Guest Contributor: Colonel-Joshua Higgins
June is African American Music Appreciation Month. Inspired to celebrate an enduring art form, Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams created Black Music Month. Their efforts were backed inspired by generations of artists whose talents and skills built a foundation of musical ability within America. Made an officially recognized month in America by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, this month celebrates the African American musical influences that are an essential part of our nation’s cherished cultural heritage.
Different genres of music contain the influences of sacred or spiritual music, folk, blues, military, jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, hip-hop music, and more. This list of musical styles merely scratches the surface of everything that African-Americans have created, influenced, or pushed forward in the world of music. In addition, African American musicians and artists have developed and influenced classical music traditions, country and western, pop, and dance music such as disco, techno, and house, amongst other genres and styles. Millions of people around the world listen to and are directly or indirectly touched by music that carries historical elements of African American musical traditions.
Historically rooted in rich African traditions, black folk music provided fertile soil for jazz to thrive; other sounds evolved from those roots overtime. From rhythm and blues to swing, the artists of each time period responded to every era with a fresh wave of inspiration, originality, and visionary sound.
Since the beginning, African American music has been an outlet for our community to communicate its joy, pain, dreams, and reality. Some of our musical expressions are a reaction to societal oppression and others are tied to our African roots. For example, the drums used in many hip-hop beats originated from African war drums that drew the community to prepare for battle. The contemporary idea of “sonic territory”, disrupting the passive resident, is practiced unknowingly today when we blast songs like FDT by YG or King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar on our drive to the store.
This month, immerse yourself in the music of your favorite Black musicians. Discover new sounds and genres while revisiting long lost favorites. Whether a classic jazz sound, smoky blues, or even some fast rhythm and hip hop, let the music and the creators of it speak to your heart. You can begin with Harambee Crafts’ curated playlist, “Sounds of Revolution” on Spotify.