In the video for “Affectionate Dan” African-Americans Eubie Blake on piano and Noble Sissle with his singing and interpretation, both very talented artists. The essential elements of vaudeville are visualized, especially in Sissle’s performance, synthesizing acts of entertainment in a single performance, with theatrical and exaggerated movements throughout the body, songs stylized to be funny and entertaining. With a touch of minstrelsy, seeing both I couldn’t help but think of a couple of characters from humble origins, singing, dancing and acting funny to entertain a possibly white audience. For his part, Al Jonson, of Russian and American origin, in his video “My Mammy” in which he appears with his face painted black, parodying African-American artists, does his vaudeville show with dances and songs to the rhythm of jazz , which of course launched him to success, because his audience surely loved seeing the aforementioned parody, an audience that, being white, enjoyed it on another level because they felt superior at that time and because jazz was the fashionable musical genre in the world XIX century. In the latest video also from the talented Al Jonson, called “Toot, Toot, Tootsie”, you can greatly appreciate the artistic talent that Jonson had. His performance is a great exponent and representation of what vaudeville was of that time, jazz music, extravagant dances, whistles, songs and incredible interpretation that would leave anyone with their mouths open. It is worth mentioning that in this video Jonson no longer appears with his painted face, which tells us that the singer was catapulted through jazz music of African-American origin, but years later when he gained fame, he was able to sell his own jazz style, even earning the name of “The Jazz Singer” and of course also because of the film in which he was the protagonist. The three videos tell us a lot about the way shows were carried out in the 19th century, musical acts highly influenced by French vaudeville and minstrelsy. Mixed with the origins of Afro-American jazz and how Anglo-Americans were adopting the genre, despite the racial differences of the time.
All three artists have an interesting history, Eubie Blake, came from the streets with a fusion style of urban jazz and ragtime. Noble Sissle, began his musical life from the church choirs with his father, was part of a military regimental band and later specialized in classical jazz. Al Jonson, began as a vaudeville entertainer, performed theatrical performances performing burlesque works, which earned him years later to become a very charismatic actor and performer and that led him to success when he found prosperity in the jazz of African Americans and that later he adopted and shaped it in his style to make way for an American jazz for white people who empathized with him, at a time when African Americans were seen as foreigners of inferior race. Which is curious, since jazz was born as a confrontation of blacks with European music, which was very different, with a musical approach aimed at high society and in virtuosic ways. Jazz was the combination of the instrumentation and harmony of Western music, with the rhythms and phrasing of blues that derived from African music and the musical concept of African Americans. With Jonson as an example, a jazz adopted by Anglo-Americans was seen, but respecting the Afro-American bases of the genre, such as swing, improvisation, rhythm and the harmonies that characterized it. This is very interesting, because even though Americans saw African-Americans as inferior, in the end they adopted or accepted that their music was good, which also helped African-Americans to make their way in American society or at least the origins. of it. It was a possibly unexpected culture shock, but one that gave rise to one of the most beautiful genres of music.
And if perhaps we haven’t yet dimensioned the musical impact and this clash of cultures. Let us imagine an enslaved, minimized African American, with that peculiar sensation of double consciousness, always living with the thought of being judged, measured, seen with indifference and pity, even hated without reason only because of his skin color; but also being American, and in the case of Blake and Sissle, with an artistic and musical talent that gave them the opportunity to break through that difficult path of racism, not in the same way, as it was with Al Johnson making the comparison. But all three were able to be recognized and successful in the history of music. Because it was music, among other factors, that opened the doors for black people to begin to be accepted in a certain way, at a time when the United States was exceptionalist, when republicanism began with very conservative ideologies and that no way could he see foreign African-Americans as equals or part of his nation and culture. Music was so powerful that it was able to break down those barriers over time and still does and probably will forever. To give a specific example, we can remember how rap and hip hop, also of African-American origin, have influenced Anglo-American culture. Marshal Matters or Eminem was influenced by this genre, becoming one of its best exponents, but with his case and On the contrary, in its beginnings it was not accepted so quickly by African-American rappers who were the kings of the genre.