Dear Readers, I present the true story of Jazz for all lovers of music .Do read the 'Notes' at the end to know how 'Jass' became 'Jazz'! Thanks, - Raj Nandy, New Delhi.




Before writing this Jazz Story, I had delved into its

checkered history.

I had ploughed through several articles and books,

to make Jazz better understood.

My love for this music flows in my veins, and from

narrating this story myself I could hardly restrain!


The story begins some four hundred years ago in history,

Drenched in the blood and sweat of the black slaves

which was no mystery.

Which paints a sorrowful backdrop to our Jazz Story.

It was a time when the English, Spanish, French, Dutch,

and the Portuguese, became frantic,

To gain control of the slave trade across the Atlantic!

Slave trade in those days was a lucrative proposition.

The funds generated had also financed Britain's

Industrial Revolution.

In 1619, a Dutch sailing ship had carried the first lot

of fifty slaves from West Africa, 

To work in the cotton, tobacco and sugarcane plantations

in the English Colony of Virginia.

Only twenty slaves had survived that perilous Atlantic


And here my friends lie the roots of my Jazz Story!

While it is true that in New Orleans Jazz got cradled

and nourished.

But Jazz took birth in the regions of Western Africa,

where slave trade had once flourished!

Later many more slaves were transported to work in

the plantations of the Southern States of America.

And in their hearts one could hear the tom-tom beats

of native Africa.

              HOLLERS AND WORK SONGS     

The slave brought no musical instruments with them.

They worked under the whip lash of their white Overseers

in chains!

But they clung to their music which fed their hope and the

will to survive.

For from the depth of their sorrow and suffering sprung the

rhythm and beat of their life!

While at work they were forbidden to to talk to each other.

So they sang in their rich sing-song voice calling out to to

one another.

This was not understood by their whip-wielding Overseers!

They also called out to other work gangs in distant fields,

Who replied back in a similar fashion to make their

communication network complete.

These 'Hollers' or 'Work songs' also helped to lighten the

burden of their treacherous fate!

This 'call and response' later formed one of Jazz music's

basic elements.

As improvised music got composed with Jazz providing a

proper vent.

From their tormented soul they sang to wipe away their


Giving birth to 'Blue notes' for WC Handy to pay his dues. (SEE NOTES)

The slaves longed for freedom and emancipation,

Singing their 'negro spirituals' with faith and devotion!

While singing they often got into a trance, feeling like the 

Israelites in bondage in Egypt, destined by fate and chance!

The Mississippi was like the River Jordan across which they 

hoped to see, -

A band of angels coming in their chariots to set them free, -

from their suffering, drudgery, and captivity!

Thus 'improvisation' becomes a vital ingredient of Jazz music.

For freedom of expression is a distinguishing feature which

Jazz for ever seeks!

                 CONCLUDING PART ONE

Thus jazz had come in chains buried deep inside the black man's soul

With an yearning for freedom from torture and suffering which was not

within their control.

The tom-tom beats , the work songs, spirituals, and the blues, -

Were all precursor to jazz, and here I pause to pay my heartfelt dues.

To those valiant predecessors who had come in chains.

Giving a painful birth to 'jass', from which 'jazz' gets its name!

Short Notes:

Slaves were sold at 15 dollars per head. Early 1700s saw 75,000 slaves auctioned. By the 1800s there were a million slaves in the US alone. Slaves came from Senegal, Ashantis, Gold Coast, Niger Delta, Dahomey and Congo with their variety of musical beats in their hearts. The Drums were essential for communication in Africa. They also provided the basic beats of jazz music.

'Blue Music'=  became a part of the cultural landscape of Southern States by early 1900s. Popularised by WC Handy with his song 'Memphis Blues' in 1914. The reference is to the famous Negro spiritual -'Swing low sweet chariot...'

'JASS' was originally an Afro-American slang meaning 'sex', born in the brothels of Storyville in New Orleans, and the jasmine perfumes used by the girls there. One visiting them was said to be 'jassed up'! Mischievous boys rubbed out the letter 'J' from the poster announcing 'Lve Jass Show', making it to read as 'Live Ass Show'! So the 'ss' of Jass was replaced by 'zz' to read as 'Live Jazz Show'!

'Improvisation' = a process of spontaneously creating melodies over the continuously repeating tune making Jazz a highly individualistic musical form! **ALL COPY RIGHTS ARE WITH RAJ NANDY OF NEW DELHI**







    Thanks my poet friend for your kind comments! I had composed part one and two way back in 2010. Do recommend this poem to your friends. I will not post part two since Americans are generally not interested to know their past! You are an exception my friend! God bless! - Raj, New Delhi

    • Somerica

      It's not that Americans aren't interested in there past. Generally music is for the moment how it make you feel now. But not everyone is in to jazz I guess. Great work actually that I must say.

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