A Chat With: Mayfield

Hello, and welcome back to our thrice weekly interview series! This time around we chat with locals, Mayfield! The melodic hardcore band just finished a tour in the U.S and we’re stoked that they took the time to answer our questions.

1. How would you describe your sound?

It can sometimes be hard to describe your own sound but I like to think of it as fast paced melodic hardcore. We touch on a lot of different styles of music, mostly because of the various musical and artistic influences we all have.

2. Who are your influences?

I draw a lot of influence from my own life and the new things I learn about this world. Music is like a soundtrack to the emotions I’m feeling, whatever adventure it is I’m on. Sometimes I can be listening to bands like Jesus Piece and Cold Shoulder, other times I’ll be singing Daniel Caesar or Amy Whinehouse. I know the guys in the band would say similar things. 

3. What’s on the horizon for your music in 2019/2020?

We’re going to be working on some new stuff in the new year, hopefully secluding ourselves to a nice dense forest somewhere and letting the creative juices flow. We’ve always had a different approach to recording so I’m sure this time will also be a new experience and a great adventure. 

4. What’s your creative process?

As a band we usually come together on an idea previously written by our guitar players and sort of layer up the songs. They usually go through a dozen changes before coming to a finale version. As for the vocals, I tend to be very critical of the way the ideas come across to others as well as myself, and also the way the words sound with the rhythm of the instruments. I like to have a couple drinks and maybe some smoke to get my emotions elevated and really dig deep into the scars to find the words to write songs.

5. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from people who have gone through the swamps of life and come out shining and spreading joy. I get great inspiration from my mother who is the most bad ass person I know. She makes me want to push through the trash that gets thrown in front of me and challenge myself to see how far I can go in this life. 

6. How do you deal with nerves before a show?

I like to have a couple pints. I think the other lads would say they also like to have some pints. Yeah, we like to have a couple sippy poos for sure. 

7. What’s your favourite venue in Ottawa?

Ask a Punk. No doubt. We go play shows in Kentucky and they ask about that place. Always a pleasure and always appreciate the work everyone has done to keep that place rolling over the years. 

8. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at a show?

We played a hometown show in Stittsville one time for Zackfest, and it was in the basement of the legion. We had that room packed to the tits with all your local drunks and smoked out stitty punks. I think it was our third song into the set and everyone was throwing down like they were 16 again. They went so hard that a man in the back of the venue (shall remain undisclosed) got thrown up against the cabinets and tripped on a merch bin. When he flew back into the cabinet a massive speaker fell off the top shelf about 5 ft above his head and smashed his right on the head. He crumpled like an accordion. I ultimately had to stop the set and check on him. I had some momentary sense of responsibility I guess. In the end he was okay. But man he got mashed.

9. If you could tour with any line up, who would it be?

We’d love to have a chance to tour with bands like Gatherers and Crooks UK. If we could shoot for the stars I’d say one day doing a show with Counterparts would be cool for sure. 

10. Any advice for new musicians looking to start their careers?

Don’t worry about trying to make it big, or get signed. Play music for the love of it. Be creative and artistic and express yourself however the hell you want to. If you put your heart into it, good things will follow.

11. Any shout outs you want to make?

Shoutout to Sam G, our boy. Shoutout Alex Barry also our boy. And anyone who finds a positive connection with our music. We owe you it all.

12. Anything you want people to check out? Any links you’d like them to follow?

Check us out on Spotify, or any other music platform. Check us out on Facebook Mayfield613

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A Chat With: Abrade The Earth

Howdy pardners, today we have a very in depth edition of A Chat With for you. We had a chat with Abrade The Earth. The local metal band got very in depth with their answers and we appreciate them taking the time to give us such a huge interview. Hope you all enjoy it!

