This collection is the musical equivalent of a family reunion. Blues music was born in the southern United States, but its DNA is undeniably African.
When Africans were finally reunited with the blues created by their African-American “cousins,” they were amazed by the similarities with their own music. The pentatonic scale and the penchant for bending notes to enhance the emotional poignancy of a melody are still fundamental aspects of African and African-American music.
In the mid-1900s, when Africans started hearing music by American blues legends such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, it resonated with them. They began to imitate the styles they heard on records and the radio. In recent years, many American and European musicians have recorded and performed with musicians from Africa, and several songs on this collection represent these cross-cultural collaborations.
- W.C. Handy is considered to be the “Father of the Blues”. Although it is difficult to pin point, Handy’s ”Memphis Blues” (written in 1909) is documented as one of the first blues songs to be written. He’s responsible for bringing the blues genre to a mainstream level in American music.
- The term “blues” is derived from the phrase “blues devils,” which means sadness or deep depression. The term appears as early as 1798 in George Coleman’s short play, “Blues Devils.”
- The blues originated in African-American slave communities, where the “call and response” way of singing was developed from the field shouts and hollers performed during that time period.
- A native instrument that makes an appearance in African Blues is the Kora, a 21 string bridge harp built from a large calabash, cow skin and supported with a long hard wood neck. While the sound resembles that of a harp, when played in the traditional style, it bears a closer resemblance to flamenco and delta blues guitar techniques.
The combination of African and American history and culture makes the blues such a fascinating genre. Be sure to put your blues knowledge to the test when African Blues comes out on April 24th.