When our favorite song comes on, we instantly feel some kind of way. Whether we express our excitement through dancing, smiling, or telling someone that it’s your favorite song. Or maybe you close your eyes and think about how good it feels while your tune is playing in the background. Either way, you engulf yourself in the moment and take it all in. Yea, music has a way of capturing you and taking you on a journey.
Music has been taking people through journeys for many centuries and everyone has that one song that they vibe out to. I want to share a few moments throughout Black music history that has brought many moments like the ones I spoke above to music lovers like you.
In the 1600s, Blacks used their voices to keep them working long days while being enslaved. They would use their voices and sing uplifting songs to keep them pushing in hopes to break free from bondage. Music was more than just amusement. It was a form of secret communication, it coordinated movements, it criticize Whites in authority, and so much more. While Blacks worked, they would have “song leaders”. A song leader would improvise lines and in return other workers will respond with other lines to coordinate the feeling, situation, etc. This type of singing is known as, call and response.
As Blacks progressed, so did our music. In the 1800s, we got a little more independent and started to rebel against the oppression that was put on us. In other words, hope was starting to blossom more in the hearts of man.
Before jazz there was Ragtime. Black artists such as Scott Joplin, James Scott, Jelly Roll Morton were just a few of the heavy hitters of their time. I imagine Black men and women putting on their finest attire to go over their friend houses and swinging their hips, smiling, and having a good ole time. Releasing the stress and tension that they went through that week. Man, a good time I bet it was to be free.
Ragtime is considered the first American music genre.
Moving forward into the 1900s, Blacks in America started advancing their creativity even more. In the early 1900s, Minister Charles Albert Tindley felt that he needed music to give his sermons a little more of a spiritual touch. This new church style coined the term, Gospel Hymns. Gospel hymns are used predominately in Black churches, but has spread to churches all over the world.
Rhythm and Blues, mostly known as R & B, is a mixture of Jazz, Blues, vocal harmonies, and Gospel notes. Blues singers such as Mabel Scott, Wynonie Harris, and Amos Milburn added their Blues vocals to this new infused style of music. The essence of R & B is the way singers would add that extra ingredient to their music. The special ingredient to a good R & B recording is making love to the sounds. Singers will ad-lib moans, cries, and shouts that made you feel what they were saying. Many artists such as Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Ike Turner, and so much more mastered this skill of music love making.
Then came the creation of Hip Hop. Hip Hop was formed in the Bronx in 1970’s. It was for Blacks and Latinos in the ghettos. The father of Hip Hop, DJ Kool Herc would throw parties that brought everyone together. The music of Hip Hop created a culture for everyone to partake in. A culture that created the dance style of B-boying, an artistic street form known as graffiti art, and a turntable style called DJing. Hip Hop is another infused style of music that recycles older music and dissects it to create a new sound. Artists such as Fab Five Freddy, Kurtis Blow, Afika Bambaataa helped to make Hip Hop popular. Those artist open doors for artists such as Nas, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar to make Hip Hop music for our generation.
Today in music, everyone uses all of the forms that Blacks created or played a major roll in making genres popular. Every race comes together and creates beautiful sounds that perk up our ears. So when your favorite tune comes on, know that a piece of it was shared with someone who was born years before you. Know that someone else along this musical timeline felt the same way you did when you heard your jam. That’s the real beauty of music, it’s about the evolvement of it that we share as humans on earth. The evolution of voices will always continue. Know that someone in the future will vibe to a piece of your favorite tune.