Ragtime and the Everlasting Cakewalk

Its Ragtime!

Ragtime was an amazingly influential and monumental contribution to African American music and all music in general. Without the creation and introduction of ragtime, there would be a lack of uniqueness and variation in music. Even though it was short lived, the stylization of the genre was completely ahead of this time and especially beyond the capacity that whites were doing during this time period.  Ragtime was a genre of music that was prominent between 1896 and 1920. This unique style was innovated by the legendary Scott Joplin. The prominent instrument was the piano that was played with syncopation in which there are rhythms played between the consistent beat that makes the music appear to be off beat. The easily identifiable sound became so popular that it led to the development of sheet music.

Cakewalk it Out

During the popularity of ragtime, a quite interesting form of dance and music stemmed out. This was the formation of the cakewalk and the music that accompanied it. The cakewalk was a time for slaves to get their laughs and make a mockery of their masters. Ideally it was payback, but the masters allowed it ironically. Cakewalk is a dance where the slaves would imitate the actions and demeanor of their masters. The cakewalk led to acontest where slave couples would dress up in their best clothing and perform a dance that impersonated the masters and their wives. The master would invite other people over (other white people) to watch the show. Whichever couple had the best imitation or was the funniest, they would receive a cake. Although the slaves were somewhat exploited for the cakewalk, they managed to take it and benefit from it. This was achieved by performing it in minstrel shows and generating popularity and interest of the cakewalk to the extent of it still having relevance in present day.

"You call that a cakewalk?!"

Over a century later, the idea of the cakewalk is still around but in an appropiated form. The name and the prize remains the same but the actual action is different. In present day, the cakewalk is a game that is played at gatherings, in school, or even small carnivals. The object of the game is to walk around on the labeled areas on the ground(oftentimes a number) while music played in the background. When the music stopped, two winners would be claimed by selecting a number. In order for the winners to be chosen fairly, the organizer would draw a number from a hat or have a number land on the wheel. The people who’s numbers showed up will receive the prize of a cake. This game is completely different from that of the original cakewalk. From the object of the cakewalk down to the meaning behind it. The new cakewalk is a game that is enjoyed by many and the possibility of the participants being unaware of its origins is very high. If the game is going to be done, at least people should know the history behind it. 

Brief Conclusion

Ragtime is a very important and immense influencer on African American music as well as American music. It led to new formations such as the cakewalk and the tunes that accompanied it. The cakewalk was a way of revenge to get back at the masters by making a mockery of them through dance. The popularity of the cakewalk grew and left a mark on American/African Culture and is still seen today. 


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