Wednesday, September 27, 2023

A Brief History of Black American Folk Music

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Jake Blount has built a career understanding the banjo’s connection to black American folk music. In this video he guides us through the history of the instrument — from West Africa to enslaved people in the US to the early record industry — to explain how black folk music has evolved.

For example, the early record industry limited black musicians to “racing records” and white musicians to “hillbilly records.” Hillbilly music is said to have been early country and string band music. Race records limited black musicians to blues and jazz genres. Which meant black musicians playing bluegrass-style banjo weren’t included — even if they were responsible for teaching white musicians.

Using field recordings, their own banjo and violin skills, and a deconstructed version of one of their own songs, Blount explains how black musicians have long been left outside the current canon of folklore recording and American folk music history. Plus, what he does to keep the tradition alive, with fresh observations and a musical style that looks both forwards and backwards.

You can find this video and all the others Videos of cafemadrid on YouTube.

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