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Swing music around the world

Swing music is full of happy melody and syncopated rythm. For me as a dancer swing music means several types of music I can dance swing to. Swing jazz music is a style that originates from America and reached its top popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. It can be sweet or hot, depending on the rhythm. But there is a range of other music styles that we like to dance to: swing jazz, rhythm&blues, rock and roll, boogie woogie, jump&jive, blues, jump blues, rockabilly, western swing, dixieland and neo-swing. Whatever the style, it has to have that something that swings!

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A brief history of swing music and styles

The beginning: Ragtime, Jazz and Dixieland

The music genre that was different from the others was Ragtime, a strongly syncopated fast music and 'ragged' rhythm. It had a big influence and let to the later jazz music. Also a brass band sound from the beginning of the century infiltrated American popular music, laying the groundwork for the orchestral and swing bands of the 1930s and 1940s. One of the forms of the early jazz music was Dixieland. From this era emerged some great bands, that later evolved into swing jazz ansambles. The dance "charleston" was immensly popular at the time.

vintage dixieland band
Dixieland band

Swing jazz

The beginning of swing jazz goes back to the roaring 1920s and evolves in the '30s, while it reaches it's peak in the '40s. Swing jazz ansambles had up to 16 pieces of instruments and were named orchestras. Depending on the type of music performed they were divided to slower, more elegant (sweet) swing bands and faster (hot) swing bands with more improvisation when performing. From these bands some competent individual artists stood out and had the chance of playing solo's. This music was closely connected with the dance scene of that time and orchestras often played the music that could be danced to. Artists that left the biggest mark of the era were Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodmann, Artie Shaw, Count Basie, ...

Vintage Benny Goodmann photo
Benny Goodman

Western swing

Jazz music had a big influence on american country music of the Thirties and Forties. The country & western music of rural towns merged with the swing of the big bands of urban jazz. The best known of the early Western Swing bands were Milton Brown and his Brownies and Bob Wills, a performer who formed his own western big band ansamble. This style of music was named western swing. The modern "country music" artists are still under the influence of that era.


Relatively slow, heavily syncopated style of blues piano known as "boogie-woogie" originates from the Twenties and had a tremendous influence on the development of American popular music, and on various swing bands of the Forties. The boogie-woogie made a major contribution to the development of jump blues and ultimately to rock and roll. Boogie woogie is still to be heard in several clubs and is popular with many dancers dancing boogie to it.

Jump Blues

Jump Blues first appeared in the late 1930s, and was enormously popular in the Forties and early Fifties performed by artists such as Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, Wynonie Harris, Big Joe Turner and Louis Prima. Playful and humorous lyrics are the trademark of this style. Cab Calloway performed regularly until his death in 1993 and had a very important role in reviving the music in 1980s by artists such as Joe Jackson and Brian Setzer. Lionel Hampton also left behind a big impact on the music.

Rock and roll

The 1950s saw a birth of a new music style in the United States, that arose from and incorporated a variety of musical styles like blues, rythm and blues, gospel and country music. It is characterized by electronically amplified instrumentation, a heavily accented beat, and relatively simple phrase structure. An early form of rock and roll was rockabilly, which combined country and jazz. There are many artists from this era, some of them are Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Hank Williams, Fats Domino, Bill Haley, Big Joe Turner. Dance of the time, that was widely popular and was danced to this music was Jitterbug or Swing, wich is a form of East coast swing.

Neo Swing and revived Jump Blues

In the Eighties some punk artists began exploring the older music styles and incorporating rockabilly, ska and jump-blues into their musical performance. They also included jazz instruments like saxophone. The real swing revival happened in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when we started dancing it in Slovenija too. Modern swing dancers contributed a lot to this revival. The newly formed bands started playing music that was known as the neo-swing or the retro swing music. This artists are Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Jo Jackson, Lavay Smith, Steve Lucky in The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Indigo swing vintage band
Indigo swing

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