It all started...

In 1819 in Congo Square, an outdoor space in New Orleans where slaves would congregate on Sundays when they didn’t have to work. They would sing, play music and dance, swaying back and forth to the songs of their home countries. Caribbean music from the West Indies mixed with beats from Africa and church melodies from the United States’ south. 

When the war ended in 1865, all of these musical styles blended to form a new genre called ragtime, which syncopated the rhythms of previous genres and made songs that everyone wanted to dance to. Around the same time, former slaves from other parts of the American south brought the blues to Louisiana, combining spiritual music from the Baptist church with secular lyrics that told the painful stories of slaves’ lives.

When ragtime and the blues came together, it created a completely novel style of music – a truly American art form. In the late 1890s, syncopation joined with soulful melodies, upbeat dance tunes united with the sultry sound of brass instruments, and jazz began to emerge.

With strong roots in the tradition of improvisation, jazz continues to evolve, collecting accents from Afropop, Latin dance music, eastern classical music, and pretty much every other music it comes into contact with, all while transforming other genres around the world. And so has been the story of jazz, ever since its birth in the vivacious city of New Orleans.