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The Importance of Blues as Part of African Music

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Blues is a kind of folk music produced in the early 20th century among African Americans. Among all the forms of folk songs, it is one of the most interesting to musicologists for the following reasons: 

  1. Its ‘age’ is not big, and researchers can find almost all clues in its development track; 
  2. It has a great influence on Western popular music, and even no matter what kind of popular music we talk about, we must mention the influence of blues in it; 
  3. Its musical characteristics and performance.


The evolution of style is closely related to social change. Therefore, not only musicologists, but also some sociologists have been taking it as the research object. In the 21st century, with the rapid birth of various music forms, although blues is regarded as a traditional form of American folk music, we can not deny its great influence. Many American singers, especially black musicians, often have a lot of Blues ideology in their works. However, there are not many composers who only rely on the creation of blues. Instead, they combine it with other music forms to form a diversified music development. And all lovers of Blues will never forget that the most attractive part of this kind of music is that it comes from the music form of life. It reflects the real life, is the catharsis expression of all kinds of emotions, so that every listener can find the state of mind associated with themselves. This kind of music which is interlinked with the listener’s heart is undoubtedly the Mahayana type of music. ‘The blues are American and global.’ Martin Scorsese said, ‘as a worldwide narrative language, blues brings inspiration to people all over the world and influences music all over the world.

Like other music, blues has gradually divided into different types in the process of its development. Some of these necessary divisions are based on regional characteristics, and some are based on music itself. The earliest blues, known as country or Delta blues, were originated by the rural people in the south in the 19th century. Especially after the independence and liberation of the United States, tour singers, guitarists and harmonica players at that time began to consciously develop this music, and incorporated the grief of love, freedom, sex and life into the blues music. Early important musicians were Charlie Patton, son house, and Robert Johnson, who pioneered the country blues. When black Americans moved to cities like Memphis and New Orlean to work, blues was also heard and accepted by more people. This kind of music originated from the common people had more audience groups, and gradually turned into a more urbanized phenomenon. Blues, who enter the city, usually sing with male and female singers accompanied by piano or jazz orchestra. Blues has become more and more famous and has won a certain degree of commercial opportunities. Before long, some record makers began to publish works for blues singers, such as w.c.handy’s ‘St. Louis Blues’ in 1914 and ‘crazy Blues’ by Mamie Smith in 1920. With the development of blues music, jazz and pop music began to learn from its melody, and has a large audience. In a way, a lot of jazz singers and pop musicians at the time got on blue’s ride. At this stage, the classic blues was naturally derived.

Blues has a great influence on the development of jazz. As the source of blues scale, blues has great influence on many music styles. As an educator, marcharis has a firm view on the origin of jazz. He said, ‘the essence of jazz is blues.’ Many jazz, folk and rock artists have recorded blues. The use of the blues scale can be found in many non blues music, such as in pop songs, or even in symphony music, such as George? Gershwin’s Rhapsody in blue and Concerto in F major. The difference between blues and jazz before World War II is sometimes a little vague. Generally speaking, the structure of the brass band is more emphasized. But jump blues is clearly a fusion of the two. After the war, blues had a great influence on jazz, and most pop classics used blues. But the impact is only formal. Pop marks the evolution of jazz from a kind of popular dance music to a kind of advanced and hard to understand ‘musician’s music’. The audience of blues and jazz began to separate, which is why the difference between blues and jazz began to become clear. The artist who plays between blues and jazz is called jazz blues.

Today, blues has become an important part of African American culture, and even an important part of American cultural heritage. These not only appear in the papers of scholars, but also appear in many mainstream movies, and ‘Froude and the sky’ is a good example. Almost all forms of music related to Blues are used in the film, which brings an important change to the image of blues music. It made sweet home Chicago the unofficial City Song of Chicago. Besides, since jazz has inherited most of the characteristics of blues, such as modes and rhythms, why should we study Blues alone and continue to develop until now? I think maybe it is because jazz has developed a unique artistic form on the basis of the original blues, which can no longer be the same as blues; and blues is a music form that can not be surpassed and has always developed its own school under the influence of the unique cultural and historical environment. Therefore, until today, we are still lucky to be able to witness the elegant demeanor of jazz and blues again, and witness that they are developing very well and collide with each other to bring more beneficial influence to each other.

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