The Importance of Jazz Music in Black Political Activism

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Q1: Relation to Black Activism, the Avant-Garde, and the Civil Rights Movement

            Jazz is a genre of music that was used by activists of Civil Rights Movements and Black Political Activism as a non-violent platform of expressing their contempt of slavery and racism. Civil Rights activists, for instance, utilized the genre to broaden the scale and the scope of the movement by distributing politically outspoken jazz albums within the black people residences. The politically conscious albums would be played in places traditionally reserved for leisure and entertainment and hence the move would transform the said places into forums of discussing the goals and the philosophies of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Political Activism. One of the most outstanding jazz albums was Max Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now Suite released in 1960.

The album’s Driva Man, for instance, is a song that highlights the phenomenon of slavery. The song delves into cotton picking that was done by the black slaves and the physical assault that would ensue if the slaves failed to do the work as expected. Although the song highlights the slavery ordeal endured by the black people, Roach also sheds light on the fact that the Black People were tired of the inhumane way they were being treated. This argument is valid in the sense that Roach’s Driva Man asserts that the Black person featured on the song only cared about ‘Driva Man quitting time’. The phrase loosely translates to putting an end to slavery. The Freedom Day is also another song from Roach’s album that celebrates an end to slavery and the benefits of the acquired freedom. Roach asserts that ending slavery would render black people able to vote and secure employment. In conclusion, Roach’s album was an invaluable political resource for spreading awareness on the views and strategies of the Black Political Activism and the Civil Rights Movement.

Q2. The Decline of Jazz Music’s Popularity

            Jazz music has lost its popularity over the years for several reasons. Firstly, the genre could not sell as many records as the other types of music and this situation discouraged record companies from investing in it. For example, Dave Quartet’s Time Out

was released in 1959 but only managed to sell fifty thousand records four years later. At the same time, many rock bands came into the scene and sold millions of records. Secondly, jazz is considered slow music meant for the heart and the mind and does not have a catchy melody unlike the rest of music genres which are more hyper-fast and fiendishly complex. Additionally, jazz is more esoteric, self-indulgent and does not promote dancing, unlike most present-day music. Ultimately, jazz is mostly considered a museum piece, one mostly listened by old people and primarily preserved for educational and cultural enlightenment. This negative perception discourages people from appreciating jazz as equally significant as the rest of the music genres.

            Jazz undoubtedly deserves more attention than it has received in the landscape of contemporary music. The argument is valid in the sense that jazz music is a genre endowed with intellect and emotion. These features are rare in the rest of the genres played nowadays. Additionally, jazz music utilizes spontaneity, unlike hip-hop and rock. For example, the genre does not only feature high-hats and stand-up bass lines but also has semi-genres such as Latin jazz, traditional jazz, avant-garde, acid jazz, blues-jazz, among others. Ultimately, jazz music is unique because it highlights the history of America’s growth unlike the contemporary radio drivel that all sound the same.

Works cited

"We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite". YouTube, 2014, Accessed 23 Apr 2018.

October 05, 2023

Entertainment Music

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