Jazz music which is thought to be an art creation of the American blacks during the early decades of the twentieth century has been an important subject of the social history of US. It gained popularity not only as an art form but it also helped the hapless blacks, who were the offspring of the enslaved African origin blacks brought into America by the white settlers to exploit them for their labor needs, to gain a social standing through the power of music. They, with the help of influential jazz music, brought to limelight the miseries that they are suffering because of the racial hatred.
Initially the jazz music flourished in the South American region. New Orleans was especially very dear to this art. From there it traveled to all parts of America. In the beginning years there was strong resistance seen on the part of whites who could not see the blacks progressing in some field. But despite all their malicious efforts to suppress the jazz music being spread into society, they themselves were vanquished by its influence. It made itself as a hallmark of the US culture. Whites and immigrants from other regions of world were seen getting into this music.
The music when adopted by people from different ethnic backgrounds living in the multicultural society of US groomed further and many other variations were developed of it. All these happenings with the jazz were signifying the growing influence of the Negroes. The lyrics of their songs, especially the improvisation technique used in the Jazz which allows the singer to sing without even the tune, were expressive of their true emotions and their social sufferings on being the isolated and neglected portion of the society. It, in a sense, played a considerable role in reducing the racial differences. Other people of different ethnicities also used it to raise their voice.
Jazz was setting its roots in the music landscape and became popular in all people. Because of its rapid development people started calling it the rise of ‘Jazz Culture’ in America.
It was just after the end of slavery in US the Jazz music started to grow. The slave trade, though it was ended by the American law, had profound effects for the US society. It generated a milieu of hatred for blacks toward whites and vice versa. This legacy had to last for generations and according to the recent studies there is still a huge tendency of racism that exist in American people. In addition to this there were immigrants from other regions of the world that further amplified the diversity and nationalistic feelings among people who were now living together in the multi-ethnic society of US. In such an atmosphere the empowerment of blacks through the help of their arts movements was a historic marvel. It was not just music that was their sole part of the black arts movement. Other genres of art like poetry, fiction, fashion were also distinctively used by them
In the city of New Orleans where the Jazz music was born there was a peculiar tradition among people. During the funerals the people were consoled by these jazz singers who used to play funeral songs that soothed the family and friends of the dead person. This practice was becoming more and more prominent and was taking a shape of a must element of funeral processions. Moreover the people of New Orleans were very fond of holding music parties, concerts, balls,etc. that further paved the way for jazz to get fame among people. In this way the city of New Orleans mushroomed jazz culture and is therefore called the mother city of jazz music. One of the most famous and much cherished jazz singer Louis Armstrong also belonged to that place.
From New Orleans Jazz was entering into the boundaries of New York and Chicago. These cities also proved to be welcoming for it. So large was becoming its influence that many recording companies, who initially were not providing equal opportunity to black artists to record their albums, started to give access to these jazz singers to prepare their albums in the recording houses. That rapidly boosted the growth of jazz music. Firstly the recording companies which were mainly owned by whites were skeptic that the jazz would be liked by the greater masses.
The things got contrary to their expectations. The jazz music was even adopted by whites who fell in love with it and made their own variations of the jazz. It was becoming the voice of the people. After its commercialization and likeness by the people more black singers were encouraged to release their albums. In this way they were assimilating their identities with other segments of the society. They were listened, played and copied. Their message that began to come in front of mounting audience helped to eliminate the prejudiced thoughts directed toward them.
Jazz music was a quintessential part of the famous Black Arts movement and its efficacy to bring the voice of blacks to the limelight proved more good than other arts. There were singers like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, etc. who played a superb role in utilizing Jazz as a platform to express the miseries, fears, dangers, hatred and negligence the blacks face on the hands of whites. Initially, when the jazz was being adopted by white singers, the runners of Black Arts movement considered it as a threat and protested the involvement of non-blacks in it.
After the 1950s the Asian-Americans were also seen getting into Jazz. They too uses jazz to raise their voice which helped them to raise their social status. They were able to cast a political influence on the higher powers as well.
Jazz was a wonderful addition in the field of music and had been a healthy form of entertainment. A music that grew at a place where the subjugated class–blacks–had little opportunity to compete with the self-supposed superiors–whites–who could have set obstacles for the Jazz music to start its drive to nadir before making any rise. And in fact initially the intentions of the whites were not different than this but as the outburst of emotions can not be stopped they realized that the Jazz had to cross limits.
As the people of America have had love for music, the jazz not only became an entertaining music for them but it was to become the very part of the US culture and the way of American Life. Magazines, Newspapers, and the Television provided considerable space to the stuff related to jazz. Why the jazz made such a glorious fame was because of the characteristic of jazz which allows the intensity of emotions to be interpreted in the music. Now many other form of jazz are developed which testifies it has a potential to win more hearts and last forever.
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by Nauman Lodhi