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Introduction Historically oriented research on the blues embraces several disparate areas of inquiry: 1. The study of the musical, literary, and social factors leading in the late nineteenth century to the gradual development of a new, distinct genre of accompanied solo song in rural areas of the South—a genre that would later be labeled "blues." 2. The study of the remote history of this previously unnamed genre's musicostructural and literary characteristics with regard to their origins in African and other cultures. 3. The study of the developments and changes that took place in the blues after the first publication of sheet music versions in 1912 and commercial gramophone records beginning in 1920. 4. The study of the influences exerted by the blues and its contemporary rural and urban derivatives upon other types of American music and upon other musical cultures of the world from the 1920$ to the present. Within these areas of inquiry, the third has been the best covered. Besides written sources, pictorial documents, and oral tradition, commercial recordings have been our most important twentieth-century source for the history of the blues. These are augmented by the immense field recording work done by researchers since the 1930$. In respect to its earlier history, most authors agree that the blues is a tradition that developed in the Deep South at the end of the nineteenth century under specific circumstances, molding together traits whose remote origins can be traced to distinctive African regions with other traits from Euro-American traditions , such as the use of ending rhymes in most of the lyrics, reference to 3 I-IV—V degrees, strophic form, and certain Western musical instruments. The search for the blues* "African roots" has been a persistent concern in AfricanAmerican studies. History can be conceptualized as an uninterrupted continuum in time and space. This framework also suits the study of the origins and rise of the blues. The blues as such did not begin in Africa, nor on the Middle Passage, nor at the moment the first African set foot on American soil; not even necessarily with the inception of plantation life in the southern United States. Like any other innovative development, the nineteenth- and twentieth-century genre to be called blues was the result of a chain of determinants linked by cause and effect that can be traced to various other times and places until the tracesvanish in the anonymity of sourceless history. We proceed from the notion that there is no such thing as "roots" of the blues, but that the American blues were a logical development that resulted from specific processes of cultural interaction among eighteenth- to nineteenth-century African descendants in the United States, under certain economic and social conditions. However, just as Brazilian samba developed out of older traditions transplanted to early nineteenth-century Brazil specifically from within the cultural radiation area of the ancient Lunda Empire in northeastern Angola (cf. Kubik 1979, 1986), so must the blues have come out of something. That it should have been invented out of "social needs" alone is an idea that only perpetuates the stereotype of a tabula rasa state among African captives. One of our questions then is: which African eighteenth- to nineteenth-century traditions preceded the blues, channeling experiences and energies into the formative processes of this music? And in which parts of Africa were these traditions established? Out of Africa


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