Blues is a type of music and singing that arose in the state of Mississippi at the hands of African-Americans when they were under the rule of white Americans. Initially, blues songs were sung by a crowd in a manner of shouts started by one and echoed behind by the rest to create a harmonious musical tone. In the beginning, this singing was an expression of anger and a desire for freedom. What did this musical style mean for enslaved Africans in America? Was it one of the ways to salvation and freedom?
We often hear the expression “blue” on the sad mood, just like it was portraited by the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, and so are the blues songs that bear the character of sadness and pain as much as the suffering of the blacks at that stage. Perhaps this word has a direct relationship to blues songs because it has been said that the blues mean “possessed with blue evils”, meaning the person under the evils that cause sadness and pain. And it could be, the colour blue has nothing to do with the expression (Blu) known in English as the sad mood, but we can say that “Blu” is an intruded term entered for the English language by the Afro civilisation in America and coinciding with the singing of the blues, where both express sadness.
And for sure, We don’t know who entered the term “blues” in the English dictionary, but we know that the origins of the term are directly attributed to the first African Americans who organized the lyrics for this type of song, As well as black clerics who chanted these chants of sadness. The music of sorrows brings together the origins of this type of singing, as they were all the most important forms of expressing what was simmering with the issuance of this oppressed people, especially in their first years in which they were forced to migrate. Then the black musicians and singers were influenced by Scottish poems lyrics and Church hymns for Methodists and the Baptist.
This art developed after the liberation of the African-Americans, but the pain did not end after they intended freedom and salvation. Rather, they continued to suffer from extreme poverty and ignorance, but their vocals took a good curve after entering the hormonal and guitar machines and then later on the piano … until it became one of the most famous types of American singing.
Blues has its unique style
Traditional blues music is performed in the form of 12 musical intervals, divided into three syllables and each syllable is made up of four musical pauses. Most of the lyrics for blues songs consist of several verses, each of three lines. The second line of each section is a repetition of the first, and the third line expresses an answer to its previous lines. Most of the lyrics reflect melancholy and loneliness, others reflect sarcastic reactions and the challenge of life’s problems. Blues music depends on voice and instrument playing (guitar in particular), besides, it also depends on the so-called blue notes, which means the low notes, and which are the basis of blues and jazz music.
“Blue Notes”, a name that was taken by one of the most famous production companies of blues and jazz, and which has a great credit for publishing this music worldwide, and which supported most musicians who have become legends in the history of music.
One of the most famous blues musicians is Christopher Handy, and one of his pieces is “Memphis Blues” … its first recording was just 3 minutes.
Perhaps the most famous of this singing today is Baby King (born in 1925), whose albums have won huge hits and great popularity. One of BB King’s masterpieces is “Rock me, baby”.
Music of the Devil
On the other hand, there was a different kind of blues music, known as the Devil’s Music, a type in which musicians used violins, and peasants danced on it while harvesting corn. It was named Music of the Devil because it was criminalized by the Clergy who described it as music for fun only.
After the abolition of slavery in America (1834), blues music succeeded in invading American society as a whole and became popular in the early nineteenth century. And in the period from 1870 to 1900, the streets of South America were filled with free African Americans, especially men, who went out to search for businesses other than agriculture.
And with the start of their new lives, the African-Americans performed loud parties with blues songs, the leader of one of the orchestras, “W.C. Handy”, started normalizing their traditional folk songs and made them popular.
Any other way, the abolition of slavery in America pushed female voices to professional blues singing, as black women suffered from double racial discrimination while searching for work that was sufficient for them to avoid poverty. The higher jobs were obtained by the whites, while hard work with low wages was granted to black men. Thus, that is why black women considered singing blues music a profession, as this field represented a striking glow for what fame and money singing might bring, which was a dream before 1834.
With the development of blues to jazz, women took the back seats behind men in singing this type of music, yet some of them managed to break this barrier, jumping to the front rows and got to engrave their names in the wall the hall of fame.
Blues music began to develop and diversify and produce musical variations after its influence appeared in some rock and folk music. Therefore, it began to take its own character and affected the whole of western music such as Jazz, Rock and Roll, “Hip-hop”, country music and Bluegrass.