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Pre-1900 - In the beginning

The music to become known as ‘jazz’ is generally thought to have been conceived in America during the second half of the nineteenth century by African-Americans.

They combined their work songs, melodies, spirituals and rhythms with European music and instruments – a process that accelerated after the abolition of slavery in 1865.

Black entertainment was already a reality, however, before this evolution had taken place and in 1873 the Fisk Jubilee Singers, an Afro-American a cappella ensemble, came to the UK on a fundraising tour during which they were asked to sing for Queen Victoria.

The Fisk Singers were followed into Britain by a wide variety of Afro-American presentations such as minstrel shows and full-scale revues, a pattern that continued into the early twentieth century.

Image: The Fisk Jubilee Singers c1890s © Fisk University

Download the full British Jazz Timeline written by Roger Cotterrell and Digby Fairweather

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