Rock Roots

Rock Roots Rock Roots: Africa and Cuba – a synthesis between 2 traditions & 2 continents to form rock – rock is the unique tribute to the power of integration – upon closer inspection, rock appears to be a purely African addition to the western musical institution – Afro-Cuban + black music of Mississippi and Louisiana share common ancestry: in the early 19th C. the Haitan revolution sent the islands plantation owners packing. Many managed to escape with their African slaves , whose origins were primarily from Yoruba + Fon, modern Nigeria, Congo and Guinea. Most of these slaves ended up in either Cuba, found in the Oriente province or in the southern United States, pricipally in LA but also spreading into MS. – from Africa, these black slaves brought a strong oral music tradition of storytelling, recreation, work and tragedy.

– used the call-and-response method (eg. Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”) – ask the Cuban’s where their music comes from and many point to the mountanous, jungle-lush Oriente province in the fart south of Cuba – the heartland of where the islands African religeous + musical survivals are. – during the 19th C. African rythmic structures filtered out of the Oriente’s countryside into the popular dance halls of its capital, Santiago-de-Cuba. From there the new music – African polyrythms underlying spanish guitar styles and stanza forms all using the call-and-response – spread to Havana.

This style is called “son”. – when a Cuban is asked if this “son” business was anything like “a-wop-bop-a-lu- bop-a-lop-bam-boom”, the Cuban will counter, “or like boogie” (John Lee Hooker) – what is known as “clave” music in Cuba is the same as the “Bo Diddley Beat” – by the 1920’s Havana was rocking to “son’s” bass-heavy riffs – the most characteristic bas pattern was a 3-note figure, identical to the bass parts on mid-50’s rock’n’roll hits like Elvis’ “Lawdy Muiss Clawdy” and Fats Domino’s “Bluberry Hill” – only in Cuban + black American music do you find a heavy emphasis on the back- beat, the 2+4. Everything else, from calypso to to samba to reggae, is accented on the 1 + 3. The reitoration of Am. Music toward the “1 – acenting the first beat of every measure – is a recent development, stemming from the funk and soul of the 60s/ 70s. -* Afro/Cuban trditions reveal the fundamental riffs, licks, bass-figures and drum rythms that made R’n’R -* Mississippi Delta the home of rock -* the same way that Cuba is the MS Delta of the Americas.

– The MS delta gave birth to a great # of performers who made a name for themselves in their hometowns and later after they moved to Chicago, New Orleans + Memphis. Among them are: Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James + John Lee Hooker [*SHOW BLUES BROTHERS*] – the blues from the delta created the driving force behind all of rock – although blacks + whites were were kept separate, a few pioneering musicians united in America’s urban centers (of Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans) + rural South. For them the barriers of racism were artificial. [*SLIDE OF DANCE HALL] – Chuck Berry performed at white dance halls, and took a white rockabilly song, “Ida Red” and molded it into “Mabelline” – Elvis emulated black bluesmen who performed in his hometown of Memphis. He acted + sung like a black man, challenging the forces of racism w/his every move, literally [*SHOW SLIDE OF ELVIS / RACISM POSTER*] – success of Elvis helped pave the way for black bluesmen + artists alike who otherwise wouldn’t have been welcome in mainstream America – blacks gave Rock its rhythm and whites gave it it’s musical form/ package/ looks Music Essays.

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