H54: Hip Hop

In the post oil world, I have read that it is wise to learn to play a musical instrument. Yes, I remember now. It was the No Impact Man where I first saw this. I watched a wonderful movie on PBS the other night about Pete Seeger and his remarkable life. Despite being persecuted by the rabid anti-communist congressional forces for 17 years, banning him from television and his ability to perform in key venues he persevered. He taught children to sing, he was a friend to the leaders of the civil rights movement and gave the movement the signature “We Shall Overcome.” Teaching humanity through music is a remarkable part of this man’s history, my history. I learned my politics through this music.

It makes sense in anticipation of no electricity, community or small group entertainment versus the huge venues of today. Folk music will always have a place in American culture, but I believe there are more indications that hip hop will lead in teaching in our cultural changes ahead. This makes me think of my love of the first rap music I heard in ’81. Grand Master Flash was the music I loved and went to a tiny club in Ithaca to hear.

From Rollingstone,
Grandmaster Flash helped invent both an art form, the hip-hop sound, and a type of artist, the turntablist DJ. When the 16-year-old Flash (Joseph Saddler) got into Bronx street parties in 1973, he discovered he had no skills as a break dancer, but he did have a passion for music and tinkering with electronic equipment in his bedroom. Adored, party-throwing DJs such as Kool Herc, Pete DJ Jones, and Jones, and Grandmaster Flowers inspired Flash to combine the sharpest parts of their acts into something better and stronger. During 1974Ð75, Flash perfected a way to intercut and extend break beats on the beat, so that dancers could just keep rolling on with the funky bits he selected. He could also assemble pieces of records into complete new workouts, something everybody takes for granted today.

This was so innovative back then that it called for a new style of MC, or rapper, to put it across to an audience. The Furious Five, who were up to the challenge, consisted of exhorter Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), wordslinger Kid Creole (Nathaniel Glover), and Kid's more politically minded brother Melle Mel (Melvin Glover), who brought in Scorpio (Eddie Morris) and love-man Raheim (Guy Williams). The Five began to finish one another's lines and toss around raps rhythmically in time to Flash's turntable work. Together they became the mightiest originators in hip-hop history.

I loved the fact that the music was created out of what was at hand. I don’t have to say it, but I am not musically sophisticated. I have always loved drums and strong rhythm. When I drove cross country with my son in the summer of ’92, we listened to his hip hop cd’s all across the country. We traveled from Philadelphia to Phoenix with a stop in Omaha. It got to be a challenge for him to quiz me on the group, the dj, the mc, etc. To this day, A Tribe called Quest evokes that trip for me.

Lately I have been captivated by the International music I hear on Link TV. BTW, Hip Hop is now an international sound. I have heard Hip Hop from every continent on earth, in many languages. Watching the following documentary, Jupiter I found it captivating that the musicians in the Congo make music from refuse, from nothing. I see that "Jupiter" will be airing again on March 11th. As with every part on the planet, the music speaks to the longings, the joy and the anger of the people.

The introduction to this trailer states,

Jupiter's Dance

Category: Documentaries

Regions: Sub-Saharan Africa

Topics: Music / Art / Culture, Indigenous Peoples

Kinshasa, a city of 10 million inhabitants, is the crumbling capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As the older generation of Kinois will tell you, "Kin-la-belle" (Kinshasa the beautiful) has become "Kin-la-poubelle" (Kinshasa the garbage pail) in the space of fifteen years. Nonetheless, the city still exudes a remarkable energy, whose primary form of expression is music.

Jupiter's Dance takes viewers on an exhilarating jaunt through the ghettos of Kinshasa to meet musicians who struggle to emerge from the chaos: rappers, handicapped bluesmen, griots, street children, inventors of instruments, and ndombolo musicians. Jupiter, the charismatic leader of the band Okwess International, serves as guide and narrator as he describes his city and his long battle to break out of the ghetto with his music. "The DRC has 450 ethnic groups and thousands of untapped musical resources. We're sleeping on a mattress stuffed with dollars, yet we're starving!"

This is an inspiration to watch.

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