Where's the Blues in the Black Community?
|Photo by Jim Bricker|
|Gary Clark Jr. at Warehouse Live last November|
The way we in the black community use music to express defiance today is more self-harming than not. Now popular music caters to whims and wants, not the needs of survival. It celebrates extremes in hypersexuality, misogyny, male-dominated perspectives, drug abuse, unnecessary material possessions and so forth. In this way, the element of defiance is backfiring on young African-Americans who embrace these ideas in current black pop music.
Despite its disappearance from African-American communities, remnants of the blues have been appropriated into many other forms of music, from gospel and funk to soul and R&B to hip-hop and jazz. Blues was not let go as an art and dance because African-American culture always wants something fresh and new or because another culture has appropriated the genre.
Photo by Jody Perry Legendary Fifth Ward venue the Silver Slipper, one of the area's few places where blues is performed for largely black audiences
This past year Justin Timberlake was awarded a Grammy for Best R&B Song, and Macklemore was given multiple Grammys for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. But African-Americans are not going to stop singing R&B or rapping because other people outside their race and culture are the most embraced by society at large.
All is not lost, yet. There are a few notable young African-Americans carrying the heavy torch called blues, such as Houston's Annika Chambers and Austin's Gary Clark Jr. There are places to still hear live blues a few days a week in some local African-American communities, such as the Silver Slipper in Fifth Ward, but you will not find a young audience or youthful performers inside those walls.
For African-Americans, blues is mostly a dead art. Long live the blues.
This is Kerry Melonson's first article for Rocks Off. Special thanks to Jordan Donald, BIG SIN and Professor Ron Samples.
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