BLUES ROOTS -
'Blues are the root. The rest is the fruit.' -
Willie Dixon - The Blues are more than just a style of music; they are about
truth, tradition, and personal expression. The Blues
grew out of spirituals and work songs brought to North America with
the African slaves. Variations of the Blues grew out of
of the country, but recorded Blues from the early 1900s is
simple acoustic guitars/pianos. As time passed, the Blues
began to diversify.
Where the Blues Began
- Blues music has its roots in Africa.
In West African tribes
there was an individual known
who was a sort of minstrel that traveled from village to village,
telling jokes and stories, playing music, and giving his advice and
wisdom. He usually carried an instrument that resembled the modern day banjo. The Griot
was regarded as a holy figure
because of his special talent
to play songs that could make you laugh or cry.
During the years of the forced migration of African slaves to
America, a large number
Griots are thought to have been brought over. Instead of
singing the old village songs, they sang songs that expressed their
pain and fear of never seeing their home again. Once the slaves were
in America, working on plantations toiling through the day, it
became customary to sing working
songs while out in the fields. These were not songs of joy, but
an outlet to express one's
misery. With the introduction of Christianity to the
African-American slaves, the spiritual became another method of
expression and hope.
These religious and deeply emotional songs were key in development
No one can say for certain exactly when the Blues came into
later to be known as the
of the Blues', heard a
shabbily dressed man playing a guitar
while he was waiting for his train. The man was playing the weirdest
music that Handy ever heard; sliding a pocket knife up and down the
neck of the guitar, bending notes.
W.C. Handy tried to write down
the notes he heard as best he could. Some say that this is when the Blues entered written history. But the Blues were claimed to have
been heard even before that.
singer, heard a young woman singing a sad song about how her man had
left her. She later
worked this special song into her act.
It seems that Handy and
Rainey both had a part in discovering
and naming the Blues, but we know that African-Americans were
playing this music much earlier. We will never know exactly who was
the first person to slide a pocket knife across the neck of a
guitar, or who first started singing soulful songs. From its roots up until now, the Blues has developed into many
different styles and has acquired regional characteristics. Many Blues musicians since
worldwide have contributed
their talents to Blues history.