Type: Response Essays
Sample donated: Jessica Anderson
Last updated: September 13, 2019
Black Music is a very important part of our country’s culture and history.
Ever since the slaves of Africa were transported by white slavers to the Americas, black music has always been apart of our culture. The use of different rhythms, instruments, and sounds was, back then, entirely new to the white culture, and it was almost an entirely different language for slaves. A language of sound, filled with the desire of a better future and the sorrow of the daily routine of a slave. Now, that language is tied to our very culture and has evolved into our society today. Genres like Soul, Jazz, Blues, R, and Hip-Hop all adopted that language and added their own stories, rhythms, and ways of life to that sound, while also keeping the roots of black music present. Without field music, our culture, music, and perception of black culture wouldn’t be the way it is in our modern society. Our culture in America has greatly changed over the centuries.
But, nothing has changed our culture as much as the era of slaves in America. Whites saw blacks as inferior beings and used them to do the dirty work of their businesses. During the labor, they decided to do something so harmless that resulted in more violence. Sing. They sang tunes of the grim and ghastly days they experienced. The songs they sang had a similar formula to when the slaves were in Africa. The songs had a “call and response” formula, where somebody sang a specific word or phrase and the rest sang the rest. Of course, they didn’t have the drums and percussion instruments like they did at home, but field music and African music had a similar formula.
But, the slaves did not know that what they were singing would become the beginning of a revolutionary sound in music. Black music at that time held several themes and messages. Considered one of the first widespread music forms of blacks in the south was spiritual. Spirituals were basically a response to how badly blacks were being treated in America. Spirituals talked about the longing for freedom religiously and physically and an end to their life as a slave.
This genre was slowly developing into other genres as well, including blues, ragtime, and jazz, which was a developing genre in black New Orleans. They still held the same roots, but they had different sounds. But, the black music scene wasn’t given attention across America until one woman wrote a revolutionary song that would be one of the roots of the Civil Rights Movement. “Strange Fruit” was a song by black jazz musician, Billie Holiday. The song had a somber tone, with Billie Holiday’s unique vocals guiding the listener through a musical poem about black lynchings in the south.
It angered the south, but it gave black people a voice. A voice that protested their treatment and a voice that developed into multiple sounds in music. Black music in America has evolved into multiple genres over the decades and has produced many influential and popular artists. From field music to the black music in the 20th century, black music has significantly increased in popularity over the years. Artists like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis really popularized Jazz music in America. Nina Simone was a force in soul music. Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy Collins basically pioneered the funk genre, with James Brown and The Jackson 5 being influential in the disco scene in the 1970s. Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye were building up the R genre, and the 80’s were full of best-of-all-time pop artists like Whitney Houston, Prince, and of course the pop king, Michael Jackson.
But, we’re forgetting one genre. Hip-Hop and Rap. An underground genre in the 80’s and late 70’s, Hip-Hop became popular with artists like N.W.A., Notorious B.I.
G., Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, The Wu-Tang Clan, and 2pac in the 90’s. Ever since, Hip-hop and rap have become the most popular music genre in the entire world, producing legendary musicians like Busta Rhymes, Dr.
Dre, Jay-Z, and new artists like Kendrick Lamar, Future, Vince Staples, Drake, Childish Gambino, A$AP Rocky, and Chance The Rapper. Black music has never been bigger and it has never been better, and it has revolutionized the music scene. Black Music has been very revolutionary in America. From field music to modern day hip-hop, it has shaped our society into ways not even imaginable in the 1700’s and 1800’s when slavery was still an atrocity to humanity. Black Music is essential to how America views black people today and how it united a minority against a society that viewed them as inferior, like a rabbit fighting a wolf.
It has produced legendary artists like Nina Simone and chart-toppers like Drake. It has ushered in a new era of popular music and has expanded its voice to new places. If someone told a slave that a black musician will be one of the most popular people in the world, they wouldn’t believe them. And the fact that that has been the case is remarkable and inspiring to a new generation to create their own voices in music and in society.