America Compared Ch:14 The Meanings of American Jazz in France
Emergence of Jazz in France Jazz music is a blend of African harmonies and rhythms fused with American style. It’s widespread emergence in the 1920s was not popularly accepted in the United States at the time due to its racial origin but soon became all the rage with European audiences when it was introduced by American soldiers during and after World War I. It became most popular in Paris where the French people had never encountered so many black Americans and quickly fell in love with the music of jazz which the soldiers presented as entertainment to Parisians and a means of morale boosting for the troops. The new style of music came as a type of relief to a people who had been burdened by the war and helped the transition into a post war age.
The Embrace of African Americans In France. World War I brought many American soldiers to Europe, In France about two hundred thousand of these were black Americans. The French accepted African Americans warmly and with delight, naturally these African Americans felt more welcome in France then they did in their own country where segregation was still alive and well. French officers regularly criticized U.S. regulations that kept blacks and whites in separate units and noted the hypocrisy of America being a country that sought to “make the world safe for democracy.” France’s military often disregarded U.S. regulations of segregation and sometimes destroyed American literature advocating racial discrimination. African American soldiers embraced France for being a country of true equality and many African Americans in the states began to join the army to fight for a country that was as color-blind as France.
French Criticism French embrace of jazz music and new positive relationship with Americans got the attention of French business leaders who began to study U.S. industrial practices. They adapted the assembly line and French tire company Michelin adapted U.S. techniques in their production. Even the Secretary of French Federation of Labor spent a year in the U.S. working and studying American techniques of business. Parisians dressed in U.S. fashions and had a fascination for all things American. At the same time there were French critics who worried that adapting to many of the American ways of business would have a negative effect on France. They feared the changes in production techniques could be harmful for French workers and consumers, that ultimately French society could lose their individuality to the uniformity of a new industrial machinist country. Critics made as strong connection to jazz music being a catalyst of American life and the sound of a machinist world. Yet jazz was still embraced as the modern “mixture of black and white America and the sound of a broader set of cultural changes in the way that people lived, worked, and played in Paris.”