Essay on Southern Musical Tradition and the African Tradition

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Southern Musical Tradition and the African Tradition

The second major tributary of the southern musical tradition comes from the African continent and is the heritage import of the five million slaves brought to North America against their will to provide the bulk of the labor in the pre-industrial agrarian south. Contemporary blues, while not exclusively black music by any means, remains largely black in terms of its leading performers and, to a lesser extent, its listening audience.
The forerunner of the modern urban blues was, however, almost exclusively black and was completely southern and rural. It was, and is, a music born out of the experience of slavery and Jim Crow segregation
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The blues, both contemporary urban and earlier country blues, occupies a unique place in the American folk tradition. It is a cultural product native to the United States, yet produced by a people who have historically been systematically excluded from the mainstream of American institutional and cultural life. The process by which it has earned a place in the folk tradition is, to a large degree, microcosmic of the struggle of blacks to achieve legitimacy in American society and history.

The southern region, home to the vast majority of black Americans from
1619 to the post World War I era, gave rise to a unique set of institutional and interactional restrictions and imperatives which resulted not merely in a bi-racial society, but a dual society or, to use M.G.
Smith's (1957:763-777) terms, a "plural society." Such a society is maintained by several structural mechanisms which are designed to accomplish a high degree of enclosure within one's ethnic group, such as endogamy, residential restrictions, institutional duplication, and highly restricted relations with the dominant group (cf. Pierre van den Berghe,
1965). The tone of subordination\ domination was clearly
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