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Music as a Medium of Discontent:
a comparative approach to blues, jazz, reggae, and hip-hop

Bari Lehrman
April 18, 1998


In cultures all over the world, music can be seen encompassing many aspects of life for many individuals. It is a form of mass communication that"speaks directly to society as a cultural form", and often reflects a collection and pattern of personal experiences (King 19). Music is so influential because it communicates on three different levels: the physical, emotional, and cognitive. Not only does it operate in a nondiscursive way, by affecting the physiological mode of the body, causing one to move and dance, but it also encourages one to think. This paper will explore music as a form of protest; showing how a political message, in general form, is presented through music. Protest music addresses the social, political, and economic conditions of the times and often speaks directly to the listener's experience (King 20). In the following pages, a general comparison will be made between the evolution and effects of the blues, jazz, reggae music, and hip-hop, with a focus on reggae and hip-hop.
According to musicologist Rod Gruver, life for the lower-class Negro in America in the early 1900's was completely characterized by a sense of alienation:
He had no place to go, no one to turn to. He had no country, no home, no ideology, no art to call his own. History had forced upon him the awful realization that if a black man wanted to have a home of his own in America, he would have to create it himself out of elements of his own culture. (Spencer 61)
There was an obvious split between the lower-classes and the middle classes; between the religious people and the secular. During slavery, secular music was considered blasphemy and forced underground. What emerged from this was the blues, as a"form of art, modern mythology, and a secular religion"(Spencer 55).
According to author Larry Neal, the blues represents"the essential vector of Afro- American sensibility and identity", and represents the"ex slaves' confrontation with a more secular evaluation of the world"( Spencer 36). It was shaped by social and political oppression and it reflects a defiant attitude toward life. The blues represents survival during hard times and it tells the basic facts of life. As can be seen in the music, there is an emphasis on the"immediacy of life, the nature of man, and human survival..."formed from a history of mental and physical hardships (Spencer 39). It is a direct expression of the post-slavery world view, linked to freeing the individual spirit.
The 'old blues' redefined America's traditional values, and led to the"vision of a new establishment"(Spencer 56). It directly spoke out against white America and the Puritan ethos that was forced upon the slaves for centuries. The lyrics helped release America from the"moral prison"of this Puritanism, and questioned the morality of Christianity and white society. In the music, there is an emphasis on unity, with the joining of man and woman together, and their ultimate triumph over the machine (Spencer 57).
Despite the obvious separation between the blues and the church, the blues is often seen as a"secular religion", as well as a form of art and modern mythology (Spencer 55). In comparing the blues singer to a preacher, Charles Keil states,"Blues singers and preachers both provide models and orientations, both give public expression to deeply felt private emotions, both promote catharsis- the blues singer through dance, the preacher through trance; both increase feelings of solidarity, boost morale, and strengthen the consensus"(Spencer 64).
Created from the same conditions as the blues, jazz is also viewed as the music of African-Americans. Many of the musical principles of jazz can be traced all the way back to Africa. The call-response patterns, variable intonation, pervasive rhythmic contrast, the use of repetition, the integration of music and dance, and the"percussive attack"reflect the incorporation of European elements into the 'African mold' (DeVeaux 408). The effects of the African Diaspora, and the continuance of racism ever since, have helped jazz form in the black community and in turn shape the urban black communities of the twentieth century (DeVeaux 412).
According to musicologist Mtusmishi St. Julien, the term"jazz"was a name originally given by prejudiced whites to the black man's contemporary musical expression. For many black jazz artists, it contains derogatory connotations (Spencer 162). However, for both jazz artists and other African-Americans, the music is viewed as a means of empowerment. There is no limitation to jazz; it is an expression of freedom and sensitivity, and a way to"follow your soul"(Spencer 163). It is a source of pride for black people, and it expresses the freedoms that were sought for for many years. It reflects the sharing of a people, an"urgency to live fully", and a love for God, all people, and the universe (Spencer 168).
Characterized mainly by it's spontaneity and improvisation,"the main point of jazz is freedom"(DeVeaux 397). For jazz musicians, there is something of a shared curiosity about differences and a resistance to being pinned down by social or racial stereotypes. To this day, it has never been fully accepted by the musical establishment, and despite the many contributions of white artists, it is still viewed as"black music"(DeVeaux 394). In the 1920's, when jazz came about, many claimed it as a intoxicating power of an inferior race set out to debase the human psyche (i.e.. inter-racial marriage, sexual promiscuity). The music was seen as too seductive, and it's influence was considered evil. According to author Dwight D. Andrews, one columnist called jazz"the new and terrible standard of blues and morals 'that is capable of stunting spiritual growth'"(Spencer 143-4). It was always viewed in opposition to Christianity.
