MusicWhat is Blues music?
What is Blues music?

What is Blues music?

During the years 1619 to 1808, a group of African people, generally consisting of Falani, Arada and Dahomey tribes, were sent to America as slaves and with great cruelty. These people were sold in the slave markets of that time and bought by the American landowners.

In this world, what else can relieve the pains and sufferings that a human being endures in captivity other than art. African workers also had the only means to comfort themselves were the old melodies and songs they remembered from their homeland. Many of these songs were sung in a group and question-and-answer format, that is, the leader of the group would raise a certain pattern of questions and the rest of the workers would repeat it or answer it. At that time, this particular type of singing, which was only for black workers, was called farm singing.

The birth of the blues music style

Years later, as late as 1863, with the breaking of the slavery tradition and the emancipation of the African slaves, the singing tradition remained with them like an old and valuable relic, and even though it was still an unofficial member of American society. lived, they attended special ceremonies such as church prayers and groups and street carnivals to sing.

Itinerant African musicians gradually became familiar with the European style of music and singing, and by combining this style of music with old African melodies, they created a new style of music that we know as blues music.

At the beginning of the emergence of the blues music style, the same question and answer pattern specific to Africans was still maintained, but this time in a special and creative way in which the question was raised by the singer and the answer was given by the guitar instrument.

The birth of the blues music style

A composer’s first encounter with the blues

William Christopher Handy (W. C. Handy), an American composer and musician and one of the jazz musicians in the 19th century, says this about his first encounter with this music:

“One night in March, I was sitting in a train station near Mississippi, and after learning that the train was delayed, I took refuge in a chair in the corner of the station to rest. My eyes were heavy and I was on the verge of sleep and wakefulness when a voice pulled me out of my dream world. When I opened my eyes, I noticed a black guitar player in the seat next to me, singing an improvised song about going south, and at the same time responding with special and scattered guitar chords. This melody was the strangest and most mysterious thing I had ever heard, and after talking with the unknown musician, I realized that what I was hearing was a special kind of music called blues music.

William Handy, who fell in love with blues music one quiet night at the train station, later earned the title of “Father of Blues Music”. It is true that he did not create the blues genre, but by writing and cultivating it, a great step was taken to preserve and spread this style, which until then had only been perpetuated by word of mouth. In addition, Handi played a very important role in introducing other musicians, especially jazz musicians, to the blues style.

Review of blues from a musical point of view

Today’s blues music has differences from what was originally sung with this name, black people’s music was not rhythmic in nature and was sung only based on the singer’s feelings and mood at the moment and without any instruments and only in some cases of simple instruments, percussion. E or hand blows are used for accompaniment. But today’s blues is completely based on rhythm, and rhythm in this style is seen as a continuous stretching of a melody.

The musical structure of blues usually has one line and twelve measures. First, the main chords for the first line and four measures are played, and then four chords are played for the fifth and sixth measures, followed by a chord for the seventh and eighth measures. The last line is different, and five chords are played for measures nine and ten, followed by one chord for measures eleven and twelve.

The poem in blues music has a structure of three emotional lines, usually the first and second lines are the same and are presented only with different chords, but the third line is completely different from the second line.

Review of blues from a musical point of view

What are the most important instruments of blues music?

The first instruments that the African immigrants made for the blues music style were simple and handmade instruments that they designed themselves and made them due to the lack of facilities with simple and available raw materials, for example, they tied a metal wire to a box and a rhythmic pattern with the same They played a single string box.

After the end of the slavery period, blacks gradually became familiar with the common instruments of that time, such as the banjo, guitar, and harmonica, and had the opportunity to learn these instruments.

Although in the past the main blues instruments were the guitar and harmonica, but in the modern blues period and in the combination of blues music with jazz and other styles, we see the presence of other instruments such as piano, drums and wind instruments such as saxophone and… in the blues style.

Two styles of blues music

Rhythm is very important in this style of music. At first, the songs that the blacks sang had a vocal nature and usually there were no instruments and the blacks were content with clapping, only sometimes a percussion instrument accompanied them. In the blues style, each stanza of the song usually has three lines, the first and second lines are often repeated and sung in the same way so that the listener is ready to hear the third line, which has a different melody.

In a way, blues music can be seen as a constant melodic struggle that starts with raising a question and creating tension and leads to the resolution of the tension by answering. The higher the melodic tension, the more bluesy the music becomes. You must have heard the name of blue notes. These notes are not part of the chord notes and are out of tune with it. For this reason, they create a state of restlessness and tension in the listener, which can only be resolved by returning to the notes of the same chord. In today’s blues music, it is also common to use small melodic phrases that repeat throughout the song, called riffs or hooks.

Delta Blues

It is said that the old blues style was popular in the Mississippi River Delta in America. In this period, i.e. before World War II, it was reserved for black people and was usually performed in villages or small towns and in small groups of three or four people. This style of music had a vocal nature, and for this reason sometimes the singer sings alone and sometimes he also plays the guitar or banjo along with self-made vocals. This feature both emphasized the vocal nature of the blues style and provided a better understanding of their playing technique. This performance was a personal expression that had a great impact on the listeners and audiences of this type of music.

Chicago Blues (Modern Blues)

After World War II and with the migration of blacks to other American states, the most important of which was Chicago, the blues came out of small communities and sparsely populated cities and spread to other cities. In this period, electric music came into use and the use of amplifiers became common. Blues musicians also switched to the electric guitar and even used an amplifier to use the harmonica. Blues musicians were able to adapt their traditional music to urban electric music and this helped save blues music. During this period, blues musicians turned to group performances and used instruments such as drums, guitar bass, and piano. Even due to more familiarity with jazz music, wind instruments, especially the saxophone, were also used.

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