“Here’s the thing: blues and jazz are the basis of all great new music of the last 100 years — paving the way for the post-modern Black electronic music (hip-hop, house and techno and electro) which is the core of pretty much all popular sounds of the 21st century. And the Black experience is the DNA of these musics — meaning, in the clearest terms, that we don’t get to have this music without the burden that preceded it. This is at the core of the accusation that ‘loving Black culture more than Black people.’ You do NOT get to do one without the other, and still call it ‘love.’” — Piotr Orlov
Music tells stories. Not just through its lyrics, but through the context in which it was created. Behind the texture and timbre and tempo, there’s context. Behind blues and jazz — the first musical art forms original to the US — there’s context. And within a society that didn’t want to hear what its Black creators had to say, blues and jazz became outlets for visceral expression.
Blues and jazz are so resonant that the world embraced them until they permeated nearly all of our music — they turned into hip-hop, house, techno, electro, disco, soul, funk, the list goes on. Time and time again artists borrow the spirit of that music because it makes everything feel more real. It’s capable of expressing the full spectrum of human emotion, equally effective at bringing us to dance floors as it is at bringing us to our knees. But, heeding the powerful words of Piotr Orlov, we don’t deserve the music without at least trying to understand its creators’ contexts. And no country deserves claim to blues and jazz as its own art forms unless it also claims the burden that preceded them.
Out of respect for that ongoing burden and the importance of addressing it, we’re following the lead of Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang and postponing all regularly scheduled programming. This week, let’s use our voices to stand together with communities of color against systemic racism, violence, police brutality, and white supremacy. Listen to music by Black artists, read American histories written by Black writers, get to know the culture by getting to know the people that built it — and the reasons why it was built in the first place.
As these same stories and same struggles play out yet again, please consider supporting the Minnesota Freedom Fund, your local community bail fund or Black Lives Matter chapter, black owned businesses, and other organizations doing important work to confront systemic injustice.
And here are some resources that have been particularly resonant to us. Educating ourselves is the foundation for intentional action. Hopefully these resonate, provide new insights, and help sustain the energy necessary to realize real change:
An Antiracist Reading List
21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge
1800+ Black Producers / Artists / Labels for Bandcamp Day
The American Nightmare
The Problem of White Efficacy
Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is….A Lot
And as always, support one another.