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Historical question I have always pondered. I wonder what other people think.

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Probably not. Fancy having a go at "was it worth it"? :-)

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My take on this is as follows: Never so bad that it is not good for something.

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cubop, I'm afraid I didn't understand that.

Maybe I'm the only one who worries about such things. But for a while it's bothered me that we have to thank slave traders, segregationists and racists for creating the right conditions for jazz.

Now I've come to a different understanding. Jazz was formed out of a melting pot, and mixing of cultures. That would have happened anyway, eventually. It might not have happened in America at that time, but it would have happened as travel got easier and there was more migration this way and that. Jazz, in any case, exists within the parameters of classical music - the pentatonic scale is still there, and 4 beats in a bar still matter. It might have happened differently, but it would still have happened.

Anyone else agree?

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Now, country, I would say yes. Country wouldn't exist without the racial divide between country and the blues. We'd have one or the other, but not both.

Jazz is a little different. It depends where you think the slave chants came from.

If you think they came from slaves being forced to sing while doing manual labor and they created this form of music by experimentation, then American music comes from slavery and without slavery, American music would not exist in it's current form. None of it, Blues, Jazz, Ragtime, ...

If you think slave chants mostly come from the culture of West Africa, then someone, somewhere would discover the rising tone, and Jazz would exist in some form. I mean, look at the current influx of Indians(from India) and their influence on pop music.

The first view, that the people who were forced onto boats in Africa pretty much lost their culture when arriving in America, is the older view. The newer view is that people kept their culture as best as they could, and a lot more than one would expect of a person being kidnapped from their village and being transplanted to America.

Either way, it's a pretty open question.


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Interesting. I'd never thought of country as 'white' but I suppose it is.

People taken as slaves were taken from a large number of diverse cultures, and all put together to work. I can't imagine much culture survived, as they wouldn't necessarily have had anything in common with each other, culturally.

I can't help but think that the sense of beat would have arisen somewhere, somehow, and would have caught like wildfire, as it did.

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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
cubop, I'm afraid I didn't understand that.

Maybe I'm the only one who worries about such things. But for a while it's bothered me that we have to thank slave traders, segregationists and racists for creating the right conditions for jazz.

Now I've come to a different understanding. Jazz was formed out of a melting pot, and mixing of cultures. That would have happened anyway, eventually. It might not have happened in America at that time, but it would have happened as travel got easier and there was more migration this way and that. Jazz, in any case, exists within the parameters of classical music - the pentatonic scale is still there, and 4 beats in a bar still matter. It might have happened differently, but it would still have happened.

Anyone else agree?


I expect you can drum up some support. People like jazz, they don't like slavery. A cop-out justification will be popular.

You really don't have to take a stand on this, you know! Slavery wasn't your fault, you're allowed to like jazz. Has some pastor who still secretly thinks jazz is the devil's music mischievously raised the topic? :-)

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I may of course be incorrect and people will no doubt hasten to add their own, but nevertheless, it seems to me that Jazz occurred long after emancipation and when the African American communities came to the prosperous and booming cities, didn't it? There are no references to forced labour in jazz pere se. It is music of liberation.

Historians have us believe in slave chants, then the blues, perhaps alongside the spiritual and then the ragtime forms before a jazz idiom appeared. All of them are very distinct idoms anyway. And let's face it, we are talking about dance music for the rich and largely white patrons of New Orleans and similar exotic getaways for the priveleged who included many former slaves anyway, believe it or not.


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Originally Posted by Exalted Wombat

You really don't have to take a stand on this, you know! Slavery wasn't your fault, you're allowed to like jazz.


Good points! smile

Quote

Has some pastor who still secretly thinks jazz is the devil's music mischievously raised the topic? :-)


To the best of my knowledge, I'm not a pastor. smile

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Originally Posted by Arabesque
I may of course be incorrect and people will no doubt hasten to add their own, but nevertheless, it seems to me that Jazz occurred long after emancipation and when the African American communities came to the prosperous and booming cities, didn't it? There are no references to forced labour in jazz pere se. It is music of liberation.

Historians have us believe in slave chants, then the blues, perhaps alongside the spiritual and then the ragtime forms before a jazz idiom appeared. All of them are very distinct idoms anyway. And let's face it, we are talking about dance music for the rich and largely white patrons of New Orleans and similar exotic getaways for the priveleged who included many former slaves anyway, believe it or not.


Certainly jazz happened long after slavery was abolished, but historians will draw a direct line between slavery and blues. One could argue that those people would not have been in that place at that time if their ancestors hadn't been taken as slaves.

Jazz most definitely arose at a time of segregation. Black people were not allowed to ride on the same train carriage as whites, and they weren't allowed to play in the same bands, on the same stage, at the same time. Black people could only play music with other black people, even if they played for a white audience, and, one could argue, they were encouraged to come up with a 'black sound' that fitted the white audience's views of what was fitting for black people. Further, creole musicians (mixed race, classically trained, and probably white wealthy) suddenly found themselves labelled as 'black' - where previously they weren't black. So suddenly they could only play with blacks, as blacks, but they brought their classical training with them.

I just find it disturbing.

And I'm old enough to remember the black-and-white minstrel show.

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I am sure there would be some form of fusion between African and western music if it wasn't for the slave trade, but the music might not resemble what we call jazz.

When you watch the interview of great jazz musicians, you realize that the "African-American Experience" is a big part of their music. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Louis Armstrong are all victim and vocal critic of racism, which is in some ways, an extension/by product of slavery(if that makes
sense).

I remember Art Blakey specifically talking about how he doesn't have an African name, because his ancestors were slaves and they were given and western name.. For him jazz it was a way to preserve his cultural identity.

To me, these issues are very much at the heart of jazz, and I feel like you are missing the point of jazz if you listen to the music without it.

Anyways, I think the best way to understand it is to study up on the history. If you haven't seen Ken Burn's jazz, I'd highly recommend it. The geography, and the specific time that jazz emerged has a very important role in development of jazz as an art form.

I also think it's important to consider the fact that while there is huge influx of culture and crossover in this post-modern world, I don't think that necessarily resulted in a distinct musical art form. I know classical composers are using the elements of Indian music and vice versa, but there that hasn't not translated into an establishment of a new musical genre... as far as I know

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There is a direct line from West Africa to jazz, There is a direct line from West Africa to Cuban music, and it is often called Afro Cuban.
The term Afro American sums it all up. I play and enjoy most of its styles, from West Africa to New York.
My views on the slavetrade and certain other things do not belong in a nice forum like this.

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Well, as far as I am concerned, there is no forum rules against talking about slavery or anything related to that in the context of music. It's not like we are encouraging slavery in any form smile

A lot of great music comes from great tragedies. Messiaen wrote many of his music in prison camp. The whole point of discussion in the forum is to share our understanding music history, so that we can appreciate it better... at least I am hoping we are discussing it in that spirit.

Here's a link to a song by Charles Mingus. I think it shows that slavery is an important part of the hearts and minds of (some) jazz musicians

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mingus_Mingus_Mingus_Mingus_Mingus

"Freedom, by Charles Mingus (excerpt)

This mule ain't from Moscow,
this mule ain't from the South.
But this mule's had some learning,
mostly mouth-to-mouth.

The lyrics, "This mule ain't from Moscow", might be a reference to a Moscow Mule, a drink made of vodka and ginger beer popular in the 1950s, but is likely also referring to African-American slaves as the "mule"."

Herbie Hancock's album "Prisoner" is inspired by the civil rights movement at that time. It may not be pleasant but as far as I know, the tension/struggle of the African-American experience is an important part of jazz.

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Originally Posted by appleman

The first view, that the people who were forced onto boats in Africa pretty much lost their culture when arriving in America, is the older view. The newer view is that people kept their culture as best as they could, and a lot more than one would expect of a person being kidnapped from their village and being transplanted to America.


My understanding is that modern thinking suggests that the degree to which African slaves were systematically stripped of their culture varied from place to place. Simplifying a bit, it seems that the further north you got sent, the worse you got treated in that respect.

This whole subject makes me very uncomfortable. It's at least possible that we are so ashamed of our past in this respect that we're (subconsciouly or otherwise) revising history to make the cultural plight of African slaves less ghastly than it really was. I'm not suggesting that any historian is doing this deliberately -- it's just such a shameful past that it's difficult to face up to.



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Etcetra. To quote Charlie Parker: Shaw Nuff.

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Originally Posted by kevinb

This whole subject makes me very uncomfortable. It's at least possible that we are so ashamed of our past in this respect that we're (subconsciouly or otherwise) revising history to make the cultural plight of African slaves less ghastly than it really was. I'm not suggesting that any historian is doing this deliberately -- it's just such a shameful past that it's difficult to face up to.


+1

I am watching the Ken Burns DVD just now, which is why it came up. And I posted because I do feel uncomfortable about it. I wasn't personally responsible for slavery, I know, but I did grow up in a country whose wealth was bolstered by it.

Thinking more, it's really the segregation that seems most pivotal for the development of jazz, and also most painful, perhaps because it is more recent. But I do think the history is important for understanding the genre.

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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs

I am watching the Ken Burns DVD just now, which is why it came up. And I posted because I do feel uncomfortable about it. I wasn't personally responsible for slavery, I know, but I did grow up in a country whose wealth was bolstered by it.


I wasn't responsible for slavery either, but my comfortable position in a wealthy, developed country arose in part from the slave trade, as you say. Historically, it's hard to assess the impact of the (massive) influx of cash into the English economy created by slavery. I've heard it argued that the industrial revolution and Britain's rise to empire could never have happened without that economic support.

I don't know what exact contribution slavery made to jazz. But I'm not going to feel guilty about it when I've got my whole way of life to feel guilty about if I want to beat myself up smirk

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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
[quote=kevinb]

Thinking more, it's really the segregation that seems most pivotal for the development of jazz, and also most painful, perhaps because it is more recent. But I do think the history is important for understanding the genre.


I think you hit the point. Segregation and racial problem was a real issue back then,and a lot of jazz musicians still felt like they second class citizen. There was a story of Miles Davis getting beat up in Ken Burn's documentary. when something like that happens it makes you wonder if you have truly emancipated from being a slave or not..

From what I remember, one of the reason bebop emerged was because Jazz musicians wanted to get away from the minstrel image (black entertainers serving the affluent rich people), and wanted to be treated more seriously as artist.

I think some musicians were more vocal about it than others.. I know Charles Mingus was very vocal about it. He does uses imagery/metaphor that's related to slavery to express the feeling of anger he felt for the inequality that was happening at that time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fables_of_Faubus

I know its a very touchy issue, and it's hard not to feel some kind of guilt.. but in some ways I am glad that this discussion is happening, because I truly believe that many of the jazz musicians were in fact trying to express this through their music. I don't think it's about feeling guilty.. I think what the artists wanted was for us to reflect on this issue, so that we don't make the same mistake again as a society.

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Originally Posted by kevinb

I don't know what exact contribution slavery made to jazz. But I'm not going to feel guilty about it when I've got my whole way of life to feel guilty about if I want to beat myself up smirk


I don't want to obsess over it, I don't need to feel guilty. I do want to reflect and acknowledge.

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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
Originally Posted by kevinb

I don't know what exact contribution slavery made to jazz. But I'm not going to feel guilty about it when I've got my whole way of life to feel guilty about if I want to beat myself up smirk


I don't want to obsess over it, I don't need to feel guilty. I do want to reflect and acknowledge.


Sure. I wasn't disagreeing with anything you wrote.

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