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Just before the turn of the 20th century, a unique musical form emerged in the United States. As African, European and American cultures blended, the first truly American musical genre was born, predating jazz. For the next 20 years, an improvised music popular in the red light districts and saloons of cities like St. Louis and New Orleans, gradually grew into a sophisticated, composed style - "ragtime." While the heyday of ragtime was short-lived, it is America's own music, and it could not have happened any other time in history.