Musicologists are discovering similarities between Islamic holy music and early American blues — similarities that go beyond the likelihood of coincidence. Have a listen. The parallel is pretty striking. What’s the connection?
It’s really there because of all the Muslim slaves from West Africa who were taken by force to the United States for three centuries, from the 1600s to the mid-1800s. Upward of 30 percent of the African slaves in the United States were Muslim, and an untold number of them spoke and wrote Arabic, historians say now.
So if most great American music — all of rock history and all of jazz — ultimately grows out of early blues, then by extension, American musical heritage is tied intimately to the music of Islam.