Armand Lenchek Explains What is the Blues
What is “The Blues”? Or maybe I should say: what is Da Blues? Or Da Bluz? Or Da Bloozzz? Why must I slang it up when talking about the Blues? Why must I mess with the perfectly fine “King’s English” when talkin’ Da Bluz? What is slang? Slang is a way of taking the formal English language and embellishing on it. Changing it up, being creative with it. Bringing influences from different neighborhoods, regions and even cultures to the “normal” language.
And that is a basic element of what The Blues is – the influence of different cultures on what might be termed “the King’s Music”. Specifically, the mixture of African music and European music. But of course, The Blues is much more than that. I could go into all sorts of explanations about technical stuff like major and minor pentatonic scales but I’m hoping you’ll stay awake for most of this read.
One of the most important things to remember about The Blues is it is first and foremost a medium of expression. A medium of communication about what is happening with the singer/player.
So imagine what most Africans would want to express when first brought to the “”New World”… Not a lot of happy sentiments, I’ll bet. Yet, still, as music is a medium of expression of all sentiments not all that was sung by the average African-American would be negative. In fact, one of the things that is misunderstood must about The Blues, is that it is expressive of ALL that could be going on in the singer’s life. All the sorrows but all the joys, too. And many more sentiments. BB King once said “The Blues is joy in the face of adversity.”
And since The Blues ended up being sung at juke joints, house parties, dance halls, bars and anywhere else people wanted to have a good time a good bit of blues music wound up being good time music. Fun music. Music to dance to. Music to help you forget your troubles rather than wallow in them. But wait, there’s more! What about what some call the “feel” of The Blues? Yes, this is a very, very important complaint of The Blues. What is “feel”? It is an unspoken communication through the music. Something you just “feel”. How does this happen? Well, to begin with, it goes back to what the performer is trying to communicate. European music is designed to make you feel something. So what would a blues performer want to make you feel? Maybe they’d want to express some of the raw darkness of life. Maybe some elemental aspect of life that can only be express non-verbally.
How does a blues performer do this? Here I do have to get a little technical. Try this: imagine that European music is simply based on the notes sounded by a piano’s keyboard. Before The Blues, Europeans would be very used to hearing only the notes that could be sounded by a piano. What The Blues brought is the notes in-between the notes on the keyboard. Sliding between the pitches. All the infinite variety of frequencies (notes, pitches, sounds) that could be found between each notes on the keyboard. The tension and release that those strange notes bring to the music is a huge part of The Blues. And a performer’s ability to instinctively manipulate those in-between notes is a big part of their appeal.
Thomson notes: Armand traveled North America & Europe playing the blues for 22 years before deciding to settle down, get a real job and, most importantly, raise his kid and love his wife. He still plays now and then, though. Catch him at the Blue Note Grill on April 20th (www.TheBlueNoteGrill.com). Help support his music habit by booking him as your REALTOR. I happen to know he is a favorite of those in the Triangle and highly rated, so also check out: www.TeamArmand.com.