The History of Blues

What do you know about the history of Blues?

What do you know about the history of this musical genre? Have you heard anything about it? Do you know what Blues is? If you do not have an answer to any of these questions, that’s fine, because today we are going to give you a quick look at the history of Blues, how it originated and how it has evolved to this day. To start, we must say that it is an old genre, vocal and instrumental, based on the use of Blues notes and a repetitive pattern, which follows a structure of twelve bars. The meaning of this word derives sadness or melancholy, and it is such a beautiful and peaceful genre.

A quick look at the history of Blues

The Blues is a musical expression that reached The United States of America through the slaves who came mainly from the western African coast. This slave trade was produced continuously since the early 17th century to 1812. However, slavery would not be abolished until 1863. Slaves were travelling on boats, chained, so it is conjectured that the only musical form they could interpret was the vowel, although it could be that some instrument arrived with them on their journey.

At the end of the 18th century and beginning of the XIX, the plantations had slaves who played the violin, the banjo or rather primitive flutes. In concrete, the banjo can almost be assured that it is the version of a similar five-strings instrument from Senegal, called halam. The first distinction between the songs that African-Americans played in the century XIX is among the spiritual or religious songs and secular songs or Blues.

The spiritual songs were chanted in Church by a group of singers with the approval of the whites. White folks saw these songs as less dangerous for the maintenance of the status quo, since the letters referred to salvation in the beyond. The Blues was played by a soloist, and the theme was about the everyday problems. Already focused on the mundane and earthly music aspect of this African-American traditional music, we could differentiate between “work or labour songs” and the hollers.

Working Blues and Holler Blues

Working songs are associated with black workers or brigades of prisoners scattered by dirty and dusty roads of the south, interpreting uniform rhythms, commonly with phrases improvised by a solo voice and a refrain that the rest of workers would follow. The “holler” Blues is more of a chapel style, with the singer playing by himself but with a high tone of voice and greater freedom in the rhythm. The songs of work come mainly from Mississippi and the “hollers” from Texas attributable primarily to the geographical and demographic conditions different between the two states, although this has to be taken with sufficient prudence.

The Blues has evolved from unaccompanied vocal music, performed by poor black workers, to a wide variety of subgenres and styles, with regional varieties throughout the United States and later Europe and Africa. Musical structures and styles that are considered today as Blues, as well as in modern country music, which was born in the same regions of the southern United States during the nineteenth century.


Credit: Kiki Ruiz

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