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Posted by hesteria on 2008/12/30 0:58:03 (45 reads)

Freddie Hubbard died Monday at Sherman Oaks Hospital, a month after suffering a heart attack in November. said his manager, fellow trumpeter David Weiss of the New Jazz Composers Octet. He was 70. Hubbard had been in the hospital since having a heart attack.

Hubbard performed with Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, and was a towering figure in jazz circles. He was a Grammy-winning jazz musician whose style influenced a generation of trumpet players. Hubbard won his sole Grammy in 1972 for best jazz performance by a group for the album "First Light." This was one of a series of crossover albums that brought him mainstream recognition. He later returned to his hard-bop foundation. Hubbard A, Hubbard played on over 300 recordings in a career dating to 1958. When he arrived in New York from his hometown Indianapolis, where he had studied at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music and with the Indianapolis Symphony.

Two years after moving to New York from his native Indianapolis in 1958, Hubbard recorded his first album, "Open Sesame," and enjoyed a meteoric rise in jazz circles. By August 1961, he recorded his fourth album, "Ready for Freddie," a collaboration with Wayne Shorter. Hubbard played on more than 300 recordings, including his own albums and those of scores of other artists.

Posted by hesteria on 2008/11/15 22:05:36 (66 reads)

Miriam Makeba 'Mama Afrika': 1932 - 2008
Source:The Editor - Concerned Migrants

Fittingly, the South African icon Miriam Makeba passed on after performing at a concert in Southern Italy against organized crime. The manner of her transition is a poignant testimony as to how her talents as a musician were always directed as part of the effort to uplift society.

Her demise represents a profound loss to the African continent. Her musical contribution was a factor in bringing down the obnoxious apartheid system. There is every reason to be grateful that she lived to see the unmourned dismantling of that system.

She could, of course, have taken the other route. Collaboration with the apartheid government would have made her life much more comfortable. She would definitely have saved herself the inconvenience of exile. The price was high. For example, in 1960 her attempt to return home to South Africa for her mother's funeral was rebuffed by the authorities. She suddenly discovered that her passport had been revoked. To lose the opportunity to bury her mother must have left emotional scars and yet she fought on with nobility for a cause she believed in.

By deploying her talents, she set an example for a host of other artistes and musicians. Activitism such as hers was a precursor for later initiatives by musicians such as the "Concert for Bangladesh", "Woodstock" and the various band aid initiatives. She had began a trend and set a worthy example.

The process that people like Makeba initiated can best be captured in a statement by the American President-elect, Barack Obama, who stated during his election campaign that "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek". Her noble role is in stark contrast to those (admittedly) lesser talented Nigerian musicians who repugnantly collaborated for pecuniary benefit in offering their services to Sani Abacha's so-called 'million man march'.

Makeba's activitism straddled the decisive phase of the anti-apartheid struggle. She entered international prominence when she appeared in the anti-apartheid documentary "Come Back, Africa" in 1959. In 1963, she made a moving speech when she appeared before the United Nations (UN) Special Committee on Apartheid calling for an international boycott of South Africa. Her non-stop activitism cannot overshadow her greatness as one of the truly outstanding artists for our time. The South African foreign Minister - Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma - was absolutely correct in stating that, "One of the greatest songsters of our time, Miriam Makeba has ceased to sing."

She was awesomely talented. Some of her hit songs such as "Pata Pata", "The Click song" and "Malaika" are not just evergreen, they have become seminal classics.

She started her career first of all with an amateur group. In the 1950s she became a full time singer appearing with a band called "The Manhattan Brothers", before forming her own group, "The Skylarks" whose repertoire infused a blending of jazz with the traditional melodies of indigenous South Africa. This fusion created an original brew widely imitated and copied and still a significant theme in music today. As one observer, Laurence Ani, has perceptibly pointed out: "The true test of art is in its ability to stay evergreen. Makeba's music has remained appealing decades after, surviving the onslaught of disco, hip-hop and the sub-cultures they have inspired in Africa." She had great sessions and toured with contemporary musical icons such as Paul Simon, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela, Pizzy Gillepsic amongst many others.

