No river on the planet has inspired as much music as the Mississippi. The so-called “father of waters” born in Minnesota travels down the country for over 6,400 km, falls capriciously curving, separating States, eroding lands, creating marshy deltas to reach its mouth in the port of New Orleans; the cradle of jazz, an illustrious son of the blues.
This legendary river divides the enormous territory of the US in East and West. Without this river one couldn’t understand the history of the United States, nor would there have ever existed a city like New Orleans, that grew between rhythms and tears, storms and hangovers, noise and fury.
The blues like a son of Mississippi is born on its borders, in the agricultural fields like “work songs”, the fruit of slavery. It’s not born in churches like gospel. It’s not a chorus-like song, it’s an individual response to the racist society of North America; it’s a personalized reaction told and sung in English.
There are so many episodes of life in the south, sang from the voices of the blues. So many heartbreaking stories of the black people who won their freedom through fire, sweat, and blood; all told from the blues, preserved forever in the memory through music and also building a cultural identity of African-American roots through music.
Blue is More Than a Color
In blues, an individual sings and is the subject of the song. It’s a monologue of subjectivity, of personal suffering. The blues singer not only sings but snarls, cries, laments, but builds his own dramatic stage because blues is synonymous of problems and concerns. When you are imprisoned, or without money, or without work, when you cannot sleep because of so many worries running circles in your head, you’ll have blues.
Blues is the common expression of an existential state here and now. In French, you say that you see everything blue (je n’y vois que du bleu) when you’re expressing that dark feelings don’t let you see anything and also, in German the expression: Ich bin blau is equal to having lost consciousness by the effect of alcohol, “Gone to blue”.
Poetry on the Move
Blues, as the lyrical composition has its base in the African poetry of the responsorial scheme of the religion Agysimbia. The literary structure of the poetry blues has its logic; primarily it’s based on a “call”, which is always repeated, and followed by the “answer”. The “response”, both in form and content, has the character of an authentic answer to the original “call”.
There are two possible ways of answering: either the answer grounds the call, clarifies it, justifies it, decorates it or just appears as contrary to the call, in which case the call and response are in confrontation, as a counterpoint. That’s to say, one is a logical blues of argumentation and the second is a blues logic of confrontation.
Blues is more than a musical genre or a cultural expression that represents the voice of a minority; blues is a feeling, but also a historical document of the American foundations, one of the roots of the black American heritage, and father of the counterculture music. We as music lovers own so much to blues…