1. How would you describe your sound?

We have a unique sound as far as progressive metalcore goes. James studied Jazz under David Parker in Québec City during his High School years and as a result he tends to bring out some of those Jazz influences into our songs when writing. For example, the first verse in our EP’s opening track “Crisis” heavily features swung eighths on the ride cymbal against the more typical breakdown-style rhythm on the kick. On top of that, we really like to emphasize the bass in our songs as it seems that nowadays bass either mirrors what the guitarists are playing or is only there to accent the kick, so a lot of our songs feature melody on the bass and at times an almost walking bassline. Aside from that, we like to keep things weird. Messing around with weird sounding synths and time signature changes is pretty standard for us, and we like to have a mix of really heavy, hard hitting grooves intertwined with spacey, atmospheric parts as well. It’s like Alien Morse Code.

2. Who are your influences?

While we all come from similar albeit different backgrounds musically, our main musical influences as far as Djent/Metalcore goes are bands like Veil of Maya, Erra, Northlane, Volumes, and August Burns Red to name a few. All of those bands have such a high caliber of musicianship that we can only try to emulate that same level of mastery of our respective instruments within our songs. Adam also plays drums in Future News, which brings a kind of Post-Punk Fusion kind of style to his playing and technique that’s really refreshing. Luis and Cameron are both 2000’s Metalcore kids at heart, and Jared is a fan of self-produced artists such as Bilmuri, which is Johnny Franck of Attack Attack!’s solo project. James listens to a wild variety of music, going from Goregrind bands like Waking The Cadaver and Vulvodynia, to Freeform Jazz like John Coltrane and Art Blakey. Needless to say, we have a bunch of different perspectives that go into the music we make!

3. What’s on the horizon for your music in 2019/2020?

It took a couple years for us to release our debut EP, and this is partly due to the learning curve associated with self-production and promotion. Now that we’re finally at a place where we’re satisfied with our ability to portray our ideas accurately, we’ve been able to streamline our production process in such a way that will allow us to release high-quality music at a very fast and efficient rate. In short, expect a lot of new music in the coming years.

4. What is your creative process?

Due to all of us working full-time, it’s not easy to bounce ideas off one-another at the drop of a hat as we’re not always accessible to one another 24/7. Typically, either Jared, James, or Cameron will come up with a riff or rough draft of a song and tab it out on Guitar Pro or do a rough recording, and send it over the band chat for the others to listen to and add input. We get together every Saturday (it’s for the boys) at Jared’s house and work on one of the many demos we currently have in the works. Jared works in a very streamlined fashion where he basically starts with the drums, maybe a bass groove, and goes from there. On the other hand, James works in an almost reverse-engineering fashion where he’ll be working on a song, and write a really cool line or riff but place it before whatever he had previously written and jumps back and forth between sections. After all is said and done, everyone else goes over the track and adds their own tweaks so that each song has everyone’s flare to it. 

5. Where do you draw inspiration from?

We like to stay authentic and true to ourselves, so we try not to confine ourselves to what’s expected of a metal band. Ultimately, what we end up writing directly correlates to what we’ve individually been vibing with at that point in time. It’s great because it keeps us thinking on our toes without falling into a habit of churning out the same old stuff as some bands tend to do after a while. Sometimes someone might even suggest an idea as a joke only for it to actually make it’s way into a song! It really all comes down to our perspective when approaching an idea. A little wacky tabaccy never hurt in coming up with ideas haha.

6. How do you deal with nerves before a show?

While all of us have experience being in a band and playing shows, pre-show jitters are just a fact of life. We all take a deep breath and know that the nerves go away the second we start playing. Having our friends and significant others attend is a huge help as well because we know that they’re there to support us no matter what. Also, some Dutch Courage to get a slight buzz going helps us to let loose!

7. Fave venue in Ottawa?

So far as a band we’ve only really played Maverick’s, but it’s a venue any musician or artist in Ottawa will call home. All the staff there are dedicated and great people to work with and we’re grateful to get to work side by side with them to put on the best show we can for the people that come out to see us! 

8. Craziest thing you’ve seen at a show?

Cameron: The craziest thing I’ve seen at a show was at Heavy MTL. It’s nothing too big, but Killswitch was playing and some woman flashed her boobs. The guitarist then brought her on stage and I think I she met them after their set.
Adam: The craziest thing I’ve seen would have to go to seeing everyone at the doors drenched in rain from a tornado that hit Ottawa during our soundcheck.
Jared: I saw Iron Maiden live at Bluesfest a while back and they brought a 15-foot tall Eddie robot on stage. It grabbed a guitar and started shredding with the band. That’s a moment I’ll never forget. It was truly awesome.
James: Slipknot, 2008. ‘Nuff Said.

