Martin Luther King Jr. Triumphant Music by Rouge Une

Opening Address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival.
 
God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.
 
Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.
 
This is triumphant music.
 
 
 
Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.
 
 
 
It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.
 
 
 
Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.
 
And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.
 
 
 
In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.
-Dr.Martin Luther King
 
 
In these difficult times for hip hop when creativity is at a premium and many artists would rather use their “abilities” to wallow in the “dirt” of the human condition.  It is useful to look again at these words from Dr King, to examine them to see if they apply to the music we all love.
 
Hip hop has its closest ties with  the Jazz tradition, improvisation, individual performance and a revolutionary spirit are all throwbacks to its roots in Jazz so how then has hip hop handled this legacy?
 
Does it “take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.”?
 
Are hip hops best and brightest “returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.”
 
Has modern hip hop, “strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.”
 
If the answers that you come up with are,  no, no and no, then we have a problem don’t we?
 
Shouldn’t we be asking our artists to live up to these ideals, that Dr King set forth?  Shouldn’t we be demanding that they be better, do better? Shouldn’t we who are HIP HOP embrace Dr Kings vision of the place of musicians in our culture and charge them with more than just entertaining us, or giving us a new ring tone, or encouraging us to be good consumers?
 
So do me a favour will you? read Dr Kings words again and then take a long hard look at that picture of Gucci Manes’ tattoo and ask yourself whose’ vision of a musicians role you prefer.

Ya Man,

Rouge Une

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~ by Professor Mike on January 17, 2011.

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