Ironically, much of jazz is rooted in the spirituals of the church, and for many African-Americans, jazz was considered an act of worship. According to Rev. Alvin L. Kershaw, it speaks realistically of pain and suffering, helps one interpret life's circumstances, and"offers an urgency to live fully"(Spencer 162). While many jazz musicians were scorned by the church, their music became a medium for communicating with God. According to Dwight D. Andrews,"to participate in the creation of music is to have both divine access and power"(Spencer 51). Many great jazz musicians, including Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, and Luois Armstrong, claim that the intent of their music is to praise God, but they were misunderstood by the church (Spencer 164).
In addition to the religious aspect of jazz, there are obvious political connotations in the music, and a reflection of the social conditions of the era. In a time when it was hard for a black person to achieve the American standards of success, becoming a jazz musician was the only profession that was not linked to socioeconomic status, educational attainment, and racial barriers (DeVeaux 404). Sorrow and pain are the dominant moods found in jazz, and it is strongly identified with the African American culture and shared experiences of the times. The political statement is embedded in the form of music (ex."audience participation, extramusical performance practices, and musical gestures") (Spencer 51). According to author and musicologist David Meltzer, jazz is filled with 'violent disruptions, reversed certainties, [and] shattered truths flying apart within key configurations of power...' (DeVeaux 401) However, more than it just being a form of protest music, jazz is a creative art. It is about preserving heritage through love, and it's main protest is against dehumanization.
Despite it being considered the music of African Americans, jazz has found a large audience among whites. About 80% of those listening to jazz and attending concerts are white, (DeVeaux 413) while most of the people creating the music are black. Also, despite jazz's roots in poor, black ,urban society, it has been used by the U.S. government to win over foreign governments and people. According to The New York Times (11/6/55), the 'United States has a Secret Sonic Weapon- Jazz' and the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Mr. Donald Heath, says it"makes [his] job much easier"(Spencer 167). However, while exploiting the music for it's own benefit, the government fails to praise the music itself.
While these two forms of music represent the conditions and attitudes found among black people in this country at the turn of the century, now our attention must shift to the conditions and attitudes found among the black people of Jamaica in more recent times. They are well-reflected in the reggae music that the island is so well- known for. In order to get a clear understanding of the origins of reggae music, one must take a close look at the history of the people, and the economic, social, political, and religious forces that influence their lives. Because reggae music can be categorized as protest music, it is important to identify exactly what the music is speaking out against.
Like the black people in the United States, those in Jamaica are faced with the same feelings of alienation that can be traced back to deportation and slavery. They are subjugated because of their color and culture, and even the emancipation of Jamaica from the British did not change the relationship between the races. On the contrary, it has encouraged the oppressed to internalize the feelings of subordination and worthlessness, and to accept the superiority of their oppressors (Constant 41). Unfortunately, for the majority of the population, this has led to incredible poverty and hardship, with little hope for a way out.
Like many post-independence governments, the government of Jamaica felt the need to use force to repress threats of any kind. This can be seen in the incredible amount of violence that plagues the streets of that small island. Politicians felt it necessary to draw support and safety from gunmen, who were in turn protected from the law by the politicians. With the elections in the 1970's, and the competition between Michael Manley (People's National Party) and Edward Seaga (Jamaican Labor Party), the violence increased. The United States embraced Seaga and the JLP, and in an attempt to prevent another chance at democratic socialism, the CIA supplied weapons to guarantee Seaga's success (Gunst xvii-xiv). There was an incredible increase in violence and murder, and Kingston became sectioned off along party lines (Gunst 10). The country was very economically depressed, and there were many riots and a complete lack of food and resources to the poor (Gunst 115). In turn, there became a noticeable separation of the poverty-stricken"sufferers"into the dangerous ghetto.
In the 1970's and 1980's, crime and unemployment increased greatly, and the police began using deadly force against suspected criminals. It was not long before they were directing their own frustrations and aggression on the 'criminal element', and it went far beyond the government's control (Chevigny 25). While in ordinary circumstances, the police represent social order, in Jamaica they represent an"order of violence, filled with personal vengeance, and socially stratified"(Chevigny 30). The most dramatic problem was the rise in firearm use and deadly force on the streets. It was estimated that between 1983 and 1993, the police killed about 182 person each year, reflecting an often disproportionate use of deliberate deadly force (Chevigny 26).
