Blues | Revista independiente de música

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What other styles do we find?

Besides ragtime and jazz, the African culture inherited from the slaves in contact with the music of the whites led to the emergence of other styles. Some religious like gospel and others profane like the blues.

The blues appeared in the second half of the 19th century in the southern cities of the United States, directly derived from the hollers and work songs of the cotton plantations.

Leadbelly - Dick Licker's Holler (1935)

One of the great legends of early blues leaves us an example of a traditional, totally improvised, anonymously authored country cry.


The hollers or field shouts had a strong influence on the origin of the blues and in fact contain a good part of its characteristics, such as the so-called blue notes, the cadence or the phrasing. Like other blues singers of the first half of the 20th century, Leadbelly had hollers in his repertoire. The one we are listening to is recorded in Wilton (Connecticut). It was collected, like many other songs, by ethnomusicologists John and Alan Lomax (father and son, respectively) for the archives of the U.S. Library of Congress.

What is blues?

It is the music that the poor black minority sings to overcome the blue, or depressive mood that is caused by lack of freedom, love problems or precarious living conditions.

Many scholars claim that some of its elements have their roots in the music of the Islamic countries of central and western Africa. It represents the relief of the performer, who is allowed to show his or her pain.

Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit (1939)

Composed by Abel Meeropol, this blues talks about lynchings of black citizens. In the voice of Billie Holiday, it shook the world. 

Billie Holiday is considered one of the most important and influential female voices in jazz. Her artistic value lies in her ability to adapt her vocal qualities to the content of the song. Her interpretations transmit an unparalleled intensity, the result of a translation of her personal experiences. This is the case of Stange Fruit, where a singer who suffered from racism speaks of the hangings of black citizens in the south of the United States at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan.

What is blues like?

It is simple music composed of twelve bars and three verses, which is expressed with realism and raw words. Besides talking about sadness, it can also acquire comical or sexual connotations.

It has evolved from unaccompanied vocal music, performed by poor black workers, to a wide variety of subgenres and styles, with regional varieties throughout the United States.

Memphis Minnie - Down in the Alley (1933)

This is a theme of their own authorship and an example of the infinite number of blues songs in which the lyrics have sexual connotations.


Lizzie Douglas comenzó a tocar en Beale Street, en Memphis, con 13 años. Durante su adolescencia pasó por graves problemas económicos que la forzaron a ejercer la prostitución, como otras muchas intérpretes femeninas de la época. Estas vivencias son las que plasma en este gut-bucket blues, composición que recibe el nombre de un cubo de metal utilizado para limpiar los intestinos de los cerdos y que hace las veces de contrabajo. Debido a este tipo de canciones, y a las calles donde se interpretaban, la música blues adquirió mala reputación.