9. If you could tour/play a show with any line up who would it be?

Basically all the bands listed above! It’d be sick to get to play with Gideon, Wage War, Protest The Hero and Fit For A King. Getting to play with Tool would be a transcendental experience but frankly we’ll probably never be worthy.

10.Advice for new musicians/bands

a) Make sure you establish a strong relationship with your band mates. If you guys aren’t best friends, the band will crumble apart eventually because you won’t be enjoying your time with each other.

b) Practice your instrument with a metronome, play often and be friendly. Those three things will help you play in bands for as long as you’d like to.

c) Remember that a band is a team effort, and the band will progress further if every member is involved in contributions in some way. Establish people’s strengths and ensure that they’re assigned to the role that they’re best at

d) Most importantly, make sure you’re being yourself and having fun. Pay little concern to getting big or grabbing people’s attention and instead focus on the reason you became a band in the first place—to have a good time and pursue a passion with your friends.

11. Any shout outs you want to make?

Jared: Shout out to Brandon Bird and TDMA, Christina Kasper and Chord Productions, Red Handed Denial, Held in Secret, and everyone that’s ever supported us in any way.
Cameron: Shoutouts to my lovely girlfriend, Danielle, as well as to my brother, Cayden, who claims to be our biggest fan but has only been to two shows.
Luis: Brandon Bird of The Diamond Mine Agency, Christina Kasper of Chord Productions , Held in Secret, Friends and Family.
James: My beautiful girlfriend Bryanna, who puts up with me working on music and band stuff at all times of the day and night and comes to every show and practice to support me. To Brandon Bird and Christina Kasper for believing in us and giving us the opportunity to share our music with everyone. And lastly, to all our fans from (surprisingly!) around the world who make all of this worthwhile.

12. Social media links/music links

You can stream our debut EP here at:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Zaf_HZltPQ&list=PLykVRLMKN-aOHQiZ9X4iUplReoczeX3bV

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter @abradetheearth 

And like us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/AbradeTheEarth/

Theory Thursday | Part 3 | Time Signatures

Welcome back to Theory Thursday, the weekly article where we teach you a small tidbit about basic music theory. In this (exciting) edition we talk about time signatures.

Time signatures are very important when writing music. They determine the way a song feels, how many notes can fit in a bar and many other important things in music entirely rely on your use of time signatures.

For this segment we are going to be breaking it up into smaller parts and then bringing it all together for a recap.

For educational purposes we are only going to talk about the most common time signatures (2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 9/8)

The Top Number

Time signatures consist of two numbers sitting on top of each other, almost like a fraction in a math equation. They sit on the left hand side of the sheet music, located right beside the clef symbol.

A 4/4 time signature

The first number we are going to talk about is the top number. The top number of the time signature tells you how many beats are in your bar. In your 4/4 time signature, there would be a total of 4 beats per bar. 9/8 time signature would have 9 beats per bar! Pretty simple isn’t it?

The Bottom Number

The bottom number of your time signature tells you what kind of note is worth one beat. This sounds more confusing than it is. If you have a 4/4 time signature, you can have 4 beats per bar. Each beat, is worth 1 quarter note. In a 3/4 time signature, you have 3 beats per bar, each beat is worth 1 quarter note. In 9/8 you have 9 beats per bar, with each beat being worth 1 eighth note.

Recap

Now that I’ve given you a basic understanding of how time signatures work, I’m going to give examples of different time signatures with a small breakdown of each one.

2/4 Time Signature

In a 2/4 time signature you have 2 beats per bar, and each beat is worth one quarter note. This means that the longest note you can use in a bar is a half note.

An example of 2/4 music

3/4 Time Signature

In a song written in 3/4 time, you would have 3 beats per bar, and the longest note you could use is 1 half note, this is because a whole note is worth 4 beats, and there are only 3 beats available to be used in a bar. Think of it like a bank. You only have 3 dollars in your account, so that means you can’t take out more than that. Time signatures work in the same way. You only have 3 beats, so you can only use notes that total up to 3 beats.

