Race & Music: What does it all mean?
Instead of celebrating Independence Day weekend with American flags and the type of unconditional patriotism that I never really understood, I’m going take an opportunity to reflect on our country’s relationship with music and its cultural and racial geneology.
Sunday afternoon I found myself at yet a second free concert at the Taste of Chicago: Passion Pit. While the band’s indie synth-pop beats had pseudo indie fans jumping up and down, I couldn’t help raising my eyebrows at the whiteness of the crowd. Three days before, at the same type of free-entry Taste concert, an overwhelmingly black crowd about the same size was swinging their hips to Trey Songz R&B tunes. The crowds were similar in age and the concerts were in almost the exact same space. So in a country where we’ve just elected a black president, where there’s talk of a post-racial society, how can we explain this racial divide in music?
Music has always been a central part of black culture. Black musical traditions have evolved and grown through experiences of oppressions and out of movements of resistance. From the beats of African djembe drums brought over with slave trade, to the hum of a blues harmonica that connected black sharecroppers, porters, and maids in the South and into Jazz and Hip Hop, black music has always been important.
So in the past there has been imposed segregation in with music when auditoriums wouldn’t allow blacks or when white kids listening to black music was ‘rebellious,’ but now racial divides in music have persisted and I don’t quite have an answer but I am asking why?