You may not think of music as too influential on human society, but you should never underestimate the power of music. Over centuries of influential genres, jazz is just one music variety that has helped shape and express African American cultures and communities. This music genre is a diverse style of music often described as having stressed rhythms, complicated harmonies, and a prime focus on improvisation. Jazz origins go back to the late 19th century when African American musicians in New Orleans generated this unique style. Its parent genres include folk music, blues, and ragtime. Over the years, this genre has helped celebrate African American communities and culture.
Who Is Influential In This Genre?
As a genre that spans hundreds of years, it’s no surprise that many artists have become influential in this field and carved a path for contemporary musicians today. While there are many instrumentalists, most contemporaries consider Buddy Bolden the first notable jazz musician. This African American bandleader was often celebrated as the first man of jazz. This cornetist was a prime character in the creation of jazz, previously known as ‘jass’, a New Orleans ragtime music style. Without Bolden, jazz might not have existed as we know it today. Additionally, Miles Dewey Davis III was also a notable figure in jazz. This American trumpeter, composer, and bandleader helped mold the history of jazz in the 20th century and paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.
American jazz singer Ella Jane Fitzgerald is another influential figure in this genre, often called the Queen of Jazz. Contemporaries mainly fell in love with this woman’s timing, tone, and diction, which gave her a distinct touch in songs. Her improvisational talent helped her stand out further, especially in her scat singing.
Duke Ellington, an American jazz composer and pianist, led the eponymous jazz orchestra from 1923 until his passing in 1974. Proudly working on over 1000 compositions, Ellington’s impressive selection of work is one of the biggest recorded in jazz history, enabling his works to become the standard that those after him worked towards.
Another notable jazz figure is John William Coltrane, an American jazz bandleader, composer, and saxophonist. Having studied music in Philadelphia, Coltrane became one of the most noteworthy figures in jazz history.
How Did Jazz Shape The African American Community?
In the 19th century, New Orleans was a region where enslaved people assembled to play music, bringing together individuals from various countries, each contributing a piece of their birth country’s original tones and harmonies. Over time, this blend of African and Caribbean music was combined with marching band instruments to create the genre of ragtime. Popular at the time, this spiritual music wound its way into the jazz sound we know today.
While the exact date when jazz began has been questioned, it soared in popularity in the 1920s. It enabled women to express themselves as they had never been able to before. For example, society saw dance, song, and fashion develop around the country, molding into change that continues to evolve today. While fashion before the 1920s was inspired by Victorian styles, it soon changed to keep pace with lively jazz dancing, shifting with the introduction of garments like flapper dresses. Furthermore, shorter hairstyles became trendier due to their practicality.
This popularity, and the fact that music was a vital part of African American life, undoubtedly caused a surge of social change. It was associated with the development of uniqueness, identity, and social unity amongst African American musicians, and in turn, their community.
- It’s evident that music genres can considerably impact communities and cultures worldwide—jazz has had a significant effect on social change, which continues to evolve today.
- We should continue to educate ourselves on different cultural aspects and mark how music allows communities to flourish and express themselves as a crucial societal component.
- Furthermore, we should never underestimate the power of music—music is a symbol that gathers individuals together based on shared experiences and can help them celebrate their identity and relationships with those around them.