The Origins of Jazz

The origin of Jazz has been described interchangeably over the last century. I concur with Gunther Schuller a horn player, educator and Pulitzer prize-winning composer who was the leading proponent of the Third Stream movement fusing jazz and classical music. He categorically made it clear that jazz has its origins from the African continent, This can be traced in his book which was brilliantly written in 1968 with a deeper analytical digging on jazz titled Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development in (Chapter 1, pages 3-62).  

He said that “the analytic study shows that every musical element – rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre, and the basic forms of jazz – is essentially African in background and derivation.”

Many people especially in America and Europe have come out to say that Jazz was born out of and evolved through the African-American experience in the United States.

Hennessey and Thomas in their writing, From Jazz to Swing: Black Jazz Musicians and Their Music, 1890-1935 said that Jazz is a genre of music that originated in African-American communities during the late 19th and early 20th century. It emerged in many parts of the United States in the form of independent popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation.

The ethnomusicologist Arthur Morris Jones in his 1956 volume analysis of African music, called Studies in African Music, and on Winthrop Sargeant’s pioneering analytical study of jazz called Jazz: Hot and Hybrid, Da Capo Press, 1975, 3rd Edition, enlarged all have the leaning that Jazz evolved from Africa.

It has taken me years studying and reading about the origin of Jazz although not extensively. I believe Jazz pitched camp on the international scene from the rhythms that the slaves in the bigger part of the United States used to enjoy being that they were captured from different parts of the African Continent which is deeply engrossed with superior touch and feel of music. Imagine the fusion of West, East, Central and Southern Africa. This combination can produce the best melodies. You can not imagine I am even snapping to Jazz in my mind.

Well, I think the only way they (slaves) would entertain themselves and keep truck of their roots, was through music fused from different cultures in Africa. This may call for a debate and thorough analysis. Hope you enjoyed the reading.


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