Not surprisingly, the singer as activist who was received by world leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Francois Mitterand, Haile Sellasie amongst others has been showered with accolade since her demise at home and abroad. In her own country of origin, the African National Congress (ANC), which spearheaded the struggle against the apartheid regime was fulsome in its tribute. "The ANC will forever treasure the contribution made by Miriam Makeba in the struggle for liberation and building of our democracy", the Party stated.

Younger artists for whom she was an endearing role model also mourned her passing. The South African diva, Yvonne Chaka Chaka ,stated that "she is a legend. We will surely miss her." Here in Nigeria, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, captured the mood of the moment when he expressed his disappointment that Africa's greatest songster would not be alive to sing at the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

This newspaper salutes the indomitable courage of Mama Afrika. Her life is a testimony to courage and the use of God-given talents for the benefit of humanity. She made us all feel so proud to be Africans.

Posted by hesteria on 2008/11/10 17:32:08 (78 reads)

Miriam Makeba (Vocalist)

(b: 4.Mar.1932, Johannesburg/South Africa; d: 9.Nov.2008, Castel

The singer Miriam Makeba died November 9th in a hospital in Castel Volturno, Italy, at the age of 76 after she had collapsed from a heart attack after abenefit concert. Makeba started as a jazz singer in 1950s South Africa and was one of the first South African musicians to tour Western countries in
the 1960s. She always was outspoken against Apartheid and was barred from
re-entry to her home country in 1960. She had a big hit with "Pata, Pata" in
1967, married the Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968,
subsequently having to leave the United States, settling in Guinea where she
received a diplomat's passport. She only returned to South Africa in 1990.
Makeba was often referred to as "Mama Africa"; she was one the continent's
most prominent and beloved musicians.

(Courtesy of Douglas Ewart)

Posted by hesteria on 2007/12/26 12:31:28 (253 reads)

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported that Oscar Peterson, one of jazz's most recorded musicians, both as leader and accompanist, passed away earlier this week of kidney failure. Peterson died at his home in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga on Sunday, said Oliver Jones, a family friend and fellow jazz musician. Peterson's wife and daughter were with him during his final moments.

Peterson, who was 82, was born in Toronto, Ontario, 1925 and remained a master of jazz piano for decades. As a well-trained, virtuoso performer of Tatumesque influence, he was recognized for a florid, lyrical, swinging melodic style, and his music was defined by driving two-handed swing, technical virtuosity, and rapid-fire technique. He came from working class beginnings in Montreal and was able to pursue music only if he promised his father to be "the best." He went on to become a major influence on generations of distinguished musicians. Duke Ellington called Peterson the "Maharajah of the keyboard," and Count Basie said that, "Oscar Peterson plays the best ivory box I've ever heard."

During Tatum’s illustrious career he played with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. He is also toured in a trio with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar in the 1950s. Peterson's distinguished honors include all of Canada's highest awards, including the Order of Canada, as well as a Lifetime Grammy (1997) and a spot in the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

Posted by hesteria on 2007/12/1 15:44:34 (599 reads)

Africanisms in African American Music

Music is a mirror that reflects our total experience through physical, emotional, intellectual, sonic, individual, and collective musical expression. It reflects elements of an era, culture, and society wherever it functions. Through music and language we can trace salient ideas, emotions and events chronicling the history of human development. It helps to expose the way a given people walk, talk, joke, think, strategize, love and approach survival. In general, African-American musical Africanisms include many tradition African belief systems, customs, linguistic and other cultural. Some are Afrocentric retentions of traditional African culture that are retained throughout the African Diaspora. Francis Bebey suggests that:

It is clear that African music goes far beyond the realm of art. And yet in these modern times, it manages to retain intact those of its former functions that have given African society throughout the ages its own particular character. This is a real capital, which is all the more precious because it is immutable. The formal elements of the music may change in order to keep abreast of the times and various new influences and although there may be some grounds for pessimism about the future of “authentic African music,” its basic functions and deep significance are reassuringly stable.

