Black People Made Your Favorite Music
Written By Gabriel Estrada
Whether you know it or not, a large portion of the music we listen to has roots in black culture. A lot of the music we listen to today would not be here if it weren't for the innovation and creativity of black individuals and this is not credited enough. Often, the origins of our favorite genres and hit records are forgotten by no fault of our own, however in a time of information it is easier now to look back and pay respect to those who deserve it. I hope that through this, you will gain a new found appreciation for your favorite song(s) and love them even more the next time you play them. Play them a little louder while you're at it too, let your friends know what you learned and lets all jam out.
I hold music very near and dear to my heart, of all genres too, so it is important to me to spread this information as i too have benefitted from learning the following.
Here are some examples of how Black people paved the way for our favorite tracks.
House Music - Birthed from the 70’s Queer Black/Latino club scene is Chicago and spearheaded by Frankie Knuckles, otherwise known as “The Godfather of House”, when he remixed disco music and created what we call “House Music”. The club scene was founded and sustained by LGBTQ+ minorities and they are who made house music into what we know it to be today.
Techno -Originating from Detroit Michigan in the 1980’s, techno music was based off of house music and then informed by the characteristics of African music, Funk, and futuristic ideologies brought on by American late capitalism. DJ Robert Hood is often credited as the father of techno and regularly claimed its unapologetically pro-black nature. He added by saying “[Techno is] the struggle of black artists that came from nothing, had nothing—[I was] blessed to share this music.” Techno, jazz and various other genres came from the people who survived. They are the music of struggle.
Country - This genre is widely known for being the most prominent american genre that uses a banjo. The sanjo’s origins came from the instruments that West African slaves brought with them, though they were not called banjos and there were roughly 60 very similar instruments that resemble the instrument we recognize today. The two big similarities were the long neck, the hide-covered body and the method playing, which was with the index finger and the thumb. Out of all these, it is argued that the akonting is the most similar which comes from the Jola tribe of Senegal. This instrument and its similar counterparts were then used largely in the field songs of slaves and misappropriated by the whites who were wrongly given credit for it. Google banjo origins and North America is the answer you will get.
Jazz - The most commonly agreed on origin of jazz music is from the Black communities of New Orleans. The sounds derived from the combination of Blues, Ragtime and Improvisation by choice and improvisation by an inability to read sheet music. The rhythm and free expression of voice and sounds, which is definitive of jazz music, stem directly from African music. The instrumentation, such as the brass and woodwind instruments (saxophone, trumpet, french horn, clarinet) were introduced by the French when they settled in what is now known as the seaside neighborhood, the French Quarter. When these instruments were introduced, they were then used to perform their field songs, traditional hymns and spirituals.
Rock n Roll - What we know to be angsty high energy, majority caucasian music genre of today, has its roots in Black Culture and they run deep. Similar to jazz, it stems from blues and rhythm music and was originally labeled as “race music”. In the 1940-50’s, Sister Rosetta Thorpe who played race music and informed by gospel music, played what we know to be some of the earliest Rock N Roll. Soon after, people like Chuck Berry and Little Richard adopted the music style and brought it to the mainstream where people like Elvis Presley adopted it and became the face of Rock N Roll, unfortunately pushing the pioneers to the back. Additionally, we must not forget that without Rock N Roll there would be no punk rock, there would be no alternative rock, there would be nothing for these evolutions of rock to reference from.
These are only 5 genres but as we know the world today, many more genres have been created by the meshing of one or more genres and new, innovative ideas, events and struggles. Many of today’s genres simply would not exist without these as the foundation and it can even be argued that there are generations of genres that have succeeded these - In other words, these are the grandfathers or the great grandfathers of today's most popular music genres.
***Excerpt from Major Coin***
This goes without saying, as Hip-Hop is currently the worlds largest and most influential genre, but Hip-Hop is also an expression of and from black culture.