Arts & Culture

Jazz and Protest: A Reappraisal

A quick plug for a new essay on Z Word, the website which I edit. Jazz critic David Adler reappraises the relationship between jazz and protest, pointing out that the discourse of "resistance" which has traditionally surrounded the music now … Read More

By / April 1, 2009

A quick plug for a new essay on Z Word, the website which I edit. Jazz critic David Adler reappraises the relationship between jazz and protest, pointing out that the discourse of "resistance" which has traditionally surrounded the music now encompasses some deeply reactionary, as well as downright wacky, ideas.

As an example, Adler cites the jazz poet Amiri Baraka, who converted a standard conspiracist trope about the 9/11 atrocities into the following stanza: 

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed

Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers

To stay home that day

Why did Sharon stay away ?

Then there is Gilad Atzmon, an "ex-Israeli, ex-Jewish" (his description) saxophonist based in London who delights in Jew-baiting. Adler notes:

"Profiting from shrill anti-Zionist sentiment that has gone increasingly mainstream, Atzmon has found it easy to string along a growing number of music journalists, and apparently editors too. But what of his music – an intricate hybrid involving oud, various reeds and percussion, Middle Eastern vocals and conventional jazz instruments? Admittedly, it is worth hearing. It speaks to jazz’s longstanding ability to absorb influences from around the globe – something all the more pronounced as gifted players are emerging from West Africa, South and Central America, East Asia and, yes, Israel (Anat Cohen, Omer Avital, Reut Regev, Gilad Hekselman, more). Children of immigrants from Iraq (Amir ElSaffar), Iran (Hafez Modirzadeh), India (Vijay Iyer), Pakistan (Rez Abbasi) and elsewhere are also bringing diasporic elements to bear on jazz’s core language. Thus we see that Atzmon’s concept, though skillful, is not unique. His political agenda is what sets him apart. Some recognize it for the poison it is; others give the benefit of the doubt to anyone spewing venom at Israel."

Do take a look

 

 

 

Tagged with: