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On Cultural Appropriation

On Cultural Appropriation

I have done some looking about on google books. The earliest book defining the term “cultural appropriation” which I found is Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation by Bruce H. Ziff, Pratima V. Rao, Rutgers University Press, 1997.

They define cultural appropriation as “the taking–from a culture that is not one’s own–of intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history and ways of knowledge.”

They give eight specific examples, one of which is, “Jazz, blues, soul, rap, and other musical forms emanating out of the Black musical experience in America are adopted by white musicians and audiences as part of a mainstream musical tradition.”

In order to understand why cultural appropriation is in some ways a good thing, let’s talk about jazz.

Let’s assume along with the authors that jazz developed through “cultural appropriation.”

Let’s talk about jazz instruments, say for a group with drums, bass, guitar, saxophone and piano.

Where did these instruments come from and how?

The drum kit derives from military drums used by marching bands on occasions where they were seated and not marching. The double bass derives from the 16th century violone, an Italian instrument. The guitar derives from the oud, brought from North Africa to Spain, where frets were added and it became the lute (from Arabic “Al’ud”). The saxophone was invented by Belgian musical instrument designer Adophe Sax in 1846. It too, came via military marching bands. The pianoforte, today generally called a “piano,” was invented by Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco around 1700.

So what about jazz? What were the precursors of jazz, and how did these instruments come together to make a typical ensemble instrumentation?

Public festivals were held in New Orleans at Place Congo featuring African-style drumming and dance until 1843. The origin of folk blues isn’t well understood, but certainly it contains both African elements, such as polyphony, syncopation, and call-and-response, and the “blues scale” as well as European elements, such as church hymns, 4/4 time, and the 12 tone scale and triadic harmonies. The cakewalk derived from African-American versions of popular tunes combined with a dance derived from the Seminole Nation in the 1880’s. Ragtime derived from dancehall music provided by pianists both black such as William Hogan and white, such as William Krell.

How did these musical strains come together with those instruments to create jazz? What is now sometimes called Dixieland, or traditional jazz, started in New Orleans in the early 1900’s. One important event cited was the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, when many military units were demobilized in New Orleans and military band members hocked their instruments. That’s one way military band instruments such as the tuba (replacing double bass) and saxophone (replacing clarinet) came into prominence in Dixieland.

I could go on but I hope you get the point. Jazz would not exist without “cultural appropriation” as defined by Ziff and Rao, and that it is in some ways a good thing when cultures interact and borrow from each other, even when the power dynamics are severely skewed, it helps to normalize the situation by bringing the two cultures together and creating shared cultural norms and values.

Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy

30 October, 2015 Posted by | anthropology, cultural appropriation, history, jazz, music, scanlyze | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barak Obama: This is the Day

I’ve been watching the coverage of Barak Obama’s Innauguration. I took notes as the pundits tonight on CBS said,

5:52 PM listening to the pundits on TV “a golden day for Barak Obama”
“Millions came to Washington… I’m glad I got to see it”
5:53 PM “The people were speaking to us and it would be prudent to listen to them”
5:54 PM “Washington can be a very corrupting place, I hope this signals a new era of honesty and authenticity”

Bob Schieffer said he had seen 12 Inaugurations and never seen one like this, “this was something special”.

Even the stolid Francis X. Clines of the New York Times was taken by the levity of the crowd:

‘Is there a problem in the nation? Hear ordinary Americans chant: “O-ba-ma!” One tedious, serpentine line outside the Mall, its restlessness surfacing, suddenly was prodded into happiness when teenagers broke into song: “We’re off to see Obama — the wonderful president of ours!”

Later in the article the ever-serious Cline’s joy starts to show through:

‘The Obama speech patterns became a separate source of celebration, the way John F. Kennedy imitators used to do “vi-gah” salutes. After the speech, a man happily walking a bridge back to Virginia as the best way home suddenly tried an Obama riff on his friends. “We must walk the bridge built by our ancestors! We will find it long and hard! And we will confront Exit 10 C — wherever it leads!” His friends laughed and shared the pleasure of having heard firsthand President Obama in his opening hour.’

But what brought tears to my eyes:

Actress Cicely Tyson, asked her reaction, bursting out with the words of the 118th Psalm: “This is the day which the LORD hath made: and we *will* rejoice and be glad in it.”

Communist folk singer Pete Seeger, 89 years old, belting out the words of “This Land is Your Land” on the steps of the Lincoln memorial with five hundred thousand people on the Mall singing along in such spontaneous, profound joy.

Pete Seeger Bruce Springsteen Obama Inauguration [Google Video]

Guardian Editorial, 20 January 2009: This week, the 89-year-old Seeger stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial singing Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land with Springsteen at the pre-inauguration concert. Seeger’s judgment on politics and music has not always been right, but he is a man of his times and he has been the troubadour of the American left for more than half a century. His return to the spotlight is another sign that things are changing for the better in America this week. In praise of … Pete Seeger

Rick Warren: “We know that today, Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting up in heaven.”

cf. Hebrews 12:1 (KJV): “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”

Aretha Franklin, whose fabulous hat looked like she was wearing a grey, diamond-studded clipper ship, testifying to all our hopes and dreams with her breathless rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”.

“From every mountainside
Let Freedom Ring!”

In Washington on Inauguration Day
Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead
Delicious Subversion
Reborn in the USA: America is great again
President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address by David Bergman

Copyright © 2009 Henry Edward Hardy

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21 January, 2009 Posted by | 2009, Aretha Franklin, Bob Schieffer, CBS, Innauguration, January 20, media, music, news, Obama, Pete Seeger, politics, Psalm 118, scanlyze, TV, USA | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Dreamed I saw Joe Hill Last Night

Joe Hill’s Last Will

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide,
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan-
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”
My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will,
Good luck to all of you, Joe Hill

Joe Hill was an IWW man. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was, and is a radical union dedicated to abolishing the wage system and replacing it with a democratic system of workplace organization.

Joe Hill was a migrant laborer to the US from Sweden, a poet, musician and union radical. The term “pie in the sky” is believed to come from his satirical song, “The Preacher and the Slave”.

Hill was framed for murder and executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 19, 1915. His last words were, “Fire!”

Just before his death he wrote to fellow IWW organizer Big Bill Haywood a letter which included the famous words, “Don’t mourn, Organize”.

The poem above was his will. It was set to music and became the basis of a song by Ethel Raim called “Joe Hill’s Last Will”.

A praise poem by Alfred Hayes became the lyrics of the best-known song about Joe Hill, written in 1936 by Earl Robinson. This was sung so beautifully by Joan Baez at Woodstock in 1969:

Joe Hill

words by Alfred Hayes
music by Earl Robinson

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”

“The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
they shot you Joe” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”

And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe “What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize”

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
where working-men defend their rights,
it’s there you find Joe Hill,
it’s there you find Joe Hill!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

Written in reply to America, Tiger Lilies & and Politics: A Response to “America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad”

see also: America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad

Joe Hill (wikipedia)
Joe Hill mp3’s at emusic.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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4 February, 2007 Posted by | anarchism, audio, Big Bill Haywood, courage, history, IWW, Joan Baez, Joe Hill, labor, media, mp3, music, nonviolence, peace, poetry, politics, protest, radical, repression, revolution, scanlyze, socialism, strikes, Sverige, Sweden, unions | 4 Comments