By Akilah James
For generations, music has been an active part of Black culture and stands heavily important within our modern day context. Black music is highly diverse and while many people might think of limited stereotypical genres like rap and R&B, Black people created most of your favourite genres.
Today, one can see the appropriation of Black culture heavily riddled throughout aspects of pop culture.
For example, in 2013 Miley Cyrus used her place in the hip-hop scene to her advantage by creating her album Bangerz with hip-hop producer Mike Will Made-It. This created shock value for the former Disney star. Music videos from that album were heavily influenced by Black hip-hop culture; however, three years later Miley confessed in a Billboardinterview that she got out of the hip-hop scene because she is “so not that”, proving her appropriation of Black culture for gain.
© Mike Will | Youtube
While appropriation still runs through the music industry, some genres are still considered as “white” music - however, there is a good chance of a Black person creating it or at least influencing the genre.
Here are FIVE music genres that you did not know were created by Black people.
Country music is a melting pot of Black culture. Hillbilly music in particular is a combination of folk songs created by African immigrants from the British Isles in the 18th and 19th century. Southern Black people invented the banjo and the fiddle - popular instruments used in country music - in the 1690s.
In 1927, a man by the name DeFord Bailey performed during a music radio show in Nashville and played his harmonica – another a popular instrument used in country.
DeFord Bailey became the first person to be introduced in the Grand Ole Opry, a country music concert. He was also their first ever performer and the first person to have his music recorded in Nashville. He was the first ever African American star of country music.
When one thinks of rock ‘n’ roll, many people think of the white “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Elvis Presley. However, the early beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll are deeply rooted in the influence of Black music and culture.
Rock ‘n’ roll music is heavily influenced by a Deep South Black music genre called rhythm and blues. Sister Rosetta Tharpe - a guitarist who crossed over from gospel music to the sound of rhythm and blues - is looked at as a precursor to rock ‘n’ roll. Her sound influenced early rock ‘n’ roll musicians such as Little Richard, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley.
House music is a genre of electronic dance music, characterized by repetitive beats and tempos, and is usually played as club music. A Black gay DJ by the name Frankie Knuckles was an American DJ, record producer, and remixer. He played an important role in popularizing and developing house music in Chicago.
In the late 70s, he remixed disco music into early house music and through his innovation and development of the genre, Knuckles is considered: “The Godfather of House Music”. During the time, Frankie Knuckles played at a club called Warehouse, a members only club for gay Black men, however Frankie Knuckles’ new captivating sound became so popular that it started drawing in more straighter, whiter crowds.
Techno music is often associated as a type of upbeat, fast-paced European club music; however, the electrifying beats of techno music were created in the Black community. Specifically in Detroit.
In the 80s, DJ Robert Hood - originator of techno music, used a combination of gospel, disco, and funk music , and blended to create the sounds of techno. Techno as we know it today, transformed into music that you would only see in European rave culture, however, it was originally music created to be pro-Black.
In an interview, DJ Robert Hood said: “Techno is the struggle of Black artists that came from nothing, had nothing. I was blessed to share this music.”
In the late 19th century, local brass bands in New Orleans became extremely popular. This marked the beginning of the soulful jazz music we love today.
Jazz music, characterized by its roots in the genre of blues, wherein the tempo of blues music were turned into rhythmic upbeat tunes.
In 1915, an African American ragtime and jazz pianist, Jelly Roll Morton created one of the first ever published jazz compositions “Jelly Roll Blues”. Although it is one of the earliest known jazz songs - what is considered to be the “first” jazz recording comes from an all-white band “Original Dixieland Jass Band” (1917).
Plagiarized from African American musicians, the song “Livery Stable Blues” sold over a million records. The early origins of jazz proves to be an early instance of the music industry commercializing off Black musicians and giving their white counterparts undue credit.
These FIVE Black musical pioneers undoubtedly paved the way for some of our favourite music genres today.
What is your favourite genre? Let us know here.