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There were millions of them.

09-05-2021

This post is available in  French or  English.

The Banjo Lesson, 1893. Peinture d'Henry Ossawa Tanner - Painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner.
 The Banjo Lesson, 1893. Peinture d'Henry Ossawa Tanner - Painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner. 

Some were born on American soil, some came from Europe, and some were brought to America by force.

With their traditions and memories, from their often hard or tragic lives, they forged the musics and songs who touch our hearts today. A magnificent blend of cultures, but it was not easy nor quick.

A quick look at the musical instruments tells a lot. Irishmen, Scots, Englishmen, the French and others brought the violins. Africa gave us the banjo. The dobro originated in Hawaï and saw its main transformation thanks to two Czech brothers form Eastern Europe. The mandolin made its beautiful first steps in Italy and, for a long time, the acoustic guitar was called the "Spanish guitar". The German spread the melodeon, now most often called "French Accordion", due to its use in Louisiana and Quebec.

Les frères Dopyera, à l'origine du DoBro (DOpyera BROthers) et de la Guitare Resophonique - The DOpyera BROthers, fathers of the Dobro and resophonic guitar. - Jam Hall
Les frères Dopyera, à l'origine du DoBro (DOpyera BROthers) et de la Guitare Resophonique - The DOpyera BROthers, fathers of the Dobro and resophonic guitar.
Blue Highway (du temps de Rob Ickes au dobro), Wayne Taylor à droite - Wayne Taylor on the right. - Jam Hall
Blue Highway (du temps de Rob Ickes au dobro), Wayne Taylor à droite - Wayne Taylor on the right.
Impossible de ne pas citer la Carter Family, dont les enregistrements sont à l'origine de tellement de choses - The Carter Family brought so much. - Jam Hall
Impossible de ne pas citer la Carter Family, dont les enregistrements sont à l'origine de tellement de choses - The Carter Family brought so much.

Many beautiful songs, tunes and musical genres were born in spirituality and religion - I'm an atheist and I like to sing many of them!

Bluegrass Gospel and its wonderful vocal harmonies is the best example. Asked about his voice and singing style during a masterclass at La Roche sur Foron, France, Blue Highway bass player Wayne Taylor, answered once  :

"Most of us learned vocal harmonies in church, with no particular method, just like that. And we did not have the choice to go or not".

As seen from France, which is the subject of this post, let us avoid clichés such as "Old Time is a music for old timers", "Bluegrass is cow-boy music" or "Country music is just for truckers".

One thing is obvious. In the past, but even more today, each of these music genres takes from the others.

Bluegrass has many of its roots in Old Time and Gospel. And many Old Time fiddle tunes have a strong celtic sound. Western Swing's jazz flavour lives on musicians who first learned traditional music. Many Cajun songs or tunes come from Old Time.

And while mostly white performers are getting the media exposure, African roots are real in many of these musics.

Of course, all of these musicians write and compose from their own experience, life and artistic skills.

And there are many bridges. A Bluegrass concert often offers Old Time fiddle tunes, modern compositions, a classic country song, maybe another one by Bob Dylan or a pop song writer. Some performers push the boudaries further away, like The Sons of Navaronne covering Abba's "Dancing Queen" bluegrass style.

One more example? Just listen to the marvelous "Live at the Ryman" album by country singer Emmylou Harris. A delicious synthesis.

Un album de Johnny Cash, essentiellement composé de chansons religieuses - A Johnny Cash album, mainly religious songs. - Jam Hall
Un album de Johnny Cash, essentiellement composé de chansons religieuses - A Johnny Cash album, mainly religious songs.
Emmylou Harris Live at the Ryman, une belle synthèse, avec des musiciens fantastiques - A beautiful synthesis with great musicians. - Jam Hall
Emmylou Harris Live at the Ryman, une belle synthèse, avec des musiciens fantastiques - A beautiful synthesis with great musicians.
A Galax, Virginie, se tient chaque année un gros festival de musique Old Time. Galax, VA. Huge Old Time Music festival. - Jam Hall
A Galax, Virginie, se tient chaque année un gros festival de musique Old Time. Galax, VA. Huge Old Time Music festival.

In France, people do not always get the differences between these music genres, which is not that problematic as long as they get the emotions and a desire to discover more.

In this country, traditional musics have, for a long time, been hidden and banned from medias. Ignorance in such matters as traditional music forms is not surprising.

Let us put aside the routine singers (always the same ones) that radio and TV shows bring to our ears and minds every day. The real taste of emotions and pleasure one can feel with traditional music is what really matters.

Most of the traditional music artists you can hear are not greedy or eager to sell you something, except their performances and concerts. Many are amateurs and sing and play just because it matters to them as much as breathing or eating.

And the greatests among them spend considerable time teaching in lessons, workshops or master classes.

Are you new to these musical sensations? Welcome!

Feel free to follow some of the links below. And if some of them seduce your ears or give you emotions, maybe a tiny and discreet breath of transmission took life.

We at Jam Hall just love that.

Le groupe
Le groupe "Our Native Daughters", avec Rhiannon Giddens, fait beaucoup pour l'expression et la réappropriation culturelle - Our Native Daughters, with Rhiannon Giddens, a nice band singing for culture reappropriation ..
Louisiane, musiciens, 1938 ( Photo Wikimedia commons ). - Jam Hall
Louisiane, musiciens, 1938 ( Photo Wikimedia commons ).
Un atelier ou stage est un bon moyen d'apprendre les subtilités d'une musique. Ici, Fiddle Workshop avec Bruce Molsky, Ashoka, NY, 2018 - Workshops are good to learn specificities in music genres. - Jam Hall
Un atelier ou stage est un bon moyen d'apprendre les subtilités d'une musique. Ici, Fiddle Workshop avec Bruce Molsky, Ashoka, NY, 2018 - Workshops are good to learn specificities in music genres.

Article rédigé par Ti' Pierre

 

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