What is Black Music?


I came across this interview of Fishbone on NPR. Some of my friends know that I am big fan of Fishbone. The interview started to talk about the racism in the music industry. I found it quite interesting. Here is why. I am a black man who loves rock and punk as much as I do hip hop, and jazz. And in some ways I could relate to the what Angelo of Fishbone was saying. In this country, the mainstream population sees black music as really two things: Hip Hop and R&B and that is it. Yes Jazz and Blues are obiviously black music, but it is not played on the mainstream black music stations. As a culture we have created most of the music that came from America. Especially rock music which has its roots in blues. I remember when Rock & Roll started to permeate the mainstream back in the late 40s and early 50s, the white population called it devil music or n*gger music (Check out this article on the King of Rock & Roll by David Alston). Ironically 50 years later there are very few black artists in rock music and very few that are successful in the mainstream. Ask yourself this question. Would Living Color or Fishbone would have been more commercially successful if they were white? Would Red Hot Chili Peppers be as popular if they were black? If Amy Winehouse (who sounds like a black soul singer) was black would she be on the cover of Rolling Stone and be charging $50 tickets for her show?

Let us flip it around here especially when it comes to mainstream black radio. How come they don’t play Bad Brains, Fishbone, TV on the Radio, etc. They would probably would say that is not black music. Even Reggae with exception of few dancehall cuts here and there, does not get any kind of airplay on mainstream black radio. Why is that? I don’t know but I know the answer would be to complex too put in this blog. Why is it when I went to punk shows at 9:30 club in DC that I get funny looks, but when a white person goes to a hip hop show nothing. Not to mention the audience at most hip hop shows now are dominated by white people.

Why does England understand musical culture better than we do? (I am not saying don’t have race issues, they do). Look at there Radio. BBC 1xtra markets themselves as ‘The Best In New Black Music’ and by America’s standard that would be just Hip Hop and R&B. However, it is not. Just take a look at it programming schedule. They have new African music, Soca, Asian Street Beats, House Music, Drum & Bass, Reggae and Dancehall, Nu Gospel, Broken Beat, Underground Soul Music, and Hip Hop and R&B. No Rock, but that is better than the mainstream Black Radio in the states. Why is that?

I do not mean to be controversial, I just wanted to bring this topic to the surface. Let me know what you think. Do you agree or disagree. Below is an excerpt from the Fishbone Interview, plus video from the Afro-Punk movie. If you have not seen this, go see it. The next post I will highlight some artists worth checking out.

Excerpt from Fishbone Interview

AfroPunk Trailer

Interview with AfroPunk Director


6 Responses

  1. An excellent post. The link to The King of Rock and Roll article by David Alston was an eye-opener for me. I was always a big fan of black music. That is why as far as international music is concerned, I generally concentrate on the contemporary European scene. I was especially interested in what is now called “Black Ivory Soul”, as Manu Dibango himself called it once. I followed some Jamaican reggae after that. I think the influence of African roots is felt exceptionally strongly in France.

    It was a pleasure going through your article.

  2. […] is Black Music Part Deux: The Music In the previous post of What is Black Music I discuss the issues of what is exactly black music and why the mainstream media pigeonhole black […]

  3. yo’Fishbone are my inspiration to be an indivisual. to follow no one, also not to balme anyone. Fishbone had a great ride, many factors played into them not “crossing over”. race is one factor for sho.
    anyhoo REspect to the Kings!

    Long LIve Fishbone

    big up James Spooner & Afro-Punk fam.

  4. […] For some reason, ‘Barbie Culture thinks they have invented the Big Butt (kind of like Rock and Roll). Funny on how times […]

  5. […] What are your thoughts on this article? Do you agree or is she overblowning it?  Check out my ealier post on “What is Black Music”. […]

  6. Great post, I have read this somewhere else. But I have found this one to be alot more informative.

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