It has been well-known on the island that those who defy the police are in danger of death. The collaboration of the police and the army ("security forces")often leads to unjustified shootings. Also, because the court system works so slow, the police often get impatient and"dispose"of suspects themselves in"bogus shootouts"(Chevigny 27). There is no effective discipline for these actions, and the corruption is extremely high. In these dangerous and unstable conditions, the people are led to feel powerless and dependent. They have not developed a well-defined sense of rights, and are therefore victims of extreme poverty, violence, and oppression (Chevigny 130).
Out of these conditions, and especially out of the poverty-stricken ghettos, the storytellers emerged. The migrants that gathered in West Kingston,"the poorest of the poor and the least schooled, laid the foundations of what was to become a thriving urban musical culture"(Manuel 151). In the 1970's, with the advent of reggae music, the unleashing of the repressed truths and realties occurred, and the schism between the poor and the rich, the black and the white, was addressed (Gunst 117).
The roots of reggae can be traced back to many different elements. From the American rhythm and blues, the West African music of the slaves, and from Celtic and British music, reggae emerged. Also, other musical languages can be traced:"neo-African drumming traditions", music of the revival churches, old work songs, and American jazz and swing, are all said to have played a part (Manuel 152-4) (Patterson 106). This is all a reflection of the extreme tendency of Jamaican music to"absorb songs, melodies, and other stylistic elements from a variety of sources"(Manuel 154).
In 1962, with Jamaica's newly gained independence, the music of ska and rock-steady both started addressing the increasing social tensions and inequalities that were a result of economic and cultural disparities(Quamanzo 25). The creation of the sound system ( turn-tables, speakers, amplifiers)a decade earlier, and the rising popularity of the dancehalls came to play an important role in the development and spread of the music. Also, when U.S. rhythm and blues took a new direction, and it became harder to import U.S. recordings, more local artists were encouraged and a local recording industry was developed (Manuel 156).
After the development of ska, the music became centered on the theme of the"rude boy: the rebellious urban youth whose response to squalid living conditions was petty crime, violence, and a boastful aggressive stance"(Manuel 164). Alongside this rude-boy theme, one can also see the search for a national identity and a return to the"roots". The music began expressing the suffering and struggle of the downtown ghetto experience, and along with the rise of the Rastafarian movement (especially among the youth), emphasized"African roots, black redemption, and social awareness". This has been viewed as the"most fertile period of Jamaican popular music"(Manuel 165).
This period of time became most popular with the notion of"roots reggae". During this time it is impossible to ignore the religious element of the music. Rastafarianism was founded in the 1930's, but during this musical era it has become a"major cultural and political force ... [by] challenging Jamaica's neo-colonialist society's attempt to keep whites at the top and blacks at the bottom of the socio- economic structure"(King17).The music is very socially conscious, and this is shown by the resistance to oppression, racism, and the exploitation of the poor in the lyrical messages of the music. Reggae has become a major vehicle for the growth of Rastafarianism, and the use of religious and social metaphors to identify the forces of good and evil are very evident in the music. There are four underlying themes, or"metaphoric clusters"that can be traced:
1- God (Jah and goodness) vs. Devil (Babylon and oppression)
2- oppression (poverty and racism) vs. freedom (repatriation or through music)
3- war (human rights struggle in Jamaica and elsewhere, with emphasis on political violence)
4- unity ("one love"- only when racism and discrimination are gone) (King 24-7)
When studying this music, one can see the African influence very clearly (i.e.. nyabinghi drumming and chanting). The influence of the mento of the earlier decades is also visible in the"subtle weave of the rhythm guitar and keyboards that distinguishes the afterbeat of mature reggae"(Manuel 168). The presence of biblical passages, patois language, and prophetic messages that can be found in the music all reflect the influence of the earlier Afro-Protestant revivalist music as well (Manuel 170).
In the 1980's,"dancehall deejay music", or ragga, became popular (Manuel 170). With the sound system, deejays began taking over the microphones and soon recorded their own records by"toasting"(a"stylized rapping, rhyming, and vocal 'percussing' over specially cut 'dub plates'") (Manuel 172). With an increase in studio technology, spare instrumentation, and less-complex rhythms, dub emerged. Dub and the deejay tradition are closely associated; deejays usually recorded over other pre-existing 'riddims', and now they could recycle and remix the old material for new releases (Manuel 173).
