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Music: From the 1800s to Lizzo

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Welcome to February. Here in Toronto, Canada, we are over the halfway mark between Winter and Spring. A reminder that renewal is coming and we can always connect to feelings of hope.

February is also an important month to celebrate and honour Black History. Not just to acknowledge the past and the work needed to move forward on a path of healing and justice, but to also celebrate and honour the contributions and achievements of Black individuals and communities throughout time. This is important everyday, not just in February.

Because I am a music therapist and musician, to honour this month I wanted share insights into music history that highlight how much of the music we know today has roots in Black culture.

I share this from a place of sensitivity and deep reverence for history, music, its impact on the world, and what was endured to create it. While you are aware of the tragic history of slavery in North America and the repercussions that remain from that time, what you may not

know is how contemporary music evolved from then.

When individuals from Africa were unjustly enslaved and forced to work on plantations in North America, they sang songs that carried the sounds from their homelands. These songs came to be called work songs, chants, or field hollers. They were sung to pass the time, communicate messages, and maintain feelings of hope and strength.

As they were sung, these songs evolved into Spirituals and Gospel hymns.

From there, came the birth of the Blues. The Blues led to the birth of Jazz in New Orleans. Yes, Blues came before Jazz!

From there came Rhythm and Blues (R&B), Rock n' Roll, protest songs of the 60s, Soul, Motown, Pop, Funk...Hip-Hop, Rap, Pop sub-genres...current contemporary music.

Of course there are many more events, categories, and genres that can be included. This just gives a brief snapshot of contemporary music's origins, which has roots in Black history, which is history.

To hear this evolution of music as we know it, check out the playlist I created. Can you hear how music changed over time?

There are so many more songs and musicians that can be featured, but I had to cut it off at 44 songs for now! What would you add to the playlist?

I hope this brought to light some new knowledge for you and that you can continue on a path of giving credit where credit is due. May we celebrate and uplift Black culture, joy, love, creativity, and contributions to society all year long. There's still a lot of work we have to do, but thank goodness we're starting to see more Black representation out there. Like Lizzo winning record of the year at the Grammy's and Beyonce now having more Grammy awards than anyone in history. That is something to celebrate!


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