Africanisms in African-American music evolved as Black musicians struggled against both the racism inflicted by European-American society from its cultural fringe, and as they challenged prescriptive definitions of racial authenticity spread by African-American listeners who rejected or criticized various styles of innovative musical approaches. Thus, African-American music is a particularly rich mixture and archive of African tradition, movement of Africans from their native land, through the horrors of middle-passage, and their ultimate adaptation to a new land.

It is instructive to maintain an awareness of features of traditional African music and culture while examining Africanisms in African-American music to understand its root connections. Afrocentricity is a term coined by Molefi Asante to describe a modern and controversial philosophical branch that originated in the late 19th Century through the work of W.E.B. DuBois and his contemporaries. Asante’s perspective suggests that aesthetics often determine the patterns that bind culture in a society, and that they emerge as symbols, colors, rhythms, styles, and forms that function as artistic tools, instruments and cultural histories. In African and African-American societies music serves as a repository for much of that cultural information. Asante suggests that the African aesthetic is visible in all stylistic domains, from the popular cultural expressions to the classical ones. Therefore, cultural information manifests in all art forms, from fashion to body adornment. Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. believes that Afrocentricity is a reflection of a uniquely Black experience:

While African Americans certainly share a great many of the same attributes and sensibilities as other Americans, their collective “American experience” has also been a specific one, producing subjective cultural memories that have reciprocal and powerful relationships with cultural forms such as black music. As Floyd argues, “All black music making is driven by and permeated with the memory of things from the cultural past and that recognition of the viability of such memory should play a role in the perception and criticism of works and performances of black music.”

As is strikingly clear in the freer forms of jazz, musical content dictates form in African-American music. The free flow of ideas is either poured into traditional musical forms or lead to the creation of new structures that are generated by innovative musical content. On their native continent some African music was inclined towards reflection of the multi-dimensional tendencies in Nature through syncopation, cross-rhythmic patterning and polyrhythm. Musical instruments (particularly winds) were also designed to utilize inherent tendencies of the natural overtone series. Over blowing the fundamental tones, and then manipulating those primary notes, formed the foundation for much of the melodic and harmonic tendencies of African music that later, in turn, became the melodic and harmonic basis for early African-American sacred and secular music. As is clear in the freer forms of jazz, content dictates form is African-American music as well. The free flow of ideas lead to the creation of structures in which to contain them. Nelson Harrison says that, “In the African worldview mythology is more important than history. It follows that in a culture of myths - there's room for all the different perspectives. Science itself becomes a myth, i.e. one way to look at things.”

African languages are tonal and African-Americans transferred some of that tonal tendency to features of its own vernacular English and music. Consequently, it is the rhythmic and tonal pattern of speech that determined the rhythmic and melodic framework for early African-American vocal and instrumental music. Rich mixtures of vocal devices are used to infuse both vocal and instrumental African-American music with additional expressive and emotional dimension. African vocal and instrumental expression includes (1) the indefinite pitch used in African-American music to approximate speech - vocal effects that include screams, shouts, moans, and groans; (2) falsetto and falsetto break, where the male head voice is used, or where the alternating between head and chest voices occurs; (3) text is substantially extended through a variety of vocalization techniques, including lyric improvisation where free interpretation and expansion upon the prevailing words to a song takes place; (5) and free melodic and rhythmic embellishment of an original fixed melody. African-American brass players were the first to use a variety of mutes to emulate the conversational sounds.

Some modern and contemporary jazz forms (especially free jazz of the 1960s) use a wide range of musical approaches where all musical elements are abstracted to such a point that original melodies, rhythms, harmony and structure may be rendered unperceivable to the neophyte listener. In most cases, nonetheless, extemporization, development and transmutation become the musical procedures that shape Global African melody, rhythm, harmony and stylistic expression. Earl Stewart asserts that these rhythmic plexuses group themselves into two fundamental opposing forces: “(1) those that are designed to merge (form the concresent aspect of the plexus), and (2) those designed to contend (form the conflicting aspect of the plexus).”

