It’s Ragtime!

Ragtime was produced by often illiterate African-Americans in the late 1800s. This music could be found playing in establishments such as bars and saloons. Ragtime was composed on music sheets and its syncopated/ragged rhythm is one its most sensed characteristics. Between beats, musical accents are incorporated and some of the most well-known instruments associated with this genre are the banjo and piano.

Before ragtime, there were coon songs and cakewalks. These were derogatory practices that involved blackface and the portrayal of Whites by African-Americans. Today, cake walks are very popular in Southern culture, as they have been turned into games where the winner’s prize is a cake of their choice. While a lot of the experiences that Blacks endured that are associated with the origin of ragtime are negative, the end result was the production of quality music. Some of the most popular ragtime musicians include Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, and James Scott.

While ragtime was composed in the United States, it could also be found in Europe due to sheet music being brought home by European musicians after becoming fascinated with the sounds of ragtime. As seen in other genres, the music became less rhythmic and was made to fit European culture. The income that was generated through the production of this music was not given back to the Black community, but provided more resources to copy the music. Gentrification strikes again. Today, the unique styles of ragtime can be heard in many classical compositions. Although not considered mainstream music, many ragtime compositions can be found in entertainment, including the circus and ice cream trucks.

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