How Did Jazz Music Influence Politics?

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For African Americans, jazz music, has always had a political undercurrent. Slave songs spoke of the “Israelites” enslaved by the Egyptians, such as in Go Down Moses, symbolising their own yearning for freedom. However, it took time for the assertion of the political message to develop in a more discernible way. Jazz’s status as a form of entertainment had effectively subdued the message for many years, because of the ostracisation of those involved and because of the early popularity of the white swing bands. The majority of jazz musicians were not political activists, rarely explicitly political in their work, however, they often expressed their political ideals, sometimes more subtley other times more overtly through their music. It is only …show more content…

Thus rebelling against the existing structures in the jazz world. The first notable style “bebop” was so difficult for white musicians to copy and too intricate for dancing, forced audiences to sit up and listen and take note of who and what was being played. It was an underground movement not seeking commercial success but rather seeking another type of gratification, self expression. The musicians development of the improvised solo was a crucial vehicle for their self expression and the key feature of the style. Jazz being one of the few public forums for African American self expression, allowed musicians a platform to speak to their audiences and to transcend the barriers they faced in society. Beboppers ‘spoke’ at whirlwind speed, almost as if to say ‘you can’t catch me’ to their white counterparts. Although some elements of the music carried on from the Swing Era, such as the 32 bar song form and the 12 bar blues foundations, the harmonic and rhythmic complexity was stretching the boundaries further and further from the mainstream popular swing style. Heavy use of flattened ninths, sharpened elevenths and other altered intervals in solos and the speed at which they were used as well as the phrasing of these notes gave the music an off balance quality. Dizzy Gillespie’s tendency towards desceding whole or halfstep patterns such as in “Con Alma” and “A Night in Tunisia”, Charlie Parker’s favoured ii-V substitutions in the famous bridge to “Ko Ko” and “Confirmation” and the mastery of dissonance by Thelonious Monk shows the boppers preoccupation with developing their sound, making statements through their music. (Gioia

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