Jazz Music: Historical Background

Music has a long and intricate history dating back thousands of years. It is a form of communication and expression, a source of entertainment and enjoyment for people, and occasionally a form of political protest. The earliest known forms were drum-based, rhythmical, and repetitive (Smith, 2020). Over time, music began to evolve and change, taking on different forms in different cultures, and different genres were created, such as Rock, R&B, Pop, and hundreds of others. One of the most interesting, enriching, and discussed genres is Jazz.

Jazz is a relatively young direction that quickly and confidently won its place in music. It first started in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the States of Louisiana and New Orleans in the United States and was eventually introduced to China (Li, 2018). Jazz is a genre created by African American musicians and characterized by a syncopated rhythm and improvisation. This genre emerged from traditional and well-known styles associated with African-American and European-American parentage. Borge (2018, p. 106) states that Jazz is the United States’ key contribution to the area of art and culture. It is distinguished from other genres by its improvisational nature. While other genres rely on pre-written melodies and chord progressions, jazzmen often improvise both melody and accompaniment.

In the early twentieth century, African-Americans used jazz as a form of political protest. It is viewed as a means to express the struggles and frustrations in a “racially segregated world in which musicians lived and worked” (Mills, 2019, para. 1). The use of this genre as a form of political protest continued throughout the Civil Rights Movement and manifested itself through the participation of jazzmen in protest concerts and the recording of music containing political messages that appealed to civil rights.

Jazz has continued to evolve over the years, improving and developing. Taking into account the history of this genre, it has become music that builds character, teaches improvisation and innovation, gives courage, the ability to listen, and the understanding that different voices are equal. For these reasons, jazz has a special place in history and is one of the most engaging, enriching, and discussed genres.


Borge, J. (2018). Tropical Riffs: Latin America and the politics of jazz. Latin American Literary Review, 45(90), 103-266. Web.

Li, M. (2018). A history of jazz in China: From yellow music to a jazz revival in Beijing [Master’s thesis, Kent State University]. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. Web.

Mills, S. (2019). Democracy in music: Louis Metcalf’s international band and Montreal jazz history. Canadian Historical Review, 100(3), 351-373.

Smith, H. (2020). The world’s earliest music. Books on Demand.