The same musical influences can be found in dancehall that were found in the earlier forms of reggae. The influence of the revival churches, mento and poco, and rhythms from African-based religions can still be seen, but now the rhythms are made on a drum machine (Manuel 177). At first, however, one of the noticeable characteristics of dancehall music was it's"slackness", or less-conscious lyrics. Instead of addressing the social problems of the times, the lyrics contained images of sex, drugs, crime, and anti-homosexual rhetoric. Although this type of music is not considered"socially or culturally aware", it mirrors life in the poor areas of Kingston"that continues to be ravaged by political warfare, drugs, and crime"(Manuel 178). It is still the music of the"sufferers", just with a different focus (Manuel 173).
The presence of these"slackness"lyrics, especially the mention of guns and violence, has brought much criticism into the dancehall scene. However, in contrast to what many critics say, this revolutionary violence is present in much of the Caribbean's popular music. Songs of emancipation, revolution,"cultural suspicion"(of someone being an informer), etc. can be seen all throughout the reggae's revolution, from the songs of Bob Marley to the 'rude boy' lyrics of today (Cooper 430). As for the constant mention of guns in the dancehall lyrics, it is important to keep the music in its cultural context before criticizing it. The gun is often used as a metaphor for"words [that] fly at the speed of bullets and the lyrics of the DJ [that] hit hard"(Cooper 435). It is more of a"lyrical [or] metaphorical gun"(437). As for the mention of guns that pertain to violence, this is often a substitute for more violent action.
While looking at dancehall music, it is also important to take note of the influence of Hollywood images, especially heroism and gun violence, and how they impact Caribbean societies. The"Hollywood fantasy"is cheap and available as entertainment for most of the urban poor, and it is through these movies that they see political and moral victories in an idealized version (Cooper 431-3). The poor youth of the ghetto identify with the violent Westerns and gangster movies, and they want to be famous like the Hollywood heroes. This may be seen as a classic example of"role play"(Cooper 434).
As dancehall, or ragga, music's popularity continues, however, the focus on the"slack"lyrics is decreasing, and more of the music is incorporating Rastafarian themes. Many of the dancehall singers of today (ex. Buju Banton, Anthony B, Sizzla) address the social problems plaguing Jamaican society (and elsewhere), with emphasis on decreasing the violence, getting a good education, and paying attention to religious themes (Manuel 178).
Like the blues and jazz of the U.S., Jamaican reggae refers to social and political concerns. However, because Jamaica is a"black person's country", it's message is spreading farther and faster. Jamaica puts out the most recorded music per capita, and it permeates all aspects of Jamaican life (Quamano 25). Like the example of the U.S. government's exploitation of jazz in politics, similar incidents are occurring in Jamaica. The politicians have realized the huge voter appeal of reggae music, and are starting to use the music without consent in an effort to"rehabilitate its image with the ghetto voters"(Quamano 24). For example, the Jamaican Labor Party tried to use reggae musician Bounty Killa's song,"Fed Up", which expresses"ghetto sentiment"to launch a campaign and Tony Rebel's song,"Jah is by my side", to get more votes (24). Most of the deejays, however, are wary of the politician's motives, and in the 1980's, while using lyrics that"awaken their fans to [political] issues", they started avoiding political involvement. As for the voters and people of Jamaica, while twenty years has not shown any economic improvement and only broken promises, they are looking for truth from the singers and players of reggae music instead of from the politicians (Quamano 25).
With the migration of many Jamaicans to the United States in the 1970's and 1980's, it seems likely that reggae would gain popularity among the black urban youth. However, while very popular among white college students, it did not influence the African American youth for quite a while. With the emergence of Jamaican dancehall and of U.S. hip-hop, however, these youths began to appreciate and respond to reggae (Havelock 41) (Patterson 108). In addition, due to many similar conditions facing the black urban youth of the United States (unemployment, poverty, racism, violence, etc.), one would think that the conscious lyrics of reggae would appeal to this alienated crowd. Although it didn't at first, it is important to look at the social and cultural conditions of the American urban ghettos, and the musical forms which arose from them.