An example of 3/4 music.

4/4 Time Signature

Next up is your 4/4 time. This is the most common time signature, and is also known as common time and if you see a fancy C instead of numbers beside your clef, this means the music is in 4/4. Your bars contain 4 beats and each beat is worth one quarter note. The longest note you can use is…a whole note.

Example of music in 4/4 time.

6/8 Time

This is where time signatures get a little more complex. Because each beat is worth 1 eighth note, you can have 3 quarter notes, each being held for 2 beats, or 1 dotted half note, held for 6 beats. I will go into more about dotted and cut notes next week. The reason the eighth notes are grouped in 3’s instead of 2’s is because the time signature is a multiple of 3, and it helps the music look less cluttered.

Sample of music in 6/8 time.

9/8 Time Signature

You have 9 beats in your bar, and each beat is worth 1 eighth note. The functionality of this time signature is very similar to 3/4. You write your music in groups of 3’s and pretty much anything you write in 9/8 can also be played in 3/4, it just is easier to read it in 9/8. If you are doing a lot of triplets, or writing in a lot of smaller note values, using 9/8 or 12/8 is more ideal. (I will go further into triplets and more complex time signatures, like 12/8 another time)

Thanks for joining us on this journey into the wacky world of time signatures, if you enjoyed it please give us a follow on Facebook or consider donating to us on Patreon. Catch us again next Thursday at 10 am for another Theory Thursday.

A Chat With: Basketball Knees

Wassup! Today we have a special Out Town Edition of A Chat With! We talk with Toronto based band Basketball Knees! They have a show on June 1st here in Ottawa at Bar Robo, so go check ’em out!

How would you describe your sound?

Joel: I guess the easiest way to describe our sound is just: indie rock, but we try to do a lot of different stuff within that umbrella—lots of dynamics, some different song structures, hooks, harmonies, fuzz and screaming when necessary. But overall we try to put emphasis on blending being catchy and accessible with being a little bit weird
and unpredictable. We also keep things fresh by sharing songwriting and instruments and lead vocals, so there’s a little bit of variety. Some fun buzz terms to throw around: scuzz pop, power punk, mid-fi diy, post-punk for children.

Amye: I second “post-punk for children”!

Who are your influences?

J: We get Pixies comparisons a little bit, who I do like, but I way prefer The Breeders. Immediate influences on our sound would be bands like them, Yo La Tengo, Royal Trux, Guided By Voices, Destroyer. We love the Flying Nun label, the Teen Beat label. Lots of 90’s bands, I’m realizing. The biggest thing Amye and I probably bond over is maybe not as obvious in our sound but: Kate Bush, XTC, Bjork—classic pop weirdos!

A: Right now it’s all ABBA, The Supremes, and Blossom Dearie. I’m a grandmother, you see. Oh, and Sun City
Girls.

What’s on the horizon for your music in 2019/2020?

J: Right now we’re in the beginning stages of our first ever tour, which we’ve craftily organized so that we play different cities over the span of several weekends so we don’t have to take too much time off work. (Gotta keep the day jobs happy!) We’re playing in Montreal on May 31st, Ottawa on June 1st (at Bar Robo, which you were kind enough to feature on your site!), Kingston June 8th, Windsor June 14th, London June 15th, Hamilton on June 21st and back in Toronto on June 29th. Aside from becoming grizzled weekend warriors, we’ve also been writing songs for a new album (some of which you can hear us play live!), and we plan to begin recording in the fall/winter! Oh and we’re also going to finally shoot a music video at some point, we swear.

A: I’m going back to school for a year beginning this July to study music. I don’t need any prayers!

What is your creative process?

J: Honestly it’s pretty straightforward! Typically Amye and I will write our songs separately, more or less fully formed, then we bring them to practice and jam them out, and we add or subtract ideas as we play them more. Stefan is really great at coming up with cool drum parts off the top of his head, and if it’s one of Amye’s songs, I
just try to come up with basslines that support the song and slowly try to make up some harmonies and backup vocals as I get more familiar with them. Sometimes parts of songs are born out of jam sessions (“Marquee Moon”), or we’ll combine efforts to add parts to each other’s songs (“Couch-shaped Box), but usually we write by ourselves—I feel less self-conscious that way!

