Jan 25, 2018 in Analysis

American African Music: from the Beginning till Now

Highlight 2 artists we read or discussed, highlight their respective protest songs. Lay out 3 reasons for each, explaining why they were impactful or not impactful with their songs.

During the history of African American music development there can be outlined a trend of protest music. Nina Simone is one of the eminent representatives of this flow. She gained a fame of protest singer with a song “Mississippi Goddam” devoted to the tragedy when a Baptist Church in Birmingham detonated and several black children who had a lesson there died. Her song was very impactful at that time. Lyrics and music became Nina Simone’s weapon in a fight against social inequality. This song pushed a struggle for rights of black people. As a result there increased a tension between police, government and the society. People understood that changes should be made. Nina Simone was fighting for others even if it hurt her life. “She was able to color unrelated songs with meaning, breathingthe heart of the civil rights struggle” (p. 82).

Steevie Wonder also belongs to the group of Protest musicians. He devoted the series of songs to the problems of black people and their life in ghetto. He rised the issued of drugs addiction, religious inequality, deceit. Hurt and danger have become the main emotions and feelings of these songs which had a great impact on the society. As a result, black musicians came out from shadow of public indifference. Money he gathered from the concerts he sent to Martin Luther King to support his activities in fighting for human rights. He was called the official name of protest musicians.

Highlight 2 contemporary artists and songs that have been released in the past 5 years that continue in the tradition of Black protest music? How impactful do you think these artists have or will be?

Among the contemporaty artists of the Protest flow of the past 5 years one of the most eminent artists is Kanye West. In his song Power a complicated and irrational society is depicted: “The system broken, the schools closed, the prisons open. We ain't got nothin' to lose, motherfucker, we rollin'”. The mood and the manner of lyrics are close to the former Protest singers. Kanye West reveals that in contemporary society there are a lot of problems to be resolved.

Public Enemy is another eminent representative of modern Protest performers. In their song Truth Decay they are searching for truth and are despair as there is not much of it in the world: “Truth decay brush up on your facts. All you gotta do is check them stats. But what sense is a census when they just miss us”. They emphasize that everybody lies everywhere: on TV, from the tribune, in families. Moral issues experience decay which is abnormal and should be changed. As many musicians do not have any particular power in society as politicians do, the only way they can present their ideas concerning the burning problems of society is through their artworks.

Based upon the readings and discussions, what forces are at play limiting the impact of Protest music, what 2 additional steps do they need to take to have better impact?

Of course, there are forces limiting the impact of Protest music. Political sensorship is the lever which determines not only the future of such songs but freedom of its performers. Very often protest singers are hurt considerably by the reaction of government which sees danger to their positive image among people. In order to improve the impact of protest songs on society singers should confirm their words by the actions. It means that if the performer declares his opposition to any social problem one can organize an action or create a program to support the ideas and implement strategy of resolving the problems and improving the situation around problems of black people or any other category. On the other hand support from the government would be of great help. That is why singers should present their protest in a form that politicians could see no danger for themselves particularly but a great problem for the society that should be resolved immediately.

Based upon the readings, discussions and documentaries please do the following with respect to Jazz and Bepob Music:

Highlight 3 musical characteristics that help define Jazz or Bepob (cite sources).

Jazz which appeared in the postwar period represented a new level of black music development. Concerning its characteristics that allow to outline it from other music flows it is important to know what music influenced jazz:

The fusion of blues and ragtime, of brass-band music and syncopated music, resulted in the new music called jazz, a music that developed its own characteristics (Butler, 1978, p. 589).

The main difference of jazz from other music is melody, rhythm amd harmony. The second point is that many jazz melodies implies the so-called ‘call-and response technique’. The melody itself contains “the embelishment of falsetto tones around the pitch, timbre, intervals, and the different rhythmic articulations. The moans, cries, and hollers of the past evidenced the spirit of an oppressed people”.

Highlight 3 ways that you would compare or contrast jazz or bepop with blues. Please highlight 2 artists and their material to support your claim.

Concerning the comparison of jazz with blues it is important to outline the following: jazz is joyful mainly dancing music and blues is music of a sad character. Lyrics of blues songs usually cover such themes as unanswered love, hard destiny of black people and their craving for motherland, struggle gor human rights and many other social issues. Jass melodies have complicated rhythmical structure and emotionam performance. Blues is chracterised by length, emotional lyrics, and the so-called dialogue between the performer and instrument.

In the documentary the Cry of Jazz, they conclude by saying "Jazz is Dead but its spirit has evolved and moved on" Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Give 2 reasons to support your respective argument.

As for the saying that “Jazz is Dead but its spirit has evolved and moved on” it is hard to answer definitely. On the one hand some critics say that it is dead because of some reasons. Jazz as music flow was unique phenomenon created by a unique nationality. And this fact outlined and separated jazz from the whole musical unit. In spite of the improvisations so popular in the beginning of any performance jazz melodies were limited by structure and the range of sound.  Moreover, it embodied the limited ideas and its appearance was determined by particular historical events which stipulated its development and disappearing as there was no need in it as time went by, history changed and new society required new culture.

On the other hand jazz is not dead as modern performers include jazz melodies into their compositions. Jazz has survived and had transformed but it remained the same jazz. Of course, there appear new trends and new names. Nevertheless, jazz has become classics of music that is why it will never die.

Highlight a contemporary artist who is keeping the Jazz or Bepob tradition alive.

The fact that jazz is alive and preferred by millions of people can be proved by the fact that there are modern performers who continue jazz tradition alive. Pat Metheny Group is a group founded in 1977 and continuing playing jazz till now. The main peculiarity of music performance of this band is total improvisation which reveals harmony of the artwork. Their last release The Way Up was a so-called experiment: it represented a single lasting 68 minutes which did not have a particular structure and details. This single has become an evidence of freedom of jazz. It proved that harmony in music can be determined not only by a strict structure of composition. Harmony is dictated by inner mood condition. That makes jazz be unique and everlasting music phenomenon.


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