Thursday, October 14, 2010

Music of the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance started between 1920 and 1930. That’s when Jazz, the new way African Americans used music to express their new freedom, heated up and became the new face of music for that era. The main instruments used to illustrate their passion were the piano and the brass band. The piano, which many believed to be a symbol of affluence, was used to combine the less wealthy blacks to the black social elite. The brass band was a symbol of the South. Black musicians played Jazz in numerous night clubs like The Cotton Club, The Apollo Theatre, and Savoy Ballroom. Some of those famous artists were Duke Ellington, a music composer/ pianist; William “Count” Basie, an important artist who lead a lot of other young artists into the limelight; and Lil Hardin Armstrong, a famous female artist of the Harlem. The Limelight was very competitive and had little time for people with lesser talents. The Harlem musicians were taking music to a whole new level and contributed to the African American music industry for many years to come.

Lil Hardin Armstrong
Lil Hardin Armstrong’s full name was Lillian Beatrice Hardin. She was born 1898 in Memphis, Tennessee. She was raised by her mother Dempsey Hardin and Grandmother Priscilla Martin in a boarding house near Beale Street, which was known for its nightclubs and music. Influenced by the music around her, she got taught how to read music and by the age 9 played the organ for Sunday school. At the age of 16 she got put into Mrs. Hicks Music School for piano lesson where she entered a contests and half way through her solo lost her place and improvised winning her the first prize and the hopes of being a good musician. She went to Fisks University for two years and when she returned back to Memphis with a copy of “St. Louis Blues,” her mother called it “devils music” and beat Lil with a broomstick. Her mother immediately packed up their belongings and set off on a train to Chicago. She got a job at Jones Music Store where she started demonstrating sheet music. She started giving the sheet music a twist and making it her own and before she new it she was the main attraction. February 5th she became Mrs. Louis Armstrong who even after their separation, was like her musical soul mate. His death took a huge toll on her. She played at Louis Armstrong’s memorial concert on August 27, 1971. When she keyed the last cord of W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues she toppled over and died.

[By: Darian Cano]

Works Cited

"Harlem Renaissance Music." 1920s Fashion and Music. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

"Famous Musicians of the Harlem Renaissance." Buzzle Web Portal: Intelligent Life on the Web. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

Harlem Renaissance: The Making of American Music | Kwanzaa Guide." Kwanzaa Guide | Kwanzaa International Learning Center | Kwanzaa Official Website | Kwanzaa Learning Guide. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.

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