A: In all seriousness sleeping in hot parked cars has yielded results (“Lavatories of Hell/Subterranean Gardens”)
and in the winter the songs seem to come and go in the dark.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

J: My songs will be inspired by either an inside joke between friends, books or stories I read, or life events that I turn moderately cryptic or write them from different perspectives so they’re not just boringly biographical—or I’ll just start with a riff that I flesh out into songs when I can think up some words. Sometimes I also just keep a list of good song titles and then try to flesh them out from that.

A: I’m very, very much inspired and invested in the tragedies of children and professionals alike.

How do you deal with nerves before a show?

J: Lots of bathroom breaks! Also, it actually does get easier the more shows we play. I used to get really bad stage fright and now I’d say the excitement and dread are more balanced, 50/50. I do sometimes get the irrational fear that I’ve forgotten all our songs, about 15 minutes before we’re set to play. Does that happen to
anyone else?

A: Bathroom breaks cannot be recommended enough! And skip the wacky lettuce now that it’s everywhere, chums!

Fave venue you’ve ever played at?

J: Oh man. We just played a really fun show at Doors Taco Joint & Metal Bar in Hamilton which was a really fun time, and is fresh in my mind—it’s converted from an old house and has a really fun DIY feel. But I’d also have to say Horseshoe Tavern because that place is one of my favourite venues to see shows, so it was really fun to get
to play there.

A: Doors was a blast but I, too, will have to give the Horseshoe the edge. Hecking unreal!

Craziest thing you’ve seen at a show?

J: One time, when I used to have the energy to go to music festivals, someone hit the singer of the Mars Volta in the head with a pita. That was pretty wild, I guess.

A: Does it have to be in the waking world/meatspace? I’ve been horribly late to at least a dozen Marilyn Manson shows in my dreams and I once watched a band of furries play “Hey Jude” in Second Life.

If you could tour/play a show with any line up who would it be?

J: Our first show we saw together as a band was Mary Timony playing Helium songs—and I think that would be the craziest/best dream come true to get to open for her somewhere.

A: I love Kal Marks. I also think it would be wild to open for Sparks since they’re, in my opinion, still vital and I believe groups like us owe them a great deal.

10.Advice for new musicians/band

J: I think for a long time I’ve been very nervous to message people to ask for shows, or been nervous about organizing shows, but the more I do it the more I realize everyone is just really nice, and we all like music and have the same goals. So just play as many shows as you can, meet people, and have fun!

A: Don’t take anything for granted and just enjoy the living hell out of performing and creating! Don’t be afraid to be yourself; I think there’s so much emphasis on “being yourself” these days that we really don’t know what that may mean. For me, at least, that means many exorcisms… but that’s okay! Take care of one another.

Any shout outs you want to make?

Shout out to Sarah, Annie, Peter Crisis, Nigel, Johnny, and anyone who sings their voice.

A Chat With: Double Experience

Hey! Welcome back to everyone’s favourite interview series, A Chat With. This fine morning we will be having a conversation with two of Ottawa’s favourite rockers, Double Experience. The nerd rockers just finished up a tour with Danko Jones and we are so happy they took the time to have a chat with us.

How would you describe your sound?

Brock: We’re a nerd rock band – the music and lyrics we create are directly inspired by video games and pop culture. Suppose that band members of Weezer, Danko Jones and Muse played Dungeons and Dragons with each other; if you were to imagine what their post-campaign jam sessions might sound like, that’s basically what Double Experience is.

Who are your influences?

Ian: I was raised on Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath, and then I look to more modern acts like Rise Against and Royal Blood.

Brock: My go-to bands would be The Police, Clutch and He is Legend.

What is your creative process?

