African Blues: (Was) Blues and race

Jay Watterworth watterwo@SOBEK.COLORADO.EDU
Tue Jun 16 19:51:29 EDT 1998


I just picked up an interesting book, _Selections from the Gutter,
Portraits from the Jazz Record_ edited by Art Hodes and Chadwick Hansen.
It contains articles from the magazine which was published from 1943
through 1947, most of which were transcribed from the words of jazz
musicians of the day.  It is most interesting.  The opening note by Art
Hodes (jazz piano) speak most eloquently to this issue:

"My music?  It's people's music.  It never had a color to distinguish it;
it did have tints and hues.  From the very beginning it was a happy
marriage of varied cultures, but it came to us from the insides of a
downtrodden race.  My music is spirituals that speak of hope, promise,
better ways.  It's the blues. ...Leadbelly singing 'When you got a
chicken on your plate an you can't eat, you got the blues.'  It's the
street corner washboard band ... the jug band ... the piano man keeping
the left hand going as the right connects with a drink ... the jazz band
that hits you down the middle, inside ... Muddy Waters saying goodnight
to Sarah Vaughn (after she'd spent an evening in his place, listening)
and reminding her, 'Now, you all come back, 'cause this is where the
sure-enough is.'  My music is from down home, my music is."

Jay Watterworth

On Tue, 16 Jun 1998, chuck nevitt wrote:

> Fetzer wrote:
> <<In a post Mike Curtis said "Today most blues artists are white"  What
> planet are you living on, Mike?  Are most Africans on your planet
> white,too?//Fetzer>>
>
> If it's an African thing shouldn't there be a tremendous amount of REAL
> BLUES in AFRICA? I would also ask that if was an AFRICAN thing why don't
> more countries that used AFRICAN slaves (we by no means were the only
> ones) not also have BLUES music? Could it be that they too were
> influenced by the music of the region? Would you say Calypso or Reggae
> was blues? I am not being contrary-- just curious (so please don't come
> out breathing fire).
>
> I have for some reason never pondered this before now-- anyone that can
> shed some light on this in a civil discussion I personally would be
> interested to hear some educated guesses (or facts) as to why there IS
> not more blues influenced music in AFRICA--and other countries that used
> AFRICAN slave labor (...not all slaves WERE/ARE African).
>
> Fetzer also asked about white Africans in Mikes world (which I guess
> would include the whole planet)--I guess there are plenty of white
> Aficans in Africa--if you use the same guidelines to call yourself an
> American--which unless you are an AMERICAN INDIAN you are no more a
> American than Christian Barnard was African.
>
> food for thought?
> chuck n.
> (excuse me if you folks covered this a year ago--I wasn't on line
> then...)
>
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