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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hard Times Good Time: Rent Party

The rent party is a tradition that started in Harlem in the 1920's.  As the Great Migration out of the south moved into Harlem and added jazz and swing to the rural blues and folk music, the rent party became a way of using those blues and jazz to pay the rent.  Even before the Great Depression rolled in and brought hard times to the urban main stream, large parts of the rural and non-white urban work forces were already suffering.  Having recently migrated north in many cases, many of the black workers had not dug in roots deep.  They pitched in to help each other out.  And the rent party was one of those ways.  And maybe it's a cultural phenomenon whose time has returned.

In the rent party someone who didn't have enough money for their rent would invite their friends and neighbors to their place, or another larger place sometimes.  Tickets would be sold and extra for the food and drink. Sometimes more was collected by passing the hat. Jazz musicians would compete with each other in "cutting contests"  Informal music was the usual at rent parties so they are a folk institution. They are sometimes called house parties, house rent parties, skiffle, or boogie (from the Sierra Leone word bogi, meaning to dance. See

Got a friend who is behind on the rent in this great recession?  Get together and through them a rent party.

Rent, according to a post at the blog Corrente ( ),  has become 30% to 50% of the wage differential between the financial sector and the rest of the economy.  The last time that happened was during the late 1920's bubble that proceeded the great bust.  But we are already in a great bust.  Where do we go from here?

 I have posted some u-tube videos about rent parties, long a staple of blues, folk and jazz music. Enjoy and have a good time during these hard times.

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