Jazz Roots+Relevance Questions

A number of questions were used as thinking starters for the panel in advance of this discussion, in such a brief time they could not all be explored in any depth if at all.  We would welcome any responses or thoughts to these using the ‘comment / reply’ link or box at the end of this text.  You might also like to read the texts that were used or referred to in the discussion, by Dr Martin Luther King (at the 1964 Berlin  Jazz Festival), Janine Irons (MD of Dune Records), and Dr Jason Toynbee who is leading the Black British Jazz Research Project – at www.liftingthelid.org/2011/07/jazz-roots-relevance-links-and-texts .  Once the video is edited it may encourage further debate, but for now these questions (or your own?) may help stimulate further thoughts:

How do we define jazz – according to technical / musical terms (eg as an improvised method with a certain structure etc), or cultural context-resonance (eg as an art form expressing certain cultural identities, responses, collectivities, aspirations etc)?
Is the way jazz is written about, replayed and retold done with bias, and does it hide certain racial backdrops?
Are certain kinds of jazz more encouraged than others? Is there an economic/industrial basis to this?
Do many people today effectively misinterpret the cultural meaning and understanding of jazz?
Where are we now in terms of racial politics in the uk?
What barriers are there for black musicians in the field of uk jazz?
What barriers are there for positive enterprises such as Dune records?
Why is there a need for a label such a Dune? (Or a group such as the warriors?)
Music is also about sharing and crossing over between cultures, are there particular pitfalls for white or other non-black musicians (and audiences?), or particular potentials, that could be usefully addressed?
In what ways can positive and progressive musical practice be encouraged without stifling creative freedom or becoming musically didactic? 

4 Responses to Jazz Roots+Relevance Questions

  1. erinma says:

    Thanks for an enjoyable event. It led me to muse about how jazz influenced me. http://everyoneandeverything.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/between-a-tear-and-a-smile/

    • koojchuhan says:

      Your text “Between a tear and a smile” is a great example of how strongly jazz has influenced self-identity and racial politics for many audiences. Some people have referred to the colonisation of jazz over the years, I wonder where is now the potential of Jazz to be able to still have this kind of affect? Or is it found elsewhere, perhaps somewhere that jazz practitioners have to reach out to?

  2. Frances Hunt says:

    Did the discussion comment on the south Asian experience of jazz? (I had to leave early, so didn’t catch it all, unfortunately). I’ve lived and worked in India and Bangladesh, and what I’ve seen in that the freedom struggles (for example, of the poor, or in Bangladesh at the time of the 1971 Liberation War) are expressed more through the reworking of folk songs. Why do certain art forms resonate more directly with certain cultures? Is it just to do with circumstance/exposure?

    • koojchuhan says:

      Knowing a bit about S Asian cultures, on the one hand various jazz sounds like many western forms have become incorporated into the film music sectors which in turn are played by all kinds of musicians at all levels. On the other hand, the improvisational approach of jazz mirrors improvisational approaches in S Asian music and artistically this has become a source of cultural collaboration. In S Asia, the top folk musicians understand and are skilled in semi-classical techniques and knowledge, this being a fluid approach there unlike in the west. However, as far as I can tell the resonance of jazz as a folk music form in the USA and also its radical meanings are hidden in this journey of jazz to S Asia, so unfortunately I think there is little inspiration that is drawn by radicals in S Asia from the cultural roots of jazz. Not that this would alter the immediacy of folk music for liberation movements in S Asia – this has its own dynamic and questions therein…

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