2.2.1 How America Became the Capital of Western Popular Music
2.2.2 Why African American Music Tends to Dominate Popular
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Europeans also colonized large parts of Africa and forced
generations of Africans into slavery abroad. They shipped millions
of Africans to America to work as plantation slaves.
the Civil War and the assassination of America’s greatest president by a white
Southerner, virulent institutionalized racism and legislated segregation became
entrenched in many American states. It stayed that way for more than 100 years.
Shut out of mainstream American life, African Americans
developed a number of new musical genres, composites of their own
African traditions and various European forms, genres that stood out
from those of the white majority.
The Europeans who colonized America, initially from the British
Isles, France, and Spain, brought with them a variety of musical
traditions. Before the advent of the popular music industry, music of
white America consisted of European forms such as operetta songs,
marches, and dances such as the waltz, schottische, and polka.
Music of the Old Country.
From about 1880 to World War I, huge numbers of people
crossed the Atlantic to settle in America. Among them were Jews
fleeing persecution in the Russian Empire, many of whom settled in
New York. They were to have an enormous impact on American
American popular song started to come into its own in the 1880s.
No other single nation had such a musically fortuitous combination:
large population, economic wealth, and, above all, an extraordinary
diversity of musical roots. A large, economically prosperous
population (today, almost 300 million), with one dominant language
has historically meant a huge market for popular songs with lyrics in
a single prevailing language
If you were to remove all the popular music genres still going
strong today that did not originate with African American and Jewish
songwriters and performers, what would be left? Some folk, classical, country,
and some world music That’s about it. Today, genres that originated with African
Americans pervade or at least inform the popular music of many if not most
nations of the world.
The descendants of African American slaves have always
created music and musical genres so innovative and potent that
they have tended to dominate popular music, both in America and
abroad. Hip-hop is only the latest.
Over the past couple of centuries, African Americans have combined
the versatile melodic and harmonic aspects of European tonal music
with their own polyrhythmic and improvisational traditions to create
a number of irresistible genres that have spread around the world. Practically
everywhere you go on the planet, a large proportion of the recorded and live
popular music you hear consists of genres that originated with African
Americans—hip-hop, rock, electronica, jazz, blues.
The secret of the global success of popular music genres of
African American origin is that they tend to emphasize numerous
powerful musical universals simultaneously—so many universals that
non-African Americans in nations worldwide can relate to the music.
nature does not vary from culture to culture. If a human takes a liking to
something technical or artistic from another culture, said human will adopt it,
without bothering too much about where it came from. If it’s an artistic
element, and it’s emotionally powerful, nothing else matters much.
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