Scott Ainlsie
Blues guitarist and historian

For Educators:


Solo Programs:

African Retentions

[45-60 minutes]

Where did the term “having the Blues” come from? How did it come to be applied to music? And in our most classic expression of the great benefits to be gained by sharing our cultures, what are the African parts of this African-American art form?

Blues and other African-American art forms often show their deep African roots in what are known as African Retentions---parts of African traditions that we still find embedded in American and African-American music, art and culture. This presentation with taped examples and live performance reveals these deep retentions in Blues and proposes how they are found in almost every other American pop music.

Elements to be covered include:

Call & Response: a 'conversation' in music between a solo 'call' and a group or instrumental 'response'.

Polyrhythms and Syncopation: layering of musical stresses that fall off the established beat or subdivide the beat in different ways.

Emotional Singing: the expanded vocal palette which can include shouting, crying, screaming and other speech sounds not typically found in European singing
prior to the 1950's and 60's, when African-based vocal styles began to be heard more widely. (A foreshortened version of the Blues Voice workshop aimed at non-singers.)

Identifying these elements in a variety of African, Caribbean, and American musical traditions and learning to hear them as discreet cultural values that have been adapted to different contexts is a way of freeing students to listen with a deeper awareness of the cultural underpinnings that inform their own particular favorite music. A great workshop for fourth grade through high school and college.