Dashiki Dialogues: Jazz is the real deal, period

2011-07-08 08:55

 It’s hard for me to “respect” people who hate jazz music.

I really think there’s something fundamentally suspect about folks who exclusively insist on s’gubu, kwaito or any of that loud, thumping stuff.

It’s like politicians who like to throw big ideas around, but actually hate books. How can you take them seriously?

I’ve also observed that pop music tends to generally require less reflection from its listeners, and I find that quite degenerative in a humanist sense.

Nothing is more anti-human than that which discourages thought – or that which rejects what the Buddhists call “being present”.

You see, “jazz is existence music”, as Wynton Marsalis says. “It puts you in the world. It’s no religiosity.

Jazz doesn’t say ‘thou must’. It says: This is!”

The music confronts you with the truths of your life. That can’t be said about most genres sold purely on their escapist qualities.

Think about it. What is the popular complaint against playing jazz when people gather for
booze and banter?

“Eish! This music of yours makes us think, man. Can’t you play something nice? We want to jive.” Anyone who says that is actually asking to be lied to, and to oblige is to be worse than them.

But more importantly, jazz is the democratic process incarnate.

It carries – with startling vitality and elegance – the noble human ideal of liberty and puts it into music form.

Put bluntly, I’m convinced that the answers to our national democratic question lie in our wealth that is jazz music.

Just like social democracy, the music demands collaboration to work and handsomely rewards individuality.

For instance, think of the band as a country or society, and individual instrumentalists (and listeners) as citizens.

All soloists make a demand for their perspective to be heard because it’s their indisputable right.

However, for their creative daring or improvisational sophistication to be appreciated, they must play within the sound constitution of the ensemble.

The soloist can be from anywhere in the universe. All that is needed is a story to tell and the capacity to tell it well.

Furthermore, just as musicians must keep their technical prowess at optimal levels, jazz listeners must pay serious attention if they wish to keep up with innovation.

So, you have to wonder whether people are capable of enough reflection or introspective dashiki dialogues to confront the problems of their lives if all their music is about escapism.

What sounds ring in their heads when they are silent if they only listen to mind-numbing bump and thump?

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