African American musical emotional expression, a wide range of stylistic embellishments, and the tendency towards continual variation are extemporaneously applied to all musical elements throughout performances. Clarity is maintained in a variety of ways, despite challenging degrees of technical difficulty attached to many stylistic forms, because modifications are most often applied without rendering the basic unifying structure of the music unrecognizable. Sometimes a process of transformation occurs where a single easily recognizable musical idea continually transforms into another. Some modern and contemporary jazz forms (especially “free jazz” of the 1960s) used a wider assortment of stylistic features, sometimes abstracting musical elements to such a point that original melodies, rhythms, harmony and structure may be rendered unperceivable to a neophyte listener. Nonetheless, extemporization, personal style and transmutation of musical resources become the forces that shape African-African melody, rhythm, harmony and stylistic expression.

Africanisms abound in the Gospel music, born from spirituals sung by Africans in America during the slave era. Thomas Dorsey of Georgia coined the term “gospel” at the time of the National Baptist Con-ven-tion in 1921. Dorsey wrote “Precious Lord” and other popular church songs and became known as “the father of gospel music.” Spirituals served as songs of hope prior to the Emancipation Proc-lamation, but blues devel-oped afterwards when it became clear that the Civil War did not bring the expected degrees of freedom, equality and prosperity to Afr-icans in America.

Jazz was a direct result of the growing numbers of African-Americans musicians pursuing careers in the arts following the American Civil War. African-Americans had learned relatively few European cultural traditions during the slave era, but with gaining freedom African-Americans quickly changed music and dance throughout the U.S., and worldwide. European music throughout the nineteenth century was melodically based and, most often, with a square (duple) or waltz (triple) rhythmic structure. At the end of the 1900s, blues and ragtime initiate a musical and cultural revolution that launched the twentieth-century jazz evolution.

African-American music creates intriguing paradoxes where simple musical resources, elements, and formulae, operating upon melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, and stylistic features are systematically applied, often rendering simple pitch sets totally chromatic and pan-tonal. The blues stands as an all-pervasive African-American musical system, and its lyrical, harmonic and melodic conventions have become one of the most influential music powers in many styles of modern and contemporary music throughout the globe. Blue notes are easily discernable embellishments, common to both instrumental and vocal music, that provide examples of how simple musical elements (such as scales, chords, and rhythms) can multiply their musical meaning and potential in highly flexible ways. The application of blue notes to a simple pentatonic pitch set, for instance, results in a wide range of pitch set combinations, and their harmonic implications. Even a basic four-note dominant chord immediately becomes an expansive and innovative pitch set when basic blue notes are systematically applied, forming one of a number of possible “blues scales”.

Blues Africanisms, although based upon traditional African sonorities, introduced a melodic and harmonic orientation based on a new Afrocentric at-titude regarding tonal resolution. Later, bebop masters explored extended harmonic implications inherent in older blues forms.

African-American musicians began to analyze the historical significance of their continually evolving music when Black music began to become a commodity institutionalized and consumed by African Americans and worldwide audiences. While some African-American musicians understandably focus upon analyzing the musical and theoretical elements of their innovations, others placed the music into social, cultural, political and economic contexts and expressed their views publicly. Eric Porter notes that, as musicologist Samuel Floyd, Jr. posits that, the “spirit” of the “Negro Renaissance” in Harlem was anticipated by the efforts of early twentieth-century Black composers such as Scott Joplin, Will Marion Cook, and Harry T. Burleigh to develop vernacular Black art into extended musical forms. Witnessing vibrant live performances of African-American music was the catalyst that enabled intellectuals such as Zora Neale Hurston to formulate, analyze and articulate their reactions to Africanisms. In 1938 Hurston said that the moment that she felt most “colored” was when she attended a particular jazz performance:

“This orchestra grows rambunctious, rears on its hind legs and attacks the tonal veil with primitive fury, rending it, clawing it until it breaks through the jungle beyond. I follow those heathen – follow them exultingly. I dance wildly inside myself.”