Brock: Ian and I write all the time, even if we aren’t feeling particularly creative. The act or craft of songwriting itself inspires us to try different methods or approaches. Both Ian and I compose and write lyrics too, so we’re never want for fresh ideas. We used to exclusively write our songs a week before going into the studio, but now we take our time to develop each idea to the smallest details.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Ian: We both really engage in the “nerd” world – video games, comic books, and fan-franchises – as if it were religion. We try to incorporate a lot of those ideas into our music. A good example of that is our song Jet Black; we took from our influence in Danko Jones, Metallica, and our love for Game of Thrones and smashed them together into one song.

What’s on the horizon for your music in 2019/2020?

Brock: We just got back from a 30-day studio session in North Carolina.

Ian: The rest of the year is working on “what comes next” after our studio recordings are completed. So we’re in tour planning mode, working on a whole host of ancillary content to go along with that record, and we’re trying to max out our battle pass in Apex Legends.

How do you deal with nerves before a show?

Ian: Typically I try to clear my head of all the thoughts in it before we go on stage. I find I introduce chaos when my brain is working too hard thinking about non-show things and chaos breeds mistakes. I call it being too much “in my own head” when I should really be focussing on the helping the audience unplug from their cares and current situation.

Fave venue in Ottawa?

Ian: Ottawa’s weird in that there are more venues now than there were. When I was super young and starting to play shows the only “All Ages” shows happened at Mavericks and Cafe Deckuf, so they both have a special place in my heart. Otherwise, Live on Elgin has always felt like home, and then when in doubt House of TARG for a bit of rock and roll with a side of pinball.

Craziest thing you’ve seen at a show?

Brock: We played a festival at the apex of Italy and Germany, up in the mountains. The opening “band” were a bunch of aspiring DJs in Teletubby costumes who were equal parts infamous for getting wasted before their shows as well as beloved by the locals. So they biked straight over from their houses, set up on stage, blasted Rage Against the Machine remixes, made out with each other, threw their bikes into the audience, and generally destroyed the stage. Hardest act we’ve ever had to follow.

If you could tour/play a show with any line up who would it be?

Ian: We just finished a short run across Ontario with our dream artist in Danko Jones. Brock and I are huge Danko fans so we were like kids in Santa’s workshop every day at soundcheck watching the band run through songs. I guess we’ll have to reassess who our next dream line up would be, but we’re not ruling out a Danko Jones & Double Experience: Round Two!

Advice for new musicians and bands?

Brock: When it’s all said and done, any successful musician can hire anybody they want to tune their instruments, or manage their finances, or even write their songs on their behalf. Excelling at the songwriting part is your job security, so own your craft! Learn music theory. Soak up music and reverse engineer why you like the songs you like.

Social Media Links:

www.facebook.com/DoubleExperience

www.2xExperience.com

History Of Music: Minstrelsy & Blackface

Slavery played a major roll in the development of modern pop music. Musicianers (Slaves that played music) would go on to create a musical culture that influenced African’s and European’s alike. One of the major things that emerged after slavery was new genres of music. Jazz and the Blues would go on to influence almost every genre of music that we listen to today!

A Quartet of Musicianers

But before we talk about the Blues and Jazz we need to discuss minstrelsy. Minstrelsy was when white performers would dress up in black face and go around performing. Most of the time this was meant in a way to mock and hate on former slaves and popular black performers. Minstrelsy was actually the first form of performing art to originate in America and it was one of the direct styles that lead to the development of the Blues.

In the late 18th century what was originally called “Negro Songs”  were being performed in black face by white performers in New York’s theatres usually between acts in operas and plays.

Thomas “Daddy” Rice is considered the “father” of minstrelsy in America. Rice created a popular character called Jim Crow, who was a disabled black stable hand who would shuffle when moving, this character was the inspiration for the name for the racist post-slavery laws from the south.
The songs that were sung by Rice belonged to the traditions of slaves, he would “parody” or change the words of the songs so that they would disparage or degrade the “black man and his lifestyle”. Another popular character was “Coon” who was a black city slicker who tried and failed to imitate the whites who surrounded him in his daily life, this character also brought to life a racist term used against blacks, coon.

