Pride & Music Prejudice

March 28, 2007

So I got the opportunity to attend Jazz on the Greens, an annual Jazz event held in Trinidad. It was my first time there and I gazed in awe at the plethora of Caribbean talent and the loyal Jazz-maniacs on their mats, chairs and blankets comfortably placed on the damp grass. The audience lit up in delight at every performance; like no other “Caribbean Jazz” event this festival was laced with pure Jazz music.

After all was absorbed, I got to thinking of how West Indians are musically influenced and socialized (I like to say programmed) I remember listening to the Barbados pop singer Rihanna on a television interview and hearing her say that she was minimally exposed to rock or heavy metal music on her island. I do not know much about Barbados or what Rihanna was exposed to but that fact is sad. Then too I have been the “victim” of snares and stares when my people realize that I listen to everything (yuh know mindin yuh business cruzin in yuh car poundin some ABBAJ ) Being young, black and living in the Caribbean I guess that it is expected that I should only listen to Soca, R&B, Reggae, Dancehall, Dub, Soul, Hip-Hop and Rap, which are all my favorite music genres by the way. But that’s what the popular local radio stations play. Isn’t it? However some of my favorite bands are Linkin Park, Sting, Goo Goo Dolls, The Beatles, ABBA and U2.

So this begs the questions – Who says what we should listen to? Why do some of us believe in the myth that urban black music is the only music, when urban black music was inspired by, (deep breath) Jimmy Hendrix, Little Richard, James Brown, Etta James, Billie Holiday, The Beatles, The Mighty Sparrow, Miles Davis, Winston “Spree” Simon, Celia Cruz, Lord Kitchener, Dizzy Gillespie, Len “Boogsie” Sharp, Tito Puente and yes Bob Marley? Why do we remember some and forget others? Where do you think Reggaeton evolved from?

Yes I know that sounded like a rant, maybe because it is, maybe it’s because it never cease to amaze me of how people so readily accept what is before finding out what was. We could once blame a lack of exposure and education but for the last twenty plus years we have been bombarded by American and Jamaican culture. So, somehow still, I believe we need to be a bit more curious, a bit more interested in history so that we can understand, appreciate and respect what is and not just accept what is.

So meanwhile we ignore Jazz, Calypso, Neo-Soul, Steel pan, Salsa and Heavy Metal these are a part of us. And while the only constant in life in change and the music must evolve, must we forget? Must we ignore the fact that these genres make up the heart that connects to the veins of urban music. We may not like everything-that’s ok- but I implore you to have an open mind. Make an attempt to understand and appreciate music history before you decide or society tells you what you should and should not listen to.