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In developing this latter musical form, African Americans contributed knowledge of the sophisticated polyrhythmic structure of the dance and folk music of peoples across western and sub-Saharan Africa. These musical forms had a wide-ranging influence on the development of music within the United States and around the world during the 20th century. The modern genres of blues and ragtime were developed during the late 19th century by fusing West African vocalizations - which employed the natural harmonic series , and blue notes.

The earliest jazz and blues recordings were made in the s. African-American musicians developed related styles such as Rhythm and Blues in the s.

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In the s, soul performers had a major influence on white US and UK singers. In the mids, Black musicians developed funk and they were many of the leading figures in late s and s genre of jazz-rock fusion. In the s and s, Black artists developed hip-hop , and in the s introduced the disco -infused dance style known as house music. In the s, hip-hop attained significant mainstream popularity. Modern day music is heavily influenced by previous and present African-American music genres.

As well as bringing harmonic and rhythmic features from western and sub-Saharan Africa to meet European musical instrumentation, it was the historical condition of chattel slavery forced upon black Americans within American society that contributed the conditions which would define their music. Many of the characteristic musical forms that define African-American music have historical precedents.

These earlier forms include: field hollers , beat boxing , work song , spoken word , rapping , scatting , call and response , vocality or special vocal effect: guttural effects, interpolated vocality, falsetto , melisma , vocal rhythmization , improvisation , blue notes , polyrhythms syncopation , concrescence, tension, improvisation, percussion, swung note , texture antiphony , homophony , polyphony , heterophony and harmony vernacular progressions ; complex, multi-part harmony , as in spirituals , Doo Wop , and barbershop music.

In the late 18th century folk spirituals originated among Southern slaves, following their conversion to Christianity.

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Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture 4 Volume Set

Conversion, however, did not result in slaves adopting the traditions associated with the practice of Christianity. Instead they reinterpreted them in a way that had meaning to them as Africans in America. They often sang the spirituals in groups as they worked the plantation fields. Folk spirituals, unlike much white gospel, were often spirited: slaves added dancing later known as " the shout " and other forms of bodily movements to the singing. They also changed the melodies and rhythms of psalms and hymns , such as speeding up the tempo, adding repeated refrains and choruses, and replaced texts with new ones that often combined English and African words and phrases.

Originally being passed down orally, folk spirituals have been central in the lives of African Americans for more than three centuries, serving religious, cultural, social, political, and historical functions. Folk spirituals were spontaneously created and performed in a repetitive, improvised style. The most common song structures are the call-and-response "Blow, Gabriel" and repetitive choruses "He Rose from the Dead. The call-and-response is an alternating exchange between the soloist and the other singers. The soloist usually improvises a line to which the other singers respond, repeating the same phrase.

Song interpretation incorporates the interjections of moans, cries, hollers etc Singing is also accompanied by hand clapping and foot-stomping. Suggested listening: Spirituals [3]. The influence of African Americans on mainstream American music began in the 19th century, with the advent of blackface minstrelsy. The banjo , of African origin, became a popular instrument, and its African-derived rhythms were incorporated into popular songs by Stephen Foster and other songwriters.

In the s, the Second Great Awakening led to a rise in Christian revivals and pietism , especially among African Americans. Drawing on traditional work songs , enslaved African Americans originated and began performing a wide variety of Spirituals and other Christian music. Some of these songs were coded messages of subversion against slaveholders, or that signaled escape. During the period after the Civil War, the spread of African-American music continued.

The Fisk University Jubilee Singers toured first in Artists including Jack Delaney helped revolutionize post-war African-American music in the central-east of the United States. In the following years, professional "jubilee" troops formed and toured. Barbershop quartets originated with African-American men socializing in barbershops; they would harmonize while waiting their turn, vocalizing in spirituals, folk songs and popular songs.

This generated a new style, consisting of unaccompanied, four-part, close-harmony singing. Later, white minstrel singers adopted the style, and in the early days of the recording industry their performances were recorded and sold. By the end of the 19th century, African-American music was an integral part of mainstream American culture. In early 20th-century American musical theater , the first musicals written and produced by African Americans debuted on Broadway in with a musical by Bob Cole and Billy Johnson. In , the first recording of black musicians was of Bert Williams and George Walker , featuring music from Broadway musicals.

Theodore Drury helped black artists develop in the opera field. He founded the Drury Opera Company in and, although he used a white orchestra, he featured black singers in leading roles and choruses. Although this company was only active from to , black singers' opportunities with Drury marked the first black participation in opera companies. Also significant is Scott Joplin 's opera Treemonisha , which is unique as a ragtime-folk opera; it was first performed in The early part of the 20th century saw a rise in popularity of African-American blues and jazz. African-American music at this time was classed as "race music".

At the time "race" was a term commonly used by African-American press to speak of the community as a whole with an empowering point of view, as a person of "race" was one involved in fighting for equal rights. Ragtime performers such as Scott Joplin became popular and some were associated with the Harlem Renaissance and early civil rights activists.