Humor often pervades Black music, art, language and culture. The use of double-entendre lyrics in early field hollers, spirituals, the blues, and other African-American musical forms all reveal this tendency towards dual meaning and symbolism. In the Negro Spiritual “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” for example, there are both the conspicuous biblical references and a more cryptic symbolism embedded within. The latter information was often intended to inform African-Americans in captivity that some representative from the Underground Railroad was nearby and ready to help someone escape that night. Such subtle use of symbolism required both an intimate knowledge base within the African-American community, and fluency over a variety of verbal and non-verbal elements of musical communication, including the musical context, rhythmic cadences, timing, inflection, mode of delivery (storytelling), application of emotional drama, histrionics, gesturing, facial expressions, and body language.

Traditional African music presentations are interdisciplinary (with aural, visual and kinetic dimensions), and include interaction between performers and audience members. African-American music retained much of this predisposition. Such Africanisms have also influenced popular forms of other world music, diminishing their former degrees of separation between audiences and presenters at performances. Musical textures such as homophony (with clearly define boundaries between melody and accompaniment), polyphony (where simultaneous melodies are of equal importance), heterophony (involving variations of a single melody or theme performed freely at once), and antiphony (call and response) are ways of music making commonly characteristic of African-American music.

In South Africa, people often refer to Ubuntu. Loosely translated, this refers to an African traditional idea, concept and philosophy that emphasizes how all people are a part of each other and unified as one human family and community. Ubunt is central to African culture and life. There is also a high premium placed on sharing, showing respect for elders, and for the care for children. The traditional sense of unity and group consciousness in traditional African culture was systematically severed in the “New World,” where Africans found severely harsh social barriers that prevented them from remaining interconnected. While such things as communal drumming were forbidden in the United States, individual drummers tried to emulate the quality of that polyrhythmic interaction at the trap set. The demonstration of respect for elders, so central in African culture, was transferred to an unofficial mentoring system during earlier periods of jazz, through which techniques and knowledge were passed on from one generation to the next.

Despite the overwhelming influence of the blues on African-American music, it certainly is not the sole signifier of Black musical authenticity. African-American musicians have always drawn inspiration from everything within their complex and multi-dimensional physical, emotional and spiritual grasp. African-American culture includes a wide range of people from an array of backgrounds and social settings. This is reflected in the wide range of ways in which Africanisms evolve and transmigrate. For example, artists growing up in the southern regions of the United States will emphasize different ingredients in their musical expression than those reared in the East or West Coast of America. Africanisms in African-American music clearly abound throughout the core of its stylistic approaches and involve African-American musical tendencies towards (1) absorption and processing of everything within its reach, (2) retaining elements of traditional African music while radically redefining those same traditions and those newly encountered, and (3) the application of innovation and very personalized forms of musical expression.

Africanisms infuse rap music, one of the cultural elements within the larger social hip-hop movement. Tricia Rose argues that what some consider “non-progressive” elements of rap and hip-hop have always been characteristics of jazz, the blues, a R&B, as well other non-black cultural forms. Moreover, Rose feels that some of the more controversial elements are central to hip-hop and other popular cultural articulations in a general sense. Many historians consider rap an extension of African-American oral, poetic, folklore, and protest traditions, to which it is certainly indebted, and point to the bridge between those traditions and rap’s boasting, signifying, preaching. Tricia Rose calls for "broadening the scope of investigations in our search for black women's voices" to include rap. Rose also asserts that "women rappers are vocal and respected members of the Hip Hop community, and they have quite a handle on what they are doing."

Further Readings

Bebey, Francis. African Music: A People’s Art. Brooklyn, NY: Lawrence Hill, 1975.
Floyd, Samuel Jr. The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Ramsey, Guthrie P. Jr. Race Music: Black Cultures from Hip-Hop to Bebop. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.
Stewart, Earl L. African American Music: An Introduction. New York: Schirmer Books, 1998.

Karlton E. Hester is a composer, performer (flute and saxophone), and Director of "Jazz" Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, He directs Hesterian Musicism, the Fillmore Jazz Preservation Big Band, and is Editor-in-Chief of the online Living Encyclopedia of Global African Music.

Karlton E. Hester, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Music
MUSIC DEPARTMENT: 284 Music Center
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Office: (831) 459-2575 FAX: (831) 459-5584

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