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The Blues, Episode One: The Origins of the Blues

BMPAudio September 4, 2003


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Reporting locale: Ghana

Though the blues is an American music form, its origins are undoubtedly traced to Africa.  In this, the opening episode of The Blues, we begin our journey through the music’s history in Ghana where slaves bound for America were loaded onto ships.  By speaking with African musicians who can demonstrate African blues roots, the earliest indications of the blues are established.  From there, the episode moves to America, Mississippi, in particular, where work songs, field hollers, spirituals, and minstrelsy mix and form the blues hybrid.  The show concludes with a diddley bow performance, the one-stringed homemade instrument whose roots are African but whose presence in primitive blues is unmistakable.  Modern master Taj Mahal traces the sounds of the different regions of Africa to the styles of contemporary music.

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