Origins of the blues

The elements of blues music

African slaves brought their musical traditions with them when they were transported to work in the North American colonies. Early types of African American music included spirituals (religious songs using vocal harmony) and work songs.

Work songs were sung rhythmically in time with the task being done. They used call and response in which phrases from a lead singer were followed by the other singers. African music combined with the folk music of the white European settlers to produce new styles of music.

The blues emerged towards the end of the 19th century. This early style of blues was known as country blues and was usually a solo singer accompanied on guitar or piano sometimes with added harmonica or drums. Well-known country blues musicians include Lead Belly, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson.