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Jettison hate and create

Bill Banfield

The Jazz Urbane Cultural Commentary

Cultural education, production and curation is critical at every level. And that extends to every level of cultural, social, spiritual, healthy, economic and political engagement of all communities at the serious strategy level.

As an ambassador for arts work, I believe we need to instill, model and teach a higher level of culture education.

Ralph Elision said, “The understanding of art depends finally upon one’s humanity and one’s knowledge of human life.”

It’s clear that the models for cultural exceptionalism are to be found in the entire history and culture of Black people through the reflections and bold artistry of music from Spirituals to hip hop.

Black accomplishments in particular, arts and culture, music, literature, dance, are a great model of pointed progressive artistic citizenry from these African diasporic deep culture roots, of ritual and reason which exemplify a broad range of social-cultural achievements that matter.

This is what people see when confronted with the importance of learning these traditions more deeply. In terms of musical traditions, there isn’t anywhere on the planet where the Spirituals, Blues, Jazz, Gospel, Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll, Soul, Funk, Reggae, Pop, Urban Contemporary, and Hip Hop have landed and haven’t made an impact. The music added together with our literary, dance, arts and painting artists, our intellectual, scholarly and cultural research endeavors have led the humanities fields linking people, ideas and understanding of people’s movements and transformative actions. We witnessed this in the Civil War, Harlem Renaissance, World War II, Vietnam War, the Civil Rights and Women’s movements and from Black Lives Matter to the Me Too movement. All these cultural, social, political movements were provided with the accompanying sounds, artistry, the soul and soundtracks of musical artistry. They were all writings that propelled and reflected people’s hearts, sentiments, critiques and loves of the times we lived in.

In an interview from “Black Notes: Essays of a Musician Writing In a Post Album Age,” Dr. Ysaye Barnwell said, “It is clear to me from looking from an African world view that music exists because it does something. It never is the art for art’s sake kind of phenomenon. If it doesn’t make it rain, if it doesn’t infuse herbs with a healing spirit, then what good is a song?” Quincy Jones asks, “What good is a song if it doesn’t inspire, if it has no message to bring? If a song doesn’t take you higher, higher, higher, what good is it to sing?” Because of how music is so integrated to every aspect of life activity for African people, I started asking how that applies for Black people. It applies totally. We can see how our music has evolved and at every point that our history our music has taken another turn. That to me is evidence of music’s functionality. Then when you start to look at what the music says and how it was created and how it is used, it is totally clear that we have never dropped that aspect of who we are as African people.

There is a need currently for some serious conversations about culture that our communities need to benefit from. The core focus must be based on the way in which Black people inhabit the current contemporary political /social /culture world. The reality of the condition, culture and continuation of Black survival is through history, globally citing Black exceptionalism at every turn and seeing African Griot rituals, values and beliefs.

Brittney Cooper, professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University said, “We are sorely in need of the clarity and inconvenient truths that art allows us to tell, the conversations it sparks, the space for emotion that it makes, the questions it poses, the pressure points in an aching national body politic that it exposes….it is art, our ability to sit with art and all the possibilities it helps us to imagine, that is so important to our ability to value…But under conditions of neoliberalism, which favor the unregulated, unchecked reach of huge multinational corporations into every area of our lives, art and music and the people who produce them all become merely marketable commodities.”

When I was in high school as a freshman in our music history class, I was taught by Dr. Glenn, a fabulous loving teacher, who happened to be white  and the band director. He was a musicologist. He played the number one hit on the radio at the time. It was Commodores, with Lionel Ritchie, “Three Times a Lady.” He made us listen to the lyrics, the sentiment, the feeling and groove and the meaning of the story. Song, story, band, vocals, strings, and it seemed really cool to study. That’s what made my “high school music mind” click onto greater meaning with our music, poetry and social soul core.

This important song helped me learn deep lessons and focused my thinking about the meaning, purpose and impact of a song and what these represented for me in a contemporary sense of the times.

For people today, it is that same cultivating, sharpening of creative minds and upholding great art and literature traditions in the neighborhoods, the cities, nation, world that really outlines and defines bold social citizenry. The future of macro cultural emersion has to do with meeting the challenges of this generation’s industry inheritances of deceptions and distractions from the core values of what great culture is critically about.

Today there simply must be continued diligence through a cultural paradigm shift, to insist on incorporating deeper studies of the legacies of culture as a standard of education excellence with intentionally, outwardly acknowledging great black expressive thinkers, musicians, social minders as models.

In a documentary interview, the musician Sun Ra said, “ The people have no music, that is in coordination with their spirits, because of this they are out of tune with the universe.”

Black expressive culture is powerful, poignant and purposeful. It has always primarily been about Black peoples’ lives and preserving culture, directed through extraordinary Black performance practices and tied to the African Griot traditions of carrying culture, creating community, critiquing culture and caring for it as well. And it was always adopted and appreciated by all people. That’s why it’s a universally important tradition that we all benefit from.

The deception and demeaning nature of the commercial political recording/ performing industry has been, of late, disastrous for Black music culture. As the industry promises baseless claims of fame and fortune, it corrodes the importance of art, song, dance and ritual as an important spiritual dimension so needed in the world today.

I think there is a similar thread of concern on paths to contemporary mainstream popular music through all the intersections within the cultural apparatus of TV, movies, radio, media and the mainstream marketplace.

We creatives are deeply involved in a tussle dance with major paradigm shifts in art value or not.

The public has been taken hostage by a series of cultural mishaps. The most egregious is, the industry practices of bad or non- music, TV, entertainment and the pervasiveness of everything being dispersed as normative culture commodities. While there is more music today, it’s not a higher quality music and it’s just more music that’s obtainable, more access to a thing you can have at a seemingly bundled low over all cost that is costing us the deep loss of our survival and our social spiritual sanity.

If we aren’t really careful to reject and combat the soul-mind takeover, slowly we won’t know any better, because in the mainframe mainstream music/art entertainment programming, well there isn’t much care there.

So one could say, “Well then, teach them, school them, expose them to a wider paths.”Yes, but do they care?