The end of April marks the beginning of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, an exciting cultural celebration dedicated to one of America’s favourite styles of music. The event is particularly special this year, as 2017 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, warmly remembered as the First Lady of Song, and the Queen of Jazz. To celebrate this musical milestone, we’ve taken a look at some of the most famous quintessential music styles around the world.
A unique hybrid of African and European influences mixed together with a pinch of the Blues, it’s easy to see why jazz quickly evolved into one of the most exciting music styles in America. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what characterizes jazz, except that it’s unpredictable, full of life, and deeply rooted in African American culture. It was born in New Orleans in the late 19th century, particularly in the red-light district of Storyville, where many famous names in jazz first started playing. Louis Armstrong was one of the best and most influential jazz musicians, and has since been labelled ‘the King of Jazz Trumpet’. Other players who helped shaped the genre include Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and, of course, Ella Fitzgerald. Anyone who loves a bit of scat should head stateside in 2017. Don’t worry if you can’t make the jazz festival this year, though – New Orleans is bursting with jazz bars and clubs, especially on the lively Frenchmen Street, and the cultural French Quarter.
The word ‘flamenco’ might call to mind passionate dancers, traditional red dresses, and Spanish castanets. In fact, it’s really more of a blanket term for three art forms at the heart of Spain’s vibrant culture – guitar playing ‘toque’, songs, ‘cante’, and dance ‘baile’. A typical piece of flamenco music would include three verses as well as fiery ‘falsetas’, or guitar interludes. The style of Flamenco can trace its roots back to 18th century Andalusia, and to this day, performances and songs in this style are instantly relatable to Spain. It has since produced some famous flamenco songs including ‘El Porompompero’, and flamenco dancers such as Sara Baras. If you fancy getting a taste of Flamenco on your holiday to Spain, traditional Andalucia is the place to go, particularly Seville.
Bob Marley often said that reggae wasn’t ‘known’ but ‘felt’, and that’s probably the best explanation for the genre of music that’s all about spirit. Musically, it’s a mix of Caribbean calypso, jazz, and rhythm and blues, and was heavily influenced by earlier ska music, particularly in its ‘off-beats’. Originating in the 1960s, reggae has since become synonymous with Jamaican culture, thanks to the music and lifestyle of the iconic Bob Marley. He and The Wailers were fundamental in shaping and popularizing reggae, as well as other artists such as Jimmy Cliff, and the Toots and the Maytals. Planning on visiting Jamaica? Head on over to lively Hip Strip in Montego Bay, or if you’re flying to Negril, then listening to the local reggae acts on Norman Manley Boulevard is a must.
Less of a style of music than an art form, it’s no surprise that Italy is proud to be the birthplace of the opera. Even the word ‘opera’ itself is Italian, and literally means ‘work’ in its mother tongue. The art form started way back in the 17th century with ‘Dafne’ by Jacopo Peri, as an attempted revival of traditional Greek dramas. It’s widely considered to be the first example of opera as it’s known today – a dramatic, theatrical performance set to music, with singers and musicians. This powerful new style of entertainment soon spread across Europe, and later produced famous tenors and sopranos such as Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Callas. These iconic opera stars both performed at the Teatro La Scala, one of the best opera houses in the world, and an unmissable attraction on holidays to Milan. Naples and Venice are both home to some incredible opera houses, and still hosts performances to this day.
Whether you’re a lover of fiery flamenco or classical opera, there’s nothing quite like hearing your favourite music played in the country where it was brought to life. And with so many styles of music around the world, there’s no end to the exciting places you can discover. So next time you’re looking for a little holiday inspiration, a musical getaway will hit all the right notes.