The German Harmonica and African American Blues Culture
Presentation will be at the AT&T Foundation Multipurpose Room, Missouri History Museum
in Conjuction with the National Blues Museum
Tuesday, June 7 2016 at 3:00 pm
Admission is Free
Although being probably the most popular American instrument for about a century, the general public in the United States today knows relatively little about the history of the harmonica or mouth organ. In particular, information about its formative role on and huge influence in African American blues culture is scarce.
Herbert Quelle, the German Consul General for the Midwest in Chicago, has researched extensively the German roots of the pocket-sized companion of European immigrants since the 19th century. Among his findings: About one billion harmonicas were imported from Germany between the 1870s and 1980s. Two German factories still exist and produce harmonicas, Seydel (since 1847) and Hohner (since 1857). The harmonica was the instrument of choice for many African Americans, because it was cheap and easily accessible. African Americans deserve credit for developing totally new tonal ranges and forms of expression on the harmonica. The German-produced instrument and the African American way of playing it have constituted a relationship which has been extremely fruitful for the blues as a universally appreciated musical genre.