Music is the heartbeat of Black American culture. Right up there with church, and dancing. I LOVE all of the music that has come out of our culture. I always find it a bit distressing when people who dance to our music say
“I love blues but I’m not really into hip hop/rap” or ” you just can’t DANCE to this music (meaning something other than the music related to their style of dance”.
It’s almost always in the same tone of voice as ” I can’t wait for the city to pour money into X area (typically with the minorities) so it becomes a good area to go” or “ why do we always have to talk about race? We are all the same and I just wanna do X”, and that voice, is never good.
Right now in our political climate we talk a a lot about appropriation v appreciation, and personally I like to make it even simpler. Respect v disrespect. When that tone of voice happens it’s almost always some bull shit and the person looks like this:
For the record, it isn’t about them being white, but more about the lack of respect and appreciation for other cultures that happens to show up. It shows me that they one, have little to no knowledge about Black culture and two, probably aren’t interested in doing so.
This is clear to me because it’s impossible to deny the way that music has shifted and changed over time, and yet many things stay in common. I struggle to find someone who is well versed in spirituals and Blues and not be able to at least appreciate other genre’s. On the Toska blog I wrote about one difference I had noticed between Black American music and white American Music is in the focus on or away from lyrics. I think it’s important to note that Black music generally has some type of story in it’s lyrics. That story doesn’t have to travel anywhere per se, but it does explore relationships the world and our understanding of where we are in it.
That’s the thing I love about all the various types and genres of Black music ,is the way that you can tell the focus of not only each particular genre, but the focus of each time period. There are some things that are universal such as; religion, love, hope, race relations, and so much more. Yet, there are so many differences to be found in each genre of music, just as there’s so many differences between each generation of Black people. The way I define genres is very different from a musical thought process. Sure, you can define Blues as a genre of music that plays within these notes and chords and has this musical structure. But, it’s also the music of my grandfather and our relationship shapes the way I hear that music. Original Hip Hop and R&B is my mother’s music. Jazz, jazz covers and, different types of R&B is my stepfather’s music. My step-brother, loved the current day music and The Hip Hop/rap of today. As a student of music I find myself blending and mixing all of these tastes and also finding my own section of music to call my own. Swing, Spirituals, Blues, and Noir and Blues tend to be my genres. And still it’s not hard for me to switch into listening to a different type of Black music because it all feels related.
When a person tells me they don’t like this particular type of Black music, and I can tell they haven’t actually spent a lot of time exploring that genre of music, it feels as though they are saying that they refuse to know and understand where certain members of my family come from. The music is a reflection of their understanding of the world. The music’s they choose is a part of their upbringing, their rebellion, and their acceptance of themselves as full adults. The music shows how we’re all the same and yet acknowledges and supports are many differences. So, I tend to take a little bit of offense when people I care about refuse to try to listen to something that’s important to me. It feels like a slap in the face. As if people think they can pick and choose the parts of our culture they want to support. That’s why, for me this comes back down to respect.
It’s foreign I get that, but please, give it a try before stating you only like one genre. You may find your understanding deepen with each music you explore.