September 11, 2020
Greetings! Just taking a second to share a brief clip (below) of a recent rendition of the standard “Summertime.” Apart from offering this bit of music for your listening pleasure and as a way to share some current developments with regard to my skills and knowledge, I thought I might tie in a little cultural context from the era of this tune’s publication with current events.
I have alluded to this idea in the past (“My Man’s Gone Now”), though now it finds special relevance given a strengthened movement for real racial justice in BLM—strengthened by force and under outrageous duress, a critical and urgent civil-rights issue: George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” (lyrics by DuBose Heyward) is an important reminder of how history has time and again witnessed Black African music brought into a more mainstream and White space (related article from Smithsonian Magazine).
The at-times obscured Black African centrality to American Folk Music as a general topic must be brought to the fore. Southern fiddle-tune stylings so often associated with the more politically dominant White cultures owe much to Black African musicians. It has been proposed that so quintessentially American an instrument as the steel-string guitar is, at its roots, a cross between the Spanish guitar and the African banjo. Prevalent are the indelible and indispensable contributions of Black African rhythmic sensibility to the regional musics of North and South America, particularly in the US and in Brazil. Should this and other non-Anglo traditions really be treated as such Others? How independent of non-Anglo traditions can American popular music really be, and which are the commonalities with regard to other phases in Western music?
One hopes the popularization (commodification?) of Black African music has not in all cases been malevolent or otherwise an instance of plagiaristic opportunism. The potential inquiries into this topic are many and varied, though one thing is certain: today’s global moral climate invites a more prevalent awareness of the sociology behind Black African music in so far as the latter has shaped the musical tastes of White-European America(s).