What is Ragtime?
Ragtime is a genre of African American Music that peaked between 1895-1919. It is known for its syncopated style.
Do not be fooled, Ragtime is an AFRICAN AMERICAN genre of music. Because this style became so commercially popular, it had been appropriated, but it has its origins in African American communities in southern mid-west cities such as St. Louis, MO.
Ragtime gets its name from the “ragged” or syncopated rhythm. Syncopation are a variety of rhythms that sound “off-beat” or out of place. The syncopation of ragtime gives it an upbeat style great for dancing. Ragtime is performed with a piano and/or a banjo.
How did Ragtime become popular?
Ragtime developed before the popularity of sound recordings, so it gained its popularity through the sale of sheet music. The first artist to have his music published via sheet music was Ernest Hogan, with his song “La Pas Ma La” in 1895. However, Scott Joplin, dubbed, the “King of Ragtime”, and his songs “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899) and “The Entertainer” (1902) sculpted the genre an influenced the future ragtime composers. Ragtime also gained its popularity at the expense of black bodies. Minstrel shows, cake walks, and “Coon Songs” such as “All Coons Look Alike to Me”, demonstrated racist stereotypes and degrading depictions of Black people while incorporating ragtime. Many Black people took part in the minstrel shows, cake walks, and the publishing of coon songs.
The popularization of Ragtime Sheet music led to an explosion of in the purchase of pianos for one’s home. Ragtime also transformed into Jazz, which gained popularity in the 1920s.