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Multiculturalism in Music

Oct 08, 1999 1476 Words
Visualize in your head a rock band, and a rapper. What kind of clothes are they wearing. What lyric styles are they singing in? And what color are they? Ongoing stereotypes suggest that the rock band is a group of white musicians and the rapper would be black. However, examples from the past and present shows that these stereotypes are untrue. Music is defined as "The art of organizing tones to produce a coherent sequence of sounds to elicit an aesthetic response in a listener" (Morris, 864). This country's youth is unlike any others, we have much control over what we do, and music is something that evolves around all of us. In this essay, I will discuss the evolution of youth music ranging from early rock, to today's hip hop stars, from a muliculturalistic point of view. Multiculturalism is " a term identifying the presence of several significant cultures" (Stark, 434). Without the presence of multiculturalism, music may not be as diversified and rounded as it is today. Through sharing ideas, techniques and skills, music has evolved into a vast amount of identifying styles. The birth of youth oriented music began with the birth of rock and roll. Many think that rock is generally composed of a white population, and not many would believe that rock was actually started by blacks. This shows early signs of multiculturalism through music. Rock and roll music is actually a spawn of rhythm and blues, that was created in the 1950's. The name ‘rock and roll' was identified by Alan Freed, a radio disc jockey that introduced rhythm and blues to the mainstream public, and altered it for the rock and roll. "What Freed certainly knew but few whites were unaware of at the time was that the term (rock and roll) was widely used in black music as a euphemism for sex" (R&RG, 20). Concepts of rhythm and clues such as "complex rhythms and call-out response" and "blending work of both joys and sorrows in the South" were taken black American heritage (R&RG, 23). These styles of music were set to anglo-style songs and thus produced a new style of music. This new style of music set the stage for some of the most influential musicians of youth in this time. One of the most influential musician of this time was Chuck Berry. Berry was one of the first rhythm and blues performers to have an interracial audience, and a heavy influence in the future careers of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Beach Boys. This new and exiting form of musical expression was taken in by the youth. It gave them a feeling of freedom and joy that had been lacking from previous music styles. Although rock became an instant hit with the youth, the music caused displeasure in the adult world. Rock was criticized for "juvenile delinquency to loosened sexual standards" (R&RG, 27). The most notorious example of what adults didn't like in rock music can be found in Elvis Presley. Elvis was the first white performer to expose an audience to rock music. However, the free-will style Elvis exhibited was not a real big hit with the adults, where he was condemned as a " whirling dervish of sex." Rock music then went on a tear, evolving into many different styles and forms. As rock matured and diversified, many new artists and distinct styles emerged. Such examples are blues, featured by B.B. King and Ruth Brown. Harmonious styles such as The Orioles, the energetic swing sounds of Little Richard, the role-model rock star Pat Boone, and the folk rock of the Everly Brothers. Rock usually evolved to what was happening in the world during that time period, such as war, politics, current events, and lifestyles. Another aspect that evolved rock music was technology. As more and more technology was developed, more integrated sounds were brought into rock, eventually resulting into such music as pop and disco. Music was now able to have artificial ‘beats' that traditional instruments could not produce. This new form of music paved the road to a whole new dimension of music, one that is widely known today as hip-hop. Hip-hop music is a style that consists of sampling, attitude, dance, style, and sound effects. It is a "Afro-diasporic cultural form which attempts to negotiate the experiences of marginalization" (Rose, 72). Lyrics in hip-hop often refer to the experiences of urban life and other experience topics. Divisions of hip-hop usually but no not always include, the aspect of DJ'ing, groups, rapping, break dancing, and the always present competitiveness. Hip-hop also is associated with living a certain lifestyle. This style is to live for danger and excitement, a particular style (clothes, cars, etc.), and the feeling that you cannot let anyone stand in your was with what you want to be in life. Early hip-hop included music from Grandmaster Flash and the Sugar Hill Gang. This style of music brought much over from rhythm and blues and funk. These two groups correlated the live jazz band feel with the new ‘urban beat' technology. The next big wave of hip-hop occurred a few years later, gansta rap. This style was highlighted by a group called NWA. Gangsta rap usually contained harsh lyrics about life as it would be living the gang life, and the struggles that must be overcome. In many cases, the harsh lyrics would be directed to another hip-hop group or rapper, usually of a different record label, or someone from a rival city or gang. This ongoing feud still exists, but has somewhat slowed down since the eventful murders of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. Currently rap is still about gangs. However, these ‘gangs' are now the different record labels of rap, such as, Bad Boy, Ruff Ryder, No Limits, Rockafeller, and Death Row. The future of hip-hop is cloudy, and one can only speculate in the direction it is heading. Today, multiculturalism is represented in many forms of music. Many pop radio stations would likely play Jay-Z (rap), followed by Rickey Martin (Latin), and Backstreet Boys (five member group consisting of 4 different nationalities). An exchange of musical cultures is among us and it is beginning to show in recent music. The most significant example of this would be the newest and most popular music currently on the market, alt-rock. Alt-rock is a combination of both alternative rock and hip-hop, two styles of music that are pretty distinctive in their own ways. The hot-selling Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, Insane Clown Posse, and Rage Against the Machine are examples of these type of groups. This style of music features constant tempo changes, and rapping over guitar licks, which was seldom ever done before. For example, Limp Bizkit is made up of the following member; a white rapping vocalist, a jazzed-schooled drummer, a funk savvy bassist, a guitarist with roots in punk and metal, and a DJ that spins beats while the guitar and drums play on. Another sign of multiculturization though music, is the emergence of hip-hop and rap, without the typical hip-hop and rap stereotype. Kid Rock, Eminem, Everlast, Fred Durst, and the pioneers, the Beastie Boys have brought new color to rap and hip-hop, white. All five artists are enjoying success at the moments and are being praised for it. It seems as if many of the racial barriers of music are beginning to be brought down through the emergence of these new music styles. These artists are respected through the hip-hop community and are all currently working with black hip-hop and rap artists on collaborations. This would include Dr. Dre and Eminem, Fred Durst and Method Man, Kid Rock and Lil Kim, and Everlast and Santana, which is more rock and hip-hop, but color lines are still crossed. In conclusion, if multiculturalism is the collaboration of different ethnic groups ideas and cultures, then music could be justified as a prime example. There once stood bold lines between the white rocker and the black rapper. These days, the line is virtually gone, and people are getting along better. This is shown in concerts such as the Family Values Tour, which despite the innocent name, features metal bands and rap artists. Through these concerts, you get many different ethnic groups getting together and having a great time together at a concert, and there has never been and race-related innocents at these concerts in the last few years. Music can have a strong influence on people, and if we are able to bring down color barriers that once stood tall though something that everyone loves, music, I say we should stick to that plan.

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