African Blues: (Was) Blues and race

William Sakovich sakovich@GOL.COM
Tue Jun 16 22:42:20 EDT 1998

Chuck asks:

> I have for some reason never pondered this before now-- anyone that
> 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
> not more blues influenced music in AFRICA--and other countries that
> AFRICAN slave labor (...not all slaves WERE/ARE African).

Two quick reasons before I read the other responses, Chuck.

1. Blues is American music to begin with, developed from American
conditions and culture, so any Blues in Africa would have to be a

2. Not to be cute -- I'm being serious -- but it depends on what you
mean by blues. As you would expect, the subject matter of African
popular music covers most of the same subject matter that Blues or
any other pop music would cover. (Theme 1: You're so fine, won't you
be mine? Theme 2: You're so fine, I'm so glad you're mine. Theme 3:
You're so fine, why aren't you mine anymore/why did you treat me so

3. However, the musical sound of African pop music is quite different
than that in the blues. It seems much jauntier and lighter, even when
the subject matter is about unemployment, say.

4. Jazz and funk are different questions, though. Ghanian highlife
owes a lot to 30's jazz, and popular Ethiopian music owes a lot to
the James Brown of the 70's.

- Bill Sakovich

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