Popular Music

A look at the influence of European and African traditions on American popular music.

This paper examines how, from America?s inception, culture and music, in particular, has always been a mixture of African and European influences. It looks at how the two cultures were inextricably linked through slavery, economics, and migration and how these links are particularly evident in spirituals and the blues. It discusses how the content of spirituals reflected the plight of blacks before and after slavery and how, as blacks moved north, spirituals were changed and diminished in popularity in part because of European-American influences. It also shows how the blues was reflective of both African call-and-response traditions and the individualism that grasped the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“The blues are another music form that was influenced by both African and European factors. The blues had its roots in forms of holler, cry and call music from slavery times, and was motivated in part by the same sense of injustice as spirituals: “The active agent in the blues, whether it is the music itself or the process, is particularly relevant for grasping the fact that we can overcome the limitations of our society and the results of our history” (Daniels 22). However, the blues emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as something never before seen in black music.”