Why Don't Black "Musicians" Play Instruments Anymore?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Flashy, Jun 7, 2009.

  1. Flashy

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    frankly, i have always found this a bit perplexing, and it has only gotten worse.

    Why is it that throughout the incredible music history of the USA, african americans, who had one of the richest and most incredible traditions of instrumental musical virtuousity, in current times, have produced musical acts that seemed to literally stop playing instruments?

    When you look back at all the incredible contributions by AA's to instrumental music, it is mind boggling how you rarely ever see a popular one with an instrument nowadays.

    The incredible virtuosity of Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Myles Davis, Chuck Berry, Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane...(and many many many others) runs through the veins of music from creation of the blues, to development of rock, R&B, Jazz, soul, etc...yet, you never see an AA rock band (except for Living Color) or even the incredible acts of the past two-three decades, playing instruments:

    This has always baffled me....the only real notable/well known "instrumentalists" i can think of in the past 30 years, are Prince, Wnton Marsalis, and...tbh, i do not think i can name any others....maybe that Alicia Keys girl.

    How can this be? How can the same part of the population that spawned the legendary talents above, and produced bands like Parliament, Sly and the Fammily Stone, have such a scarcity of noted instrumentalists these days? Granted, the entire musical world, black and white etc. are hardly pumping out the amazing instrumentalists anymore, but still, in the past 30 years, white bands/ instrumentalists are the most known, while the vast majority of african amercian musical acts, seem to be based in solo/vocals (Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Rihanna) and group/vocals (En Vogue, Destiny's Child, TLC, Boyz 2 MEn) or rap/solo( Jayz, Kanye West, 50 Cent, etc.) and have abandoned instrumental music for electronica?

    any ideas?
     
  2. MickeyLee

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    ahem. Fishbone. Bad Brains. Stiffed. Ms. Kimya Dawson. The FreshMen. Whole Wheat Bread.

    fucking love Whole Wheat Bread.
     
  3. Flashy

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    i wouldn't really call any of them notable, or worthy of the mantle of the genius or notoriety of the previously metioned instrumentalists.
     
  4. IntoxicatingToxin

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    Lots of African-American musicians still make/play music. Just because they don't become famous for it doesn't mean they don't exist.
     
  5. Flashy

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    I am not saying that, Meg...there are some great african american people who play blues guitar, like Chris Thomas King, but they receive zero notoriety in favor of less talented acts.

    for example, there were no non-talents who rose above someone like Stevie Wonder...he was a king, and well known...now, it seems the reverse is true. Talented instrumentalists are virtually ignored, while far lesser talents are bathed in the limelight.
     
  6. B_VinylBoy

    B_VinylBoy New Member

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    Perhaps if people stopped paying attention to the Pop charts and looked in other forms of music, preferably Jazz and Blues, you'll see more black playing more traditional musical instruments. Didn't seem like there was a shortage of this in New Orleans during the Jazz Fest this year... or any year I've attended for that matter.

    Also, let's not try not to turn this thread into an attack on electronica. Composing electronic music, at its core, is a lot more than just a sample on indefinite loop.
     
  7. lucky8

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    Because you can't get rich planning an instrument anymore.

    People crave simple, predictable (but not too predictable) music. This is the main reason why when the name Stevie Ray Vaughan is brought up, most people have no clue who he is. Even though he was the greatest guitar player to ever live, his music wasn't always simple and predictable, and most people never understood the complexity of what he was actually doing with his guitar. When an artist becomes simple and predicatable, the music industry deems the band/artist as "matured," which is what they deem as the key to selling mass media. Naturally, artists who go beyond this are overlooked by the big production companies, and the masses never get to here them because they are too busy having simple, nontalented musicians jammed down their throat for the simple reason that they don't know any better.

    Furthermore, if a person has never had the experience of being trained on or even so much as just playing an instrument, they are much less likely to understand the complexity of diverse songs and instruments.

    But probably the most important factor here is people listen to music they can relate to. Since most people aren't musically inclined, the instrumental aspects of a song tend to get overlooked because they simply can't relate to the instrumentals. Instead, the masses tend to focus on words and lyrics rather than the instruments themselves. This is why there are so many popular love songs, break-up songs, songs about sex, partying, and so on rather than popular songs about government, war, medicine, and such: because people relate more to love, sex, and parties than they do politics and medicine. The same concept applies to lyrics vs instrumentals.
     
    #7 lucky8, Jun 7, 2009
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2009
  8. B_VinylBoy

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    Not completely true. Jamie Foxx & Alicia Keys are actually decent piano players and have done many performances with one, although they don't center their musical career around the musical instrument. But I digress...