According to Michael Eric Dyson, the black ghettos in America are flooded with social ills. From chronic unemployment, the disappearance of social services addressing the income gap, the deterioration of stable institutional support, to the unrelenting threat of violence, racism, drugs, and lack of opportunity, it is no wonder why the ghetto youth feel so disenfranchised (Spencer 268). In 1998, 25% of black children live below the poverty line (Leland 56). It has also been found that the suicide rate among 18 to 30 year-olds has quadrupled in the past 20 years. Homicide (much of which is drug-related) is the leading cause of death among young black men. More than half of the family households are headed by single black women, and the black prison population has doubled since the 1960's. The traditional roles of the family, the church, and the communities are not helpful in reaching the young people of the urban ghettos (Spencer 294-5).
In a society that defines success by material wealth, and whose media is constantly impressing the image of a culture of consumption to it's citizens while offering unequal opportunities, rap is the only thing that offers an alternative (and legal) way for the disadvantaged to achieve these economic incentives and goals, while allowing them to escape the economic and material deprivation of the ghetto. While the disadvantaged used to be able to achieve the"American Dream"through crime (robbery, burglary, drug trade), now there is a legal alternative (Spencer 270, 278).
Rap music (also called hip-hop) helps empower these disadvantaged people, and helps create a culture, and the identity of the artists themselves. It gives people a chance to"voice their hopes, fears, and fantasies; the self as cultural griot, feminist, educator, or itinerant prophet of black nationalism; but also the self as inveterate consumer, misogynist, violent criminal, or sexual athlete"(Spencer 268). Rap addresses the real issues of drug abuse, black awareness, crime, police brutality, world peace, education, and the importance of the Bible, while trying to shape the values among black youth from their shared experiences in the streets (267). It represents a strong force of"self determinative moral and political leadership"and can be seen as a"linguistic refusal to accommodate conservative cultural and political forces"(Spencer 278).
Rap music offers a possibility for appreciating the complex achievements of people who have been subject to the hostile forces of slavery, exile, migration, and racism, and gives a message of historical remembrance and social criticism. It is closely connected to the history of resistance, rebellion, and revolution of African-American people, and provides the inspiration for many to combat racism and classist oppression (Spencer 272).
Many claim that the music of the American black ghetto youth has connections to the Caribbean that extend even beyond the emergence of rap in the mid-late 1970's. Some say it goes all the way back to the West African troubadours (griots) and their tradition of impoverished singing, often"commentary on social issues and politics"(Melane 22). The strongest links, however, are to Calypso and reggae,"with its sexy double-entendre, verbal duels, and love of the playful put-on and put down"(22). Also,, with the migration of many Jamaicans to the U.S., the influence of the Jamaican music scene increased (Melane 22). At first, when Jamaicans first started appearing in New York in large numbers, they were not given much respect by other blacks. However, once the Jamaicans started to control the ganja trade, more people began to look up to them. Soon third and fourth generation Jamaican migrants were comfortably mixing hip-hop and dancehall styles (Havelock 41). In addition, many rap artists had biological ties to the West Indies and many included West Indian music, jazz, funk, and soul in their styles.
Rap emerged in the late 1960's with Jamaican-born deejay, Kool Herc. He had a sound system, Herculords, based on the sound systems of Jamaica, but found that no one was interested in reggae music. When he started"talking over Latin-tinged funk"records and instrumentals, more people became involved (Havelock 41) (Hebdige 137). Soon his style was known as 'break beats', and he eventually had to hire MC.s to rap while he controlled the beats. Other deejays further developed his style ( DJ Theodor invented a technique called 'scratching':"spinning a record backward and forward very fast while the needle is in the groove") (Hebdige 138). Also, DJ Grandmaster Flash, whose parents were from Barbados, became an expert at"punch phasing", when a DJ hits a break on one deck while still playing a record on the other turntable. He was also the first to use a"beat box", or drum machine (Hebdige 139).
Another deejay to follow in the path of DJ Herc was Afrika Bambaata. He became somewhat of a leader in the hip-hop community and attempted to replace the violence and drugs with music. His creation of the Zulu nation, and his vision of a peaceful future have often been compared to that of Bob Marley. With Afrika Bambaata, rap music became interested in the politics of race and culture (also the influence of the Black Muslims, and the need for"self-help and communal solidarity"was enforced. He wanted to steer the music towards more socially conscious issues, not just gangs and violence (Hebdige 139-40).
With the emergence of rap, a new hip-hop style was created. Breakdancing,"freestyling"(1982) and improvisation (like the jazz era of the 1940's) in dance and music, a new style of clothes, and the increasing popularity of graffiti all emerged with the increasing popularity of rap(140-1).
