spirituals, gospels. minstrels and ragtime have continued on with the blue tonality sound. Many of our classical and contemporary composers have applied blue tonality in their compositions. Blue tonality is the lifeblood of our American musical culture.

From where did blue tonality come? Most likely it was heard first in West Africa. The exact date of the blues is unknown.

It seems that the more we investigate its origin, the further back in time it appears. W.C. Handy said he heard the blues in 1903. Blues singer "Ma" Rainey heard and sang the blues in 1902. However, the earliest form of the blues dates back to the early 1860s and was associated with the American blacks. The development of the blues was influenced by black folk music such as the work songs, spirituals, field hollers, ring-shouts and certain popular ballads.

In the early 1890s, blues were sung in the southern states in rural areas. These "country blues" unusually had the accompaniment of a guitar. To establish a time period for the introduction of black music on this continent, we must go back to the beginning when the first boatload Negroes were brought in from West Africa.

From 1619 onward, thousands of Negroes were brought in on slave ships and unloaded on the water front sites in southern slates. Once unloaded, family members, religious and tribal groups were separated and hauled off to different plantations. The reasoning behind this separation was to eradicate whatever culture the blacks brought with them. But, what the plantation owners did not know was that they could never take away or diminish the black's love for music. Singing was their way of communication with each other. Further, it was their love fur music that helped them survive the harsh, cruel and often inhumane treatment of the slave masters.

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