    One of the biggest reasons is due to how major labels market and promote music. Most only target an audience from 13-24 years of age, and they focus more on a performer's looks than musical abilities. For the people actually creating music, technology has advanced so quickly that one could make a hit song on Garageband and save money from hiring live musicians. And that's just the beginning...
     
  9. Hand_Solo

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    Stanley Jordan, Victor Wooten, Vernon Reid, Future Man, Bootsy Collins, lotta good black musicians out there.
     
  10. DiscoBoy

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    I was going to mention him. Without a doubt, one of the best bassists out there.
     
  11. Wish-4-8

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    I guess it is marketing, but some guys out there are REALLY talented. Like D'Angelo who could play ALL of the instruments on his tracks. Yet that is used as a gimmick and not the focus.

    Another question to your argument. Which instrumentalists are getting fame these days regardless of race?

    Kenny G?
    John Tesh?
    Yanni?

    Who is big time on the same level as a Hip Hop artist?
     
  12. b.c.

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    You were at Jazz Fest this year?? Me too. Who'd u see?
     
  13. Hand_Solo

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    Buckethead?
     
  14. D_Fiona_Farvel

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    Is the question about Black musicians not playing instruments or their not producing music in a style you prefer?

    It seems your issue is more with the current popular style of music, which leans electronic, even in rock, not Black artists in particular - because, a lot of the musicians you mentioned do play instruments - OutKast, Keri Hilson, Pharrell, Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, The Roots, Ledisi, John Legend, Mario Winans, Ryan Leslie, Teddy Riley, Chrisette Michele, Dallas Austin, Ne Yo, and Timbaland, to name a few.

    And that's popular, top 40 music, not even getting into TripHop, Neo Soul, Funk, Jazz, Acid Jazz, or genres where "Black musicians" make their presence felt.

    ^5!
    Electronic music can be amazing, like any other instrument, it is the talent of the individual using the medium that matters.

    I bow down to people like Kool Herc, Larry Heard, and Africa Bambaataa who discovered new methods, beyond traditional instruments, to make music. That seems an amazing accomplishment to me.

    And not electronic, but Doug E. Fresh using beat box to become his own instrument - unparalleled, imo.
     
  15. B_VinylBoy

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    b.c.: I saw Marcia Ball, Tony Bennett (dedicating "The Good Life" to Britney Spears... hahahaha!), Musiq Soulchild (who was a bit disappointing despite having an all female band), Bonnie Raitt, Neil Young (with his awesome encore) and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. I tend to spend more time at the Congo Tent than the Acura Tent. My favorite three shows up to this day at the Jazz Fest were from The Black Crowes (which I have the show recorded on CD), The Roots and Macy Gray. I missed Saturday this year, unfortunately, which has The Whispers, The O'Jays & Bon Jovi. And if I would have went the week before, I could have seen Earth, Wind & Fire and Eryka Badu! Can't miss one weekend of the Jazz Fest without missing someone good, can you? :biggrin1:

    LadyShady: Great post! I'd also like to add that it makes sense from an economic standpoint why there would be more electric based music compared to people who plays traditional instruments even if they have the basic training. I played violin for one year in school, and percussion for roughly 5 years going into High School. I would have loved to continued these paths up and made a music career, but I didn't want my life to be limited to just one instrument and I couldn't afford to pay for my own instruments at home. These days, it's much cheaper to purchase a MIDI keyboard and a copy of Logic Studio than it is to buy an actual musical instrument and lessons to learn how to play it properly. That also supports people like Biz Markie & Doug E. Fresh with the Human Beat Box. Shows just how resourceful one can be to make music even without an actual musical instrument.
     
  16. tripod

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    It's one of the worst things to happen to our country. Hip hop has ruined the musicality of Black Americans and degraded their lifestyle as well... hell, hip hop has ruined it for white and Hispanic people too.

    It was I guess too much to grow up in the seventies and eighties hearing Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye on the radio. My music collection is filled with black artists... black musicians make up at least 60% of my CD collection.

    I will also add that "white music" is degrading from the lack of "black" musical influence.

    The only current black musical influence found in music today are the bass and drums of hip hop (yet you can find better drums and bass among white musicians today... most notably from the Europeans), rapping, and the vocal ornamentation that singers such as Beyonce perform that are almost the exclusive domain of the black singer.

    Talent in general is on the decline... the bands of today are pure crap compared to the bands of the 70's. There is more talent in Herbie Hancock's "Actual Proof" than in the whole current top 100 iTunes downloads...