Most of the music (anything from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to sound effects of video games to the theme song of popular TV shows) first used was taken from the radio and"cut up". This was breaking the copyright laws, but the abounding theory was that"no one owns a rhythm or a sound"(144). Rap is centered around and created by"the word". It is this word on which rap's originality depends, not on the music, which is usually borrowed or sampled. Like reggae and dub, one could do a"version"of a rhythm, and this rhythm is emphasized by the bass. Funk rhythm is the backbone of hip-hop culture, and it supposed to represent the instability and incoherence of the world (and the harsh realities of ghetto life). The only stability of the music is"the menacing pulse of the beat"(141).
Rap is the combination of black rhetoric and black music in a"cry of desperation and a celebration of the black underclass and poor working class"(Spencer 293). It has it's roots in the transcendence and opposition of the Afro-American spiritual blues impulse. Like reggae music, rap uses the words and ideas of the leaders of the people (Haile Selassie, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X).
Although it seems as though rap is a positive social force for the black urban youth , there is another side to it. There is much criticism and debate surrounding the genre for many reasons. One of the most noted reasons is the blatant, and often violent, sexism expressed in some rap music. However, these criticisms must also take into account the social context from which the music is coming from (like the criticism surrounding dancehall). According to Michael Dyson, the sexism in rap music reflects the cultural sentiments that can be found in"the subterranean, pornographic fantasies of a patriarchal culture"that thrives on domination (in all aspects: racial, class, and sexual) (Spencer 275). He also argues that much of the criticism lies in the centuries-old fears and stereotypes about black male sexuality. This dates back to the Reconstruction era, just after the slaves were freed, when people were trying to instill fear in whites towards the"unruly or uncontrolled"sexuality of black men (276). In addition, this sexism reflects the sexism in black communities and the larger society. For example, while over 70% of the members in black churches are women, only very few ever have access to the"central symbol of power, the pulpit"(277).
The criticisms of rap do not rest only with sexism, but many view rap to be violent, negative,"unmusical street music"(Spencer 265). While only some of the songs glorify drugs, crime, weapons, and incredible material consumption (like the"slack"dancehall lyrics), the media often chooses these to focus on. In Tipper Gore's editorial in the Washington Post (1/8/90) titled"Hate, Rape, and Rap", the association made between rap and sexual violence is unmistakable. In addition, on the CBS evening news (8/22/91), Dan Rathers, while discussing serial killers, showed a clip of rapper Ice-T (who, by the way, is not a serial killer) (Spencer 265-6). It is because of these mostly negative images portrayed by the media that"rap as a music of spirituality with potential 'utopian aspirations' has not been recognized by most"(266). While rap could have become the nations conscience (like reggae music in Jamaica), it has become the scapegoat,"the public enemy"(Leland 56).
Despite these criticisms, rap has become extremely popular in the United States and abroad. It is starting to spread to other countries, where people are using it to reflect on and deal with their own realities. It is popular because it shows"the restlessness inherent in youth", and it engages a perplexing world and confronts it, rather than turning away. A similar point can be made with the internationalization of reggae music (Bernard 22).
Although the four genres of music previously discussed all differ greatly from one another in many aspects, there are also many similarities that must be addressed. Music, in general, is part of a tradition of oral culture that can be traced back to the roots of African cultures. Where illiteracy prevails and money is scarce, the music brings information to the people. It lets the voice of the poor be heard without restriction, and lets those dealing with oppression and hardship release their suffering through dance (King 32). In the blues, jazz, reggae, and rap, music is a medium for social commentary and a way for the oppressed to express their discontent. While the music speaks from reality and experience, it is a cry for human rights and justice. They are all rooted in the shared experience of blacks, and all four forms of music carry a message; they speak of war, poverty, discrimination, oppression, and politics.
In addition, the music described above has been a way for black people to rise out of their disadvantaged states, without having to worry about socioeconomic status, educational attainment, or racial barriers. Each type of music represents the expression of the sorrow felt by the people of that particular time and place. They can all be seen as 'destructive or redemptive, degenerate or transformative' (DeVeaux 401). While they all attempt to preserve the heritage and unity of a people, they also protest against dehumanization. They represent a shared survival during hard times, and tell the basic facts and realities of life. But most of all, all four forms of music can be seen as"a bridge of sound that ensures safe passage across the many bodies of water that disconnect African people dispersed across the globe"(Cooper 103).

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