African-American music is an umbrella term covering a diverse range of musics and musical genres largely developed by black Americans. Jazz, blues, gospel, and soul constitute the principal modern genres of African-American music. Their origins are in musical forms that arose out of the historical condition of involuntary servitude that characterized the lives of black Americans prior to the American Civil War. The modern genres were developed during the late nineteenth century by fusing European musical styles (characterized by diatonic harmony within the framework of equal temperament) with those of African origin which employed the natural harmonic series.
Following the Civil War, black Americans, through employment as musicians playing European music in military bands developed new musical styles such as ragtime and what would become known as jazz. In developing this latter musical form, African Americans contributed knowledge of the sophisticated polyrhythmic structure of the dance and folk music of peoples across western and sub-Saharan Africa. Together, these musical forms had a wide-ranging and profound influence over the development of music within the United States and around the world during the twentieth century.
The earliest jazz and blues recordings were made in the 1920s. Later periods saw considerable innovation and change. African-American genres have been highly influential across socio-economic and racial groupings internationally, and have enjoyed popularity on a global level. African-American music and all aspects of African-American culture are celebrated during Black History Month in February of each year in the United States.
As well as bringing harmonic and rhythmic features from Western and Sub-Saharan Africa into European musical styles, it was the historical condition of chattel slavery experienced by black Americans within American society that contributed the conditions which would define their music. Many of the characteristic musical forms that define African-American music have historical precedents. These earlier forms include:
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