    ...and America will NEVER produce another another Herbie Hancock or a Billy Joel for that matter, talent is just leaving mankind period regardless of race.

    The rampant materialism that is found in hip hop culture has also driven black folk away from making art and has focused much of their attention towards consumerism. Black folk have developed a horrible habit of socially sidelining members of their community who participate in the arts. It is the sports hero that is the alpha in their communities.

    The ribbing that young black classical musicians endure from their hip hop peers is intense and forces most of them to withdraw from their communities. It is the same for most of the arts except for singing in the choir or chorus.

    The pressure for little black boys to become "hard" and "street tough" is MASSIVE... the peer pressure is absolutely extreme. Learning a musical instrument has little to do with becoming "street tough". Yet, learning how to talk over beats provides young black men with the requisite street cred that helps them to achieve their needs socially within their community.

    hardly any young black girls are gonna sex a young black guy because he plays a musical instrument... it's just the reality.

    Simply put, playing an instrument is seen as acting "white" if it is outside of the church. Gospel music still fosters a rich musical tradition and that is not dying out at all, so that is something to be thankful for. :smile:

    Still, the most popular black boys in high school are the ones who are either good looking, can "ball", come from a family with a high social standing or can rap.

    Yet it is still quite possible that a white teenager could rise through the social ranks in high school by simply playing an instrument and or being in a band. I started playing the guitar when I was 10 and my peers always gave me much respect because I was the best guitar player around.

    I appreciate this thread Flashy, as it is one of the aspects of American society that I feel strongly about.
     
  17. B_VinylBoy

    B_VinylBoy New Member

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    To be fair Tripod, I'd associate this with the current state of Hip-Hop. From its birth till the early 90s, plenty of great Hip-Hop/Rap music was created. It was really the voice of a generation and of the street. It was at time a social voice encouraging others to better themselves.

    But once major label involvement and money got into the game, things turned for the worst.
     
  18. tripod

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    Man... corporate America eventually puts their stink on everything don't they?

    In defense of hip hop... and something that I haven't mentioned yet is it's effect on dance. Hip hop music is absolutely the music du jour for dancing. Women just fuckin' LOVE to dance to hip hop and I for one think that dancing is a good thing. I have to make people dance every weekend (you can understand my situation right?) and if I couldn't play hip hop... about 70% of the dancing would cease to take place. I could replace hip hop with funk (actual funk music), but the variety of beats that hip hop has to offer vastly outpaces funk's ability to keep the dance floor fresh.

    Creativity in the 21st century is gonna be different than what it has been in the past. It's gonna be more like a creativity that is accessible to the masses (much like hip hop is) then a top down structure disseminated from the giants of creativity.

    There will never be another Jimi Hendrix, but there will also never be another Jimmy Page.

    There will never be another Marvin Gaye, yet there will also never be another John Lennon.

    I don't mean to seem like I blame hip hop... the truth is that hip hop has been the driving cultural force behind the last twenty five years and it's influence extends much further then the effect that it has on music.

    Hip hop and the ill effects on our country's youth is the absolute least of our problems today.

    Rock music sucks just as bad these days... and there is no shortage of little white boys learning how to play guitar, I can attest to this. :wink:
     
  19. yngjock20

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    I love the sketch, but wholly disagree with everything you've just written.


    I think it takes amazing AMAZING skill to produce an album or be a DJ. Seriously, if you don't think so, hop on a couple of decks (turntables) or get an NPC and try to make a beat.

    Also, I'd consider those new wave instruments. Yes, they're far from the traditional wind, brass and string instruments, but they're instruments nonetheless.

    Hip-hop and contemporary POP music hasn't destroyed anything. Change happens and wether you like it or not, this industry will change from what you know it currently as well.

    I think it's unfair for people to discredit those who work hard and try their best to create the most amazing new music that is driving the industry today. They may not be your favorite style, but the amount of talent and drive that it takes to create music nowadasy is still respectable.

    IMO.
     
  20. tripod

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    The thing is that I actually play the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, sing, do sound design, as well as editing and mastering. I have been writing songs since I was 12 and have recorded many local artists myself.

    Loading up some beats and talking over it is not very difficult and requires only the most rudimentary musical and technical skills. However, it can be done with art and talent, but it does not require it. Many hip hop songs were constructed from trial and error and or some low level experimentation.

    But I didn't mean to come down so hard on hip hop... it is one of my bad habits and you are right to call me out on it. I enjoy quite a bit of the genre myself... I was rockin "Apache" earlier today! lol!
     
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