The harsh living conditions and treatment of African-Americans during the slavery era brought about the music genre we know as “The Blues.”
Silenced by oppression, the blues was a form of expression that had explicit clarity about the raw emotion of racism. The blues is as strong now as it was back in the days of slavery.
The Need to Communicate
Eight million slaves were brought to America from Africa between 1600-1820. Families were split up and forced into a migration to the deep south. Because of the trauma and emotional pain this had upon the slaves, a new form of expression was developed between the slaves known as “The Blues.”
A new African-American culture had formed in the deep south as the influx of slaves toppled over four million. Blues music originated within this culture as it developed roots in work songs and folk music.
Slaves were oppressed physically, emotionally and linguistically leaving no other form to express oneself other than music. Music was the non-verbal form of expression that reflected the physical and emotional torture the slaves endured.
Music instruments were forbidden amongst the slaves as well; however, music was something that could be created with voice and body. The blues was a way to express pain, grief and a passive way of resisting the oppression of the white man. It quickly became a vehicle for cultural affirmation within the African-American culture.
The inspiration for Movements and Causes
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freeing the slaves. Freedom brought the inspiration for movements and causes which developed over the decades bringing awareness to the oppression and suffering of slavery.
Blues will always hold true to the reflection of the life experiences of African-Americans. Although we see varieties of blues develop, there will always be struggle and pain in the lyrics of every song.
Blues isn’t merely music, it is an attitude and a state of mind!