The Archive

Paul OliverFrom the tango and the rumba to the beguine and the merengue, from calypso to samba, from reggae to rap, western, and now global, popular song, music and dance have been enriched over the past century by a great variety of musical idioms of the Americas. There are literally dozens of other musical types in the Caribbean, North and South America. Some of these have had widespread international appeal, while others have been more regional, like zydeco in Louisiana or son in Cuba, both of which now have many enthusiasts abroad.

There is one fundamental characteristic that unites these various musical forms; they are all of African-American origin, created by the descendents of the slaves who were brought in their millions to labour in the Americas. Spirituals, or religious songs, were introduced to Europe in the nineteenth century, as were gospel songs at a later date. Concerts and tours and, more permanently, phonographic recordings enhanced enjoyment of Black music. After World War 1, Europeans rapidly embraced North American jazz, swing and subsequently be-bop and the various kinds of modern jazz.

More prominently after World War 2 was the appeal of the blues, from the ‘down home’ sounds of the south to the electric music of the urban North and of course blues-influenced rock and roll and rock music. Distanced as they were from the sources, Europeans contributed substantially to the study, recording, documentation and appreciation of African-American music. To delight in its qualities and understand the evolution of African-American music is to know much more about our shared inheritance. That is why the European Blues Association was founded. Firmly based on its expanding Archive of African-American Music, its many activities relate to the preservation, presentation and education about such music.”

Paul Oliver, 2005