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What is Dixieland Jazz anyway?

This year, American Association of Singapore is hosting an old-fashioned Fourth of July complete with a Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Stream Brass Band. To many, Dixieland jazz is as American as hot dogs, baseball and apple pie. But what is Dixieland jazz anyway?

Jazz started way back during the start of the 20th century in New Orleans, Louisiana. Before Jazz, NOLA (as it's often called) had a musical community that was mostly dominated by all-white brass bands that would perform in parades and community events and offer music for funerals.

But the city's red light district had a huge demand for musicians. Bordellos required all-night music and the existing bands simply couldn’t keep up. The houses got smart and started paying soloists. First, piano players grabbed the spotlight then trumpet and trombone players started working solo, too. Soon enough, things changed and bands started picking up other stringed instruments.

These bands soon gained a huge following because they could play a variety of music and could play in other establishments. And perhaps even more important? The bands were not limited in ethnicity. African American musicians often played with white European musicians. There were no real rules. All that mattered is that the musicians were good.

NOLA is part of the South which is often called Dixie so Dixieland Jazz got it's name that way. But the music started to reach far beyond the South and musicians started traveling bringing their music with them. Chicago also has a strong jazz history.

For more information about the history of Dixieland Jazz, check out this article in Britannica.

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