At the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th, many Jews lived in "The Pale of Settlement", a cosmopolitan melting pot at the intersection of three dying Empires: the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian. Here, Jews borrowed and synthesized music from different cultures, including styles with North African roots. Out of this mixture came the Motown sound, as it were, of the Pale of Settlement, a popular dance music among Jews who lived in the vast area that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea.
Eastern European Jews who arrived en masse in America's northern cities brought
with them the "Klezmer" sound. ("Klezmer" is formed by combining two Hebrew
words "kle" and "zemer," meaning vessel and song). Eastern European Jews
who arrived en masse in America's northern cities brought with them the
At the same time, African Americans fleeing poverty and oppression in America's south headed for a new beginning in the great cities of the industrial north, bringing the Blues with them.
Distilled to its essence, the Blues reflects the condition of the people who created it. Deeply impoverished, newly emancipated slaves had virtually no instruments on which to create this music. They used brooms to sweep on the floor for rhythm and a bit of animal gut stretched out along a piece of wood to create a banjo (an African word) for a plucking, plaintive accompaniment.
In the creation of the Blues, vocalists led the way,
doing things to notes that instrumentalists had not dreamed of until then. Horn and string players of the time studied Blues singers, imitated their techniques and transformed the sound of instrumental accompaniment.
ęCopyright 2001, WBUR
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