Usually when you think of “The Blues” images of a somber and overcast day appear in your mind, and whilst in modern times Blues is one of the most expressive forms of music that exists, ranging from unbridled joy to deep sadness, its origins are quite grim.
African slaves didn’t lose their musical traditions when they were brought to the American colonies, and the earliest types of African American music were mostly religious songs and work songs.
Music was one of the few forms of happiness that slaves had, and they clung to it tightly. Work songs were sung rhythmically in time with the task at hand. And like in modern day bands, there would be a group of singers who would follow the lead singers cues. Eventually African music seeped into the folk music of the European settlers, and out of that joining many new genres were born.
The Blues first emerged towards the end of the 19th century. This early style of blues was known as country blues and was performed by a solo singer accompanied on guitar or piano. The genre of music quickly began to spread and was performed in a variety of settings and styles: musicians often played in ‘tent shows’ while accompanying musical companies, comedians, magicians, and even more. Ballads would be played, as well as ragtime, Gospel songs, and folk tunes. From the Atlantic coast all the way down to the Gulf-and across time-the melancholy flatted notes of the Blues stretched all across the states, and eventually the world.
Whilst originally The Blues was performed as a sort of personal lament and a way to create a shared feeling of catharsis, it quickly began to transform into songs that expressed hope of a better future, and of a way out. These days there are still people who categorize all Blues songs as “Sad” which is completely unfair to the genre, as it is so much more than just a bunch of mopey melodies.
It could be argued that Blues music has the closest ties to the social history of America, and most people may have noticed that songs in this genre all share a similar sort of melody that make them sound alike, a melody not found in Rock songs or Classical songs which all sound quite unique.
The sound is unique and instantly recognizable as it is a deviant sound, not normally found in the Western culture of music, owing to the fact that the musics roots are firmly planted in West African traditions, which is what gives many of the notes are flatter sound, and the reason is sounds quite somber.
From uncomfortable beginnings of post slavery segregation The Blues has gone on to influence Western music like no other Genre, and will likely continue to do so.