African-American music

"The Banjo Lesson," by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1893. Oil on canvas, 49" × 35½". Hampton University Museum

African-American music is an umbrella term covering a diverse range of music and musical genres largely developed by African Americans. Their origins are in musical forms that arose out of the historical condition of slavery that characterized the lives of African Americans prior to the American Civil War.

Following the Civil War, Black Americans, through employment as musicians playing European music in military bands, developed a new style of music called ragtime which gradually evolved into jazz. 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 1920s. African-American musicians developed related styles such as Rhythm and Blues in the 1940s. In the 1960s, soul performers had a major influence on white US and UK singers. In the mid-1960s, Black musicians developed funk and they were many of the leading figures in late 1960s and 1970s genre of jazz-rock fusion. In the 1970s and 1980s, Black artists developed hip-hop, and in the 1980s introduced the disco-infused dance style known as house music. In the 2000s, hip-hop attained significant mainstream popularity. Modern day music is heavily influenced by previous and present African-American music genres.[citation needed]

Historic traits

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).[1]