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In addition, white and Latino performers of African-American music were visible, rooted in the history of cross-cultural communication between the United States' races. African-American music was often adapted for white audiences, who would not have as readily accepted black performers, leading to genres like swing music , a pop-based outgrowth of jazz. In addition, African Americans were becoming part of classical music by the turn of the 20th century.


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While originally excluded from major symphony orchestras, black musicians could study in music conservatories that had been founded in the s, such as the Oberlin School of Music , National Conservatory of Music , and the New England Conservatory. Various black orchestras began to perform regularly in the late s and the early 20th century. In , the first incorporated black orchestra was established in Philadelphia. The Clef Club Symphony Orchestra attracted both black and white audiences to concerts at Carnegie Hall from to Tyers, the orchestra included banjos, mandolins, and baritone horns.


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    In , a concert survey of black music was performed at Carnegie Hall including jazz, spirituals and the symphonic music of W. Handy 's Orchestra and the Jubilee Singers. The first major film musical with a black cast was King Vidor 's Hallelujah of Billboard started making a separate list of hit records for African-American music in October with the "Harlem Hit Parade", which was changed in to " Race Records ", and then in to "Rhythm and Blues Records".

    In , Thurman Ruth persuaded a gospel group to sing in a secular setting, the Apollo Theater , with such success that he subsequently arranged gospel caravans that traveled around the country, playing the same venues that rhythm and blues singers had popularized. Meanwhile, jazz performers began to push jazz away from swing , a danceable popular music, towards more intricate arrangements, improvisation, and technically challenging forms, culminating in the bebop of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie , the cool sounds and modal jazz of Miles Davis , and the free jazz of Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane.

    African-American musicians in the s and s were developing rhythm and blues into a genre called rock and roll , which featured a strong backbeat and whose prominent exponents included Louis Jordan and Wynonie Harris. However, it was with white musicians such as Bill Haley and Elvis Presley , playing a guitar-based fusion of black rock and roll with country music called rockabilly , that rock and roll music became commercially successful.

    Rock music thereafter became more associated with white people, though some black performers such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley had commercial success.

    As the s came to a close, other African-Americans endeavored to concertize as professionally trained classical musicians in an effort to transcend racial and nationalistic barriers in the post World war II era. Included in this group was Henry Lewis , who emerged in as the first African-American instrumentalist in a leading American symphony orchestra, an early "musical ambassador" in support of cultural diplomacy in Europe and the first African-American conductor of a major American symphonic ensemble in The s also saw increased popularity of hard blues in the style from the earliest part of the century, both in the United States and United Kingdom.

    The s also saw doo-wop style become popular. Doo-wop had been developed through vocal group harmony with the musical qualities of different vocal parts, nonsense syllables, little or no instrumentation, and simple lyrics. It usually involved ensemble single artists appearing with a backing group. Solo billing was given to lead singers who were more prominent in the musical arrangement.

    A secularized form of American gospel music called soul also developed in the mid s, with pioneers like Ray Charles , [19] Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke leading the wave. In , Hank Ballard releases a song for the new dance style "The Twist" which became the new dance crave from the early 60's into the 70's. In , Berry Gordy founded Motown Records , the first record label to primarily feature African-American artists aimed at achieving crossover success.

    The label developed an innovative—and commercially successful—style of soul music with distinctive pop elements. In the UK, British blues became a gradually mainstream phenomenon, returning to the U. Soul music, however, remained popular among black people through highly evolved forms such as funk , developed out of the innovations of James Brown.

    In , the Civil Rights Act outlawed major forms of discrimination towards African Americans and women. As tensions started to die down, more African American musicians crossed over into mainstream taste. Some artists who successfully crossed over were Aretha Franklin , James Brown , and Ella Fitzgerald in the pop and jazz worlds, and Leontyne Price and Kathleen Battle in the realm of the classical music. By the end of the decade, Black people were part of the psychedelia and early heavy metal trends, particularly by way of the ubiquitous Beatles' influence and the electric guitar innovations of Jimi Hendrix.

    Psychedelic soul , a mix of psychedelic rock and soul began to flourish with the s culture. Even more popular among Black people, and with more crossover appeal, was album-oriented soul in the late s and early s, which revolutionized African-American music. The new aesthetic is mostly predicated on an Ethics that asks the question: whose vision of the world is more meaningful, ours or the white oppressors?

    In comparison to earlier Black writers, such as those of the Harlem Renaissance, Scott-Heron relies on a predominantly colloquial style of poetry, and when he uses the language of television advertisements, it is in mockery rather than adoption. The revolution will not go better with Coke. The revolution will not fight the germs that cause bad breath. The revolution WILL put you in the driver's seat. The revolution will not be televised. The Panthers recognized the very framework of American capitalism to be a root of hegemonic rule in the United States.

    The Black Panthers were not anti-capitalist by coincidence: the embodiment of Marxist and socialist ideals was part of a pointed effort to combat the impoverished conditions of predominantly Black neighborhoods that made social projects a necessity.