A conference on the role of African culture in the making of modern American music
Cultural services of the US embassy in Algiers, on Tuesday organized a Digital Video Conference from Paris, through which Algerian English students, teachers and various Alumni enjoyed an hour long lecture given by Billy Stevens.
The topic discussed by the lecturer dealt with the interactivity between the afro American music and the European popular one and its pivotal role in the making of the modern American music. He first gave a broad overview about the historical background of the American music ranging from the early 18th century till the emergence of Rock N’ Roll in the 1950s.
Billy Stevens untitled his topic “Sincere Forms of Flattery; Blacks, Whites and American Popular Music” , he started his presentation mentioning an old saying from America which goes saying” imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” , giving thus a straightforward introduction to his topic .
According to Stevens, music would have never survived cross ages without imitation, as the very emergence of the modern American music was made possible through imitation. As far as 1820s White American musicians painted their faces in black and went on stages playing “banjo” making fun of black musicians, but actually they were paying respect to this music brought by the slaves from the Western parts of Africa.
More technical, and going further in his comparative study between the African music and the European popular one, Stevens showed the difference existing in the African music and European one in terms of rhythm , he highlighted this difference using the term swift steady notes for European music as opposed to “Blue Note” slow and sorrowful tone for African one.
The lecturer was supporting his argumentation with music pieces that he aired on live, some of these recordings stretch back as far as 1822. Being a musician himself, he stuck the audience on their benches with a masterful performance on a harmonica, before leaving room to a bunch of questions in connection to his topic.
Billy Stevens has lectured and performed in over sixty countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle east as an ambassador of American culture and music. His programs educate xhile they entertain, demonstrating how social and cultural diversity contributes to American music’s evolution.