Ragtime? What even is that?

Ragtime was a style of music that came into the limelight in the late 19th Century. It rose to popularity towards the end of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century, around 1893 to 1917.

Ragtime music is mainly a solo piano style. It is characterized by its lively rhythms which makes it suitable for dancing. Another important characteristic is its syncopated rhythm, which is mainly the disturbance or interruption of regular flow of music. This characteristic gives it its name, ragged-time, which describes its rhythmically broken up melodies.

Ragtime was influenced by black banjo styles, dance rhythms of the cake-walk(which historically , was a pre-civil war dance performed by slaves on plantation grounds, its intent was to emulate white society in order to mock it, the plantation owners served as judges during this ‘event’. It was also influenced by minstrel shows(which was a form of American entertainment made to mock African slaves). In these shows, Ragtime music was used to make fun of the slaves by the white people and commodified during this time.

Popular artists of the Genre include Scott Joplin, who was regarded as the ‘King of Ragtime’ mainly known for his two popular pieces, ‘The Maple Leaf Rag’ and ‘The Entertainer. Other artists include Eubie Blake, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson etc.

Ragtime music has influenced other musical genres like jazz, and also had some influences on some classical music. Due to its unique style,  it is not an exaggeration to say that ragtime has had an impact on the development of modern and popular songs  that  frequently use lots of syncopation.

Most of the ragtime tunes I heard were mostly in cartoon shows, such as Tom and Jerry, I never assumed it was a particular genre of music, so it was an interesting genre to research.


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