Jazz: Black and White

Throughout history, jazz, as the music of the black people, is oftentimes “used”by their white counterparts in the music industry. For many critics, this phenomenon has been raising multiple concerns including whether the original, black jazz artists received anything positive from the Whites’ usage or not. Nowadays, the importance of the African-American culture and identity is still being neglected by a great amount, and one can constantly see that there exist some contemporary black jazz artists who are not deserving what they should have.

On the other hand, it is also crucial to point out that many black musicians are praised for their talents and hard work and received recognition. After the development and popularization of music recordings, jazz soon found a common place among the general public, in the 1920s; however, articles suggest a handful of black jazz musicians are fantasized by the idea that they were not treated equally in the work place and they should have gotten far more recognition in terms of money and fame because they believed they are the actual inventor of this genre. On the contrary, there are people who also believed jazz has become a music of white people because jazz under the influence of capitalism has become like a commodity and a great number of examples of renowned artist was white too. In the history of the United States, music is an essential part of the African-American experience. It is in music that most of the black people can temporarily escape the harsh reality and find themselves comfortable.

According to Dawson (2001), music endures the mission by which turned the wrath, melancholy, and grievance into confident and affirmative actions for the African-American community. Although jazz has some positive aspects toward the society, today, many African-Americans are still experiencing the recurring theme of artists in this industry: exploitation and appropriation. The early foundation of the elements of jazz music laid the groundwork for explaining how jazz has involved with the black community. Wheaton (1994) stated that jazz at the beginning of the ages is a product of minstrelsy, spirituals, and labor songs, asserting that jazz is a music inseparable from Africa and its culture. Some of the primary examples includes the almost excess usage of percussion instrument and the unique quality of “note-bending” in improvisations.

The spontaneity of African musicians producing a certain kind of beat of rhythm even without a proper instrument is similar to the one that can be seen on many African-American jazz musicians, whom relied heavily on this idea of improvisation. On the other hand, jazz has always been closely related to the African-American culture. The idea of considering jazz as a compilation of improvisatory styles and the classical “white” way of strict structure and emphasis is not rare, according to Wheaton (1994). It means that jazz is also not only about its African root, and the significance of its European counterparts in terms of harmony and composition factually exists. The location of birth of jazz, New Orleans, also gives it a sense of African heritage: in early 20th century, many jazz structures were carried over from Africa through a rough period of slavery and the road to freedom (Dorsey, 2001).

However, some people do not regard jazz as a “pure” African-American music because of the involvement of European classical techniques western influences and traditions that existed in bands in the United States. Jim Hall, the famous white jazz guitarist, claims that he alway felts that jazz was originally black but now it can be the music of “yours and mine, and anyone else’s.”, stating jazz is never “stolen” — “now everyone can share the steak”. This is an example where although a white musician supported the idea that jazz is invented by the black, Jim Hall do not believe that jazz is fully black since jazz had developed in numerous styles and many, cluding the white, has shared their thoughts and feelings in this music. An important factor to consider is the social fluidity of going upward within the African-American jazz artists community, or the African-American in general. On the bright side, when jazz was in popular demand, black musicians had the chances given by radios and recording companies, oftentimes being promoted to central spotlight (Gerard, 1998).

Yet, it is not difficult to observe that there was seemingly a restriction when African-Americans were dealing with political and economic issues. It seemed that their road to success was hindered by the white. The majority of African-American jazz artists belonged to lower class when compared to their counterparts in industry. Although when the white jazz bandleader Benny Goodman rose to become a powerful figure in the jazz industry, he helped Black jazz musicians, such as Teddy Wilson, and prompted them to significant roles either in band or on the society, he still received critics saying that he was merely using their talents were primarily from the lower class.

Meanwhile, there existed other jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong who received not only fame but also money. On the other hand, jazz also generated a cultural understanding between African-American and the white mutually. There are a great amount of examples of African-American musician like Buster Bailey who witnessed such integration. Although discrimination in the society was not uncommon, one can see that in the jazz music industry, African-Americans and the white are in good terms. In terms of the composition of jazz bands, white trombonist such as Roswell Rudd was able to play in a band consist of African-Americans. XXXXX wrote that black musicians no longer felt oppressed by the the dominance from white and their right as individuals was “without condescension”. Not only in the United States, the integration of these two races can be found internationally too. Underdeveloped regions such as the Middle East and Latin American had the chance to either provide jazz talents to the United States ot diffuse races within each county. Some of the renowned names adopted to this change quickly: for Duke, he recorded an album under the name of “Far East Suite” and for John Coltrane, he had an album called “Africa and India”.

Did you like this example?