Thomas “Daddy” Rice 
 A Poster of “The Original Jim Crow”

                                                           
Minstrelsy reached its peak between 1820 and 1850 and started to decline around the turn of the century.In the 1830’s the minstrelsy shows went from being just songs to full on variety shows that featured many different acts making fun of blacks. The popularity of minstrelsy was enormous and it started to cause problems at high-class venues; the working class would arrive at venues and throw things at performers who were performing anything that was considered too “posh”.The instruments used in minstrelsy shows were similar to the ones used by slaves and associated with life on the plantations such as banjo, fiddle, tambourines, etc. However, there is some debate on the origin of the music used by minstrels. Composers of the music would claim that the songs were based on songs sung on the plantations, but by the time that the songs would reach the Northern US, there would be many changes that were clearly influenced by Scottish, Irish and other European cultures.

There were also many black performers involved in minstrelsy as well. Because of the popularly of minstrelsy, many people became interested in the music and culture of African Americans. This interest gave an opportunity to black performers to start performing in front of larger crowds. The first two major black acts were William Henry Lane and Thomas Dilward who started between 1840 and 1850, and shortly after around the year 1855 black troupes started to emerge. These all black troupes used the colour of their skin to their advantage and marketed themselves as the only true performers of black song and dance.

Around the first world war minstrel shows started to lose their popularity. The popular music of the time was shifting to more patriotic and inspirational music to try and get people involved in the war effort. But also master promoters, like BT Barnum, were starting to promote Vaudeville, variety shows and other less controversial forms of entertainment in the Northern US so the minstrel shows started to migrate further and further south, and eventually they performed the majority of their shows in the Southern US. The BBC had a show called the Black and White Minstrel Show that was airing as late as 1975.

Al Jolson was a Jewish American performer and was at one point called the greatest performer in the world, and he began his career as a minstrel but used blackface as a way to show the mutual suffering of Jews and African Americans. Jolson’s contributions to Jazz and Blues have had him compared to Elvis and his role in the popularization of Rock. Jolson is considered the “first rock star”. Jolson’s blackface character was named Gus; Gus was a wise cracking servant who was much smarter than his masters and would frequently help get his masters out of sticky situations that they had gotten themselves into. Jolson used Gus as a way to make fun of the idea of “white supremacy”. Whenever Jolson played a character that he thought would disparage blacks, he would perform the role without blackface.

Jolson in Blackface

History of Music: Slavery and American Pop Music

Did you know that most of the music that we enjoy today has its roots in Africa?When the slaves were brought over from Africa, they also brought the music that they would play and enjoy. The banjo, guitar, bongos, and many other instruments that are used today, were invented in Africa, and brought to North America through the slave trade.
There were two key factors that contributed to the retention of African music during the years of slavery, the culture and music of the slave masters and the cultures of the slaves themselves. The Spanish, Portuguese and French settlers that settled in New Orleans and South America were more tolerant of the African music and cultures and in New Orleans, the slaves and the free Africans could congregate on Sundays for church services and they would drum, sing, and dance. This continued until the late 19th century.

The slaves were very creative within their captivity and would create their own languages and even though many families and those of similar cultures were separated, this could not change the fact that music and dancing played a major part in African culture and the slaves would adapt to their situations and create field songs to sing whilst working the fields. They would also build their instruments to play at night. The body would also often be turned into a drum. They’d clap their hands, slap their legs and stomachs, this was called Patting Juba, and it would serve as an inspiration to R&B and Rock rhythms many years later.

The two most common instruments for slaves to play were the banjo and the fiddle. The European violin was like many of the stringed African instruments and slaves that knew how to play the fiddle would be highly respected by slaves and non-slaves alike.
There were slaves who would play music professionally, they were called Musicianers. They would often receive special privileges that other slaves couldn’t and buy their freedom occasionally. But they would more often than not remain an important and valuable property of their masters. They could also play in European style marching bands and those styles of music would go on to be an important part of African slave cultures. It would also feed into the unique marching band style of New Orleans in the latter half of the 19th century.

At the end of the Civil war, despite their severe poverty, former slaves could now make their own professional decisions, travel and start their own businesses. This change in freedom would contribute many changes to popular music in the US and Canada. Due to the changes new genres of music were born, the blues and Jazz!

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