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06/16/2008
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African Influence on Jazz

  1. African music brought a unique form off beats, rhythms, and a harmonic interpretation of color that was never experienced to such an extent in the United States before.
  2. Improvisation also developed from the African slaves as they worked and later became part of jazz and the music world.
  3. It was in New Orleans that Ragtime and the Blues merged to form a jazz revolution, naming the city the birthplace of jazz.
  4. New Orleans musicians and musical styles continued to influence jazz nationally as the music went through a rapid series of stylistic changes. Jazz became the unchallenged popular music of America during the Swing era of the 1930s and 1940s.

The most significant musical influences occurred in the south before the Civil War by African slaves at work. It was the migration of slaves to the south that brought a culture to America based on beats and rhythm as an expression of life. The black tradition moved to America during the course of a century from the end of the 1700s to the end of the 1800s. During this time over 4 million slaves became American citizens and thus integrating their culture with that of American culture. These musical traditions that came to the states were dependent on oral transmission, represented by work songs, spirituals, and field hollers. “Jazz is the art of expression set to music! Jazz is said to be the fundamental rhythms of human life and man’s contemporary reassessment of his traditional values. Volumes have been written on the origins of jazz based on black American life-styles. The early influences of tribal drums and the development of gospel, blues and field hollers seems to point out that jazz has to do with human survival and the expression of life” (“Jazz Music”). What was unknown at the time was that these work chants would influence one of the most significant music genres of the 20th century

[...] This would later heavily influence music and later jazz (National Park Service). African heritage brought several important aspects to American music in general. One of the most influential was syncopated rhythm around 1880. This was any type of rhythm that was played against or in between beats. Basically it was putting an emphasis on beats that are not usually emphasized. This was a new concept for the Americans involving going against what was taught to be This syncopated rhythm would develop into some of the most amazing and technical music compilations ever created. [...]


[...] The combination of these two influences (improvisation and individuality) and call and response became the beginnings of the Blues, which later passed on the three onto jazz (Hofbauer). It was in New Orleans that Ragtime and the Blues merged to form a jazz revolution, naming the city the birthplace of jazz. Ragtime brought syncopated rhythms, technical skill, instrumentation, and the development of a band to jazz, while the Blues gave jazz improvisation, individuality, and call and response. With the influence of New Orleans being the center of the cotton region, a large music culture developed down south, and the Mississippi River became the bridge to share it with the nation. [...]

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