The pioneers of Blues
The blues is a musical style that originated from the African slaves who were taken to North America (now the United States) by the European slave traders. Even though it is not known when and where exactly blues music was first heard, it is understood that the music started to take its modern form during the nineteenth century. And from one of the darkest periods in human history came out a music that changed the world of music.
The African slaves were subjected to mandatory labour and to unimaginable hardship. The only way they could escape from this reality was to pray and sing. They tried to distract themselves from the horror by singing. They sang in the rhythms they knew from their past and also they took in elements of local music, which was various types of European folk music. They would often sing what is called in a call and response manner. This means one person will sing a phrase and then other workers working around him/her will repeat that phrase. Singing was the only way they could have some solace. While they worked and worked and worked, music came out of their tortured souls. Their blood and tears gave birth to the blues.
The names of the earliest people that sang the blues are not recorded in history, because no proper historical documents exist to exactly pinpoint that information. But some of the early blues musicians who shaped the music and gave the music its modern form were Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and the most famous Robert Johnson. Blues singer Ma Rainey was as one of the earliest African-American who took up music as a profession and came to be known as the ‘Mother of the Blues’. There were, of course, many others who also helped create the modern blues sound.
Almost all popular contemporary music took elements from the blues. Some of the most popular genres known today were, in fact, originated from the blues. Rock and roll came from blues guitar playing. After its creation, rock and roll soon gave birth to the genre known as rock music. From Eric Clapton to Led Zeppelin, from The Rolling Stones to The Beatles, from Pink Floyd to AC/DC, from Kiss to Guns N’ Roses – every one of these artists’ music is directly linked to the blues. These artists are among the best selling musicians in the recorded history of music, The Beatles being
literally the best selling artist of all time.
The ‘band music’ scene in Bangladesh, as it is known, is very much connected to the blues tradition. But Bangladeshi artists like Azam Khan and later bands took elements more directly from the derivative of the blues-rock music. They then infused their own influences from Bangladeshi melodies and created their own version of what they heard. In a way, the blues has a lot to do with the remarkable ‘band music’ movement, but from the point of view of song structure and direct influence, Bangladeshi bands did not develop a close tie with early blues music. A recent movement of blues and jazz music in Dhaka has seen